Creative Table Project: Keep your table clear and your mind open

Creative table project on Tinkerlab

The other day I shared the Creative Table Project that’s happening over on Instagram. And do you know what? I’m floored because after that post went up, over 100 new Creative Tables were added to the visual database of ideas and inspiration. It got me thinking that maybe I should make the Creative Table Project a more regular feature of this site. What do you think?

In that vein, a couple days ago my 2-year old set up a really simple creative table.

Let’s take a peak…

Keep your table clear and your mind open: The Creative Table Project from Tinkerlab

It was time to re-paper the kids’ table so I walked into my supply closet to grab a roll of paper (we use brown craft paper from the hardware store, similar to this, in case you’re wondering). When I opened the door, my 2-year old, who happens to be glued to my side, spotted a container of paint pens on a high shelf and put in a request for them. The pens happened to be next to a big jar of craft sticks and she asked for those too.

I had a few other ideas in mind, but I happily obliged because I know that if she’s motivated to make something, her self-direction will carry the project to somewhere important.

How often do you let your child take the lead when he or she creates things?

Keep your table clear and your mind open: The Creative Table Project

While I rolled out the paper and taped it down to the table, she got right to work by adding color to the sticks. She invested her energy into covering the entire side of one stick with purple paint and another with green polka dots.

Why is this all so important? In moments like these, children have choices, they exercise their independence, and they have seemingly endless time to tinker and experiment.

If you want to encourage creative thinking in a child, it’s important to make room for open-ended exploration and self-directed learning.

There are plenty of moments in our days when we formally teach our children, scaffold their learning with information, or introduce them to new ideas that can help them grow. I bet you can think of at least one example.

But it’s equally important to encourage learning by making room for a child’s own ideas, inquiry, and moments of innovation to flourish.

So there it is. Not the most complicated post. In fact, the beauty in it lies in its simplicity.

This seems to go hand-in-hand with our Art Tips series, so here’s a quick takeaway for you:

Creative Table Tip #1

Keep your table clear and your mind open.

Inspiring articles on Creativity

Creativity in Young Children, by Sara Gable. If you have little kids, you’ll love this article.

Is Creativity the Number 1 Skill for the 21st Century?

The Decline of Creativity in the United States

The Creativity Crisis, a must-read article by journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

More about the Creative Table Project

Creative Table Project on Instagram

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Creative Table on Instagram

creative table on instragram

Do you know about the Creative Table Project on Instagram?

creative table on instragram

If you would like to see more creativity in your child’s life and if you’re interested in joining an inspiring community of creative parents who swap ideas, Creative Table can help!

Last summer I invited my readers to share images of the creative things that are happening on their tables (or patios, backyards, sidewalks, etc.) as eye candy that we can all get inspired by, and then tag the image on Instagram with the hashtag #creativetable.

The project began small, but it’s since grown into a thriving visual database of 750+ creative tables that continues to grow each day! The range of ideas is great, which makes this especially fun and full of surprises: There are projects for babies and kids, science experiments, open-ended art making, seasonal crafts, sensory experiences, and cooking activities…just to name a few.

What makes this so awesome?

Not only is this a rewarding way to document the creative happenings in your home, but having the project in the back of your mind can also help you look for opportunities to build more creativity into your daily rhythm. Plus, the scale of the project now makes it a cool tool for gathering inspiration. I know of one reader who checks in every morning to scroll through images tagged with #creativetable as a way of finding ideas that she can use that day.

You can join!

If this is new to you, or in case you’re not on Instagram, here are some recent highlights from the Creative Table project. If you’re on Instagram and would like to play, we would LOVE to have you. Please read these guidelines first, and then be sure to add the hashtag #creativetable to your image.

A note about the images: Beneath each photo is the name and Instagram handle of the person the image belongs to, and any descriptive text that they added to their photo. I hope that these images inspire you as much as they inspire me!

Creative Table Inspiration from

angaleta @angaleta

#kidsinitiative #busykids #creativetable more #concoctions and #magicpotion

Creative table drawing inspiration from a book

Maya Bisineer @thinkmaya

Scroll art. With the whole family. We are creating an “imaginary garden” inspired by a book by the same name #readeveryday #memetales365

Note: Planting a Rainbow is the book in the image.

Creative Table Project: Paint on paper plates

Ali Wright @athomewithali

You can’t beat a paper plate for craft…….

Painting with string from the Creative Table Project

brittanyclaireandco @brittanyclaireandco

:: string painting fun ::

Playing with Cloud Dough from the Creative Table Project on Tinkerlab

Luiza Holub @luizaholub

Cloud dough! Kept my 17 month old busy(and quiet)for at least an hour! Super sensory great fun #creativetable

Here’s the cloud dough recipe that inspired this activity.

Making homemade Valentines on the Creative Table Project on Tinkerlab

Jen Kossowan @mamapapabubba

Crafty girl.

Cardboard creative table from the Tinkerlab Creative Table Project

Emilie Brehm @emiliebrehm

cardboard + aluminum foil + duct tape = parts for an under-table submarine

Paint your own pottery shop from the Tinkerlab Creative Table Project

Rachelle Doorley @tinkerlab

Paint your own pottery shop. Who knew that my kids would love this so much? #creativetable

Stamping on a cardboard box from the Tinkerlab Creative Table Project

Shana Draugelis @shanachristine

The best thing about Amazon’s subscribe and save program are the huge boxes everything gets delivered in. Instant #creativetable (we added dot markers for now, but this may turn into a week-long project….)

Creative Table Project on InstagramSo, what do you think? Will you join us?

If you’re a participant, you’re welcome to grab this button and add it to your posts or sidebar.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links to products that I adore or that I think you’ll find useful.


Tape Art

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We are a tape-loving house. You?

Tape art with colorful tape, clear tape, paper tape: young children will enjoy using tape in this process-based design activity that encourages fine motor skills, compositional choices, creative thinking, and more.

tape art

Have you seen this colorful paper tape at Target? It’s from the Kid Made Modern line and you can find it in the art supply section. I’m not an affiliate — just a happy customer.

It’s not washi tape, in case you’re wondering. Washi tape is traditionally made from rice paper and has a transparent quality to it. This tape is fairly heavy; I think you can tell from this photo that it’s got some body to it, which makes it easy for little hands to manipulate.

The tape comes on a long cardboard roll, so I fashioned a make-shift tape dispenser from PVC pipe and connectors that came with our Fort Magic kit and it works like a charm at keeping it organized on the table.

tape art

After watching my children use this fancy tape for a couple months I’ve come to see it as the love child of stickers and wrapping paper. It’s useful for adhering one thing to another, but my kids mostly use it as a form of decoration.

On this particular day I cleared our art table, cut brown paper bags into 6″ wide strips, and presented my kiddos with paper tape and brown paper bags. They loved it.

tape art

My 4-year old likes to cut her own pieces of tape and focused closely on building coordinated horizontal lines across the paper.

Oh, that and covering her fingers with tape.

tape art

My 2-year old is barely getting the hang of cutting (we practice a lot, and I recommend cutting playdough if it’s something you’re working on too), so I pre-cut lots of pieces for her to tape at will. She spent the whole time piling one piece of tape on top of another.

Remember, it’s the process, people, not the product!

tape art

I also pulled out our office supply store dot and garage sale-style stickers, which 2-year old R added to her tape pile.

tape art

This is my 2-year old’s completed piece, which is wildly different from my 4-year old’s interpretation of the materials…

tape art

So, what’s your design material du jour?

Since this colorful tape bonanza, we’ve moved on to clear Scotch tape, a new stash of stickers, mylar, and alphabet stencils.

More tape art inspiration from Tinker-past…

What’s On Your Creative Table?

creative table

Where do your creative explorations take place, and what do they look like?

what's on your creative table at tinkerlab
On my journey as a blogger, I’ve become a prolific picture-taker and the majority of my photos are of my kids’ art/science/tinkering/cooking explorations. Obvious, I know.

Our experiments and projects take place everywhere, from the kitchen to the back yard. My children have a beautiful, kid-size table where most of their explorations take place, but that doesn’t stop them from taking over the dining table or kitchen floor when inspiration strikes. The kids and I are visiting their grandparents on the East Coast, so picnic and coffee tables are where it’s happening for us this summer.

Do you enjoy peeking into other people’s lives? It’s so interesting, isn’t it? I don’t get too personal on my site, but I do try to share parts of our creative journey because I hope it will inspire you to give some of our ideas a try. I’ve been inspired by enough images to know how easily one picture can pop me out of my seat and get me into a creative mindset.

Enter stage right: Instagram. I’ve become a huge fan of Instagram, where I’ve been able to witness the creative journeys of old and new friends from around the world. I’m riveted by all the cooking projects, in awe of how long it takes someone to knit a pair of socks, and enjoy the camaraderie and support of the almost daily sketches in the devoted tinkersketch group. These Instagrammers are awesome.

Yesterday, I put out a call for images on Instagram. I invited my IG friends to share a photo of their creative table. Whatever they were making, I wanted to see it. Within minutes I saw gorgeous tables full of leaf rubbings, fabric, bottlecaps, pony beads, tea-stained paper, and paper dolls. Special thanks to my lovely Tinkersketch friend Angela, Kara of Simple Kids, Jen of Paint Cut Paste, Amy of Maker Mama, and Jena of Happy Little Messes for jumping right in and showing me that this idea is worth pursuing.

What kind of pictures can we share?

Images shared with the #creativetable hashtag should document a creative project at any point in the creative process. Here’s what works especially well at inspiring other people:

  • An invitation to create: Show the set-up before you start working. Here’s a great example. 
  • Overhead shots: These images show all of the materials well and are easy to understand. Like in this example.
  • Action shots: Show how to use a material
  • After-the-fact: Share how the project turned out
  • Materials: Share all the materials used for the project

Here’s how it works:

  • Two Ways to Play: You can add your Creative Table to Google+ or Instagram, and add the hashtag #creativetable to your post so that everyone can find it easily.
  • Photo Guidelines:
    • Take a picture of your creative table (or floor, garden, etc…anywhere that you and/or your kids create) at any point in the creative process.
    • This can be a close-up of just the materials or of your children engaged in a project, as long as the materials are the main focus. Think of how this table could inspire someone else.
    • Consider the angle and lighting of your shot. Natural light or room lights are better than a flash.
    • Please only submit photos of projects in process, rather than completed projects. The picture does not have to reflect a perfect set-up, and can show your table just as it really is.

So, what do you think? This is all really fresh in my mind and maybe I’ve missed something or there’s a better way to do this. I’d love to hear your thoughts.