Activities for Toddlers while Older Child Makes Art

How to set up art activities for children of different ages | TinklerLab.com

TinkerLab reader, Kristen, shared a question with me that I think will resonate with a lot of our readers. This question comes up all the time, in many forms, from parents of toddlers and older children: “Can you suggest any activities for toddlers while my older child makes art?”Lots of good ideas here! How do I keep my toddler happily occupied while my older child makes art?  |  TinkerLab.com

Here’s Kristen’s question:

“Our biggest challenge right now is dealing with two kids at different age and ability levels. I have a 3.5 yr old daughter who loves crafts and gets really involved and into her art and creating. But I also have an almost 1.5 yr old who mostly just wants to destroy what his sister is doing, grab the marker she’s using so he can write in the furniture or empty all the paper out of the paper bin :). I struggle with giving my older child the appropriate and sufficient creative outlets while also trying to keep hazards away from my toddler. This often limits what activities we can do and I hate that for my daughter. How did/do you handle this?  For example, my older child loves cutting and gluing but my son will grab scissors or glue from her or demand my attention elsewhere and I can’t give her the assistance or attention she needs to complete some activities.  Thanks!”

I shared this question on our Facebook page, and there were many wonderful suggestions. I’ll share some of the highlights here, along with my own thoughts, and I’d like to send out a big “thank you” to everyone who chimed in with ideas.

6 Activities for Toddlers

1. Work on Art Projects while your Toddler Naps

Work on art projects while your toddler naps  |  TinkerLab.com

This is sort of a cheat, but I’ll start here since it’s the most obvious. The trick here is to get yourself organized ahead of time to maximize nap time. Obviously, many siblinlings nap at the same time, making this a moot point. So that takes us to idea #2…

2. Set up Designated Table Spaces for each Child

How to set up art activities for toddlers and older children | TinkerLab.com

Set up a clearly marked space for each child and sit between them to fairly distribute materials, help each child keep hands to themselves, and assist with special needs such as cutting play dough or squeezing glue bottles.

While children of different ages won’t have the same skills, they will use the materials you introduce in a way that’s appropriate for their age and interests. In the example above, my older daughter drew with the pastels and mase complex paper patterns, while her toddler sister stuck paper scraps to the orange paper where I placed big dots of glue.

Side-by-Side Table Activities:

3. Redirect your Toddler with a Sensory Experience

How to set up art activities for toddlers and older children | TinkerLab.com

Toddlers love sensory projects and can be entertained by them for a long while. Set up an intriguing  sensory experience nearby, over a large blanket or easy-to-clean floor.

Sensory Ideas:

4. Set up an Activity that Everyone can Enjoy

How to set up art activities for children of different ages | TinklerLab.com

Find an activity that your toddler can work on alongside your other child/ren. In the photo above, both of my children like to draw with chalk, so we set up a chalkboard canvas on the ground next to our kitchen chalkboard and a shared basket of chalk on the floor. My younger daughter drew on the floor chalkboard while her older sister drew on the door.

This isn’t fool proof, especially if your younger child likes to involve themselves with their siblings, but it’s worth trying. One of the benefits is that it can help older children develop empathy for younger siblings (and vice versa) as they work alongside one another.

Good art materials for toddlers and preschoolers:

5. Give your Toddler a High Chair Activity

How to set up art activities for toddlers and older children | TinkerLab.com

When my older daughter was three, we wanted to try a printmaking project, but we were afraid her one-year-old sibling would be eager to pull apart. To give my three-year old free reign to explore without the distraction of her baby sister, I set little R up in a nearby high chair with some yogurt and a few drops of all-natural food coloring. You can read all about it here.

To make the highchair art activity work, find a simple sensory activity that will engage your child in the (contained) high chair.

Highchair art ideas:

 6. What Ideas do you have for Toddler Activities?

This list is by no means comprehensive. Please add your idea/s in the comments to add to this ongoing conversation and tool for other parents who struggle with this issue.

 

Paint Recipe for Kids |Homemade Finger Paint

Easy homemade finger paint | Tinkerlab.com

Today I’ll share how to make the easiest homemade finger paint from basic, edible ingredients: flour, water, and food coloring.

Easy homemade finger paint | Tinkerlab.com

Do you ever worry about the ingredients that come in store-bought paint?

This is less of a concern now that my children no longer put everything they find in their mouths, but I thought about things like this when my kids were toddlers. Seeing the “non-toxic” label certainly helped, but it’s another thing to know that the ingredients in my art supplies are entirely edible. 

Easy homemade finger paint | Tinkerlab.com

Supplies for Homemade Finger Paint

The basic ratio is 1 flour: 2 water, so scale up or down according to how much paint you’d like to make. We used washable, non-toxic liquid watercolors to add color to the paint, but you could also use food coloring for a similar effect.

Directions

  1. Pour flour and water into a pot.
  2. Stir the ingredients over medium heat until it comes together like smooth, thick paste. The mixture will be lumpy along the way, but it all comes together.
  3. When it starts to pull away from the pot, remove from the heat.
  4. Add a pinch of salt. This helps keep the paint from spoiling if you don’t use it right away.
  5. To reach the desired consistency, slowly add cold water to the mixture. I added about 1/4 cup water to our paint. 
  6. Divide the paint into bowls.
  7. Squeeze food coloring or liquid watercolors into the flour mixture until you reach the desired color.
  8. Store in a covered container in the fridge if you’re not planning to use this right away. It will keep indefinitely.

mixing flour water 1

mixing flour water

Easy homemade finger paint | Tinkerlab.com

Liquid watercolors for easy homemade finger paint | Tinkerlab.com

We’ve been using Sax Concentrated Liquid Watercolors with great success.

These paints are washable and non-toxic, and you can find them on Amazon.  The pack of eight colors (8 oz. each) is about $30, which makes each bottle just under $4. When you consider how much food coloring you get in a tiny bottle, these liquid watercolors are totally worth it, in my opinion. If the value-pack is out of stock or you’re not interested in committing to eight colors, you could also order these paint bottles individually.

Other uses for liquid watercolors:

The BEST play dough recipe

Marbleized Paper

Watercolor Painting

Straw-blown watercolor painting

Easy homemade finger paint | Tinkerlab.com

Now the paint is ready to experiment with.

The texture is like pudding and feels nice on the hands. My kids enjoyed painting it on their hands to make hand prints, and they also used brushes to paint in a more traditional way.

Easy homemade finger paint | Tinkerlab.com

The pigment of the paint won’t stick to the paper like poster paint will, so if your child wants brilliant colors to pop out, he or she will need to put the paint on extra thick. Like this…

Easy homemade finger paint | Tinkerlab.com

My 5-year old made this painting, and the thickness of the paint meant that it took a solid 24-hours to dry. The thinner the paint is applied, the quicker it will dry.

The Pros and Cons of Homemade Finger Paint

One final word on the quality of this paint. The benefits of this homemade finger paint are plentiful. It’s:

  • Made from familiar ingredients
  • Economical
  • Safe to eat

The cons are less troublesome, but worth mentioning nonetheless:

  • The paint is perfect for finger painting, but less than ideal for using a paintbrush. My kids didn’t seem to mind, but it’s something to consider if you’re looking for a traditional paint recipe.

Easy homemade finger paint | Tinkerlab.com

The texture and quality of the paint make it ideal for finger painting, but my kids still loved it. Keep in mind that generally speaking, children are more interested in the process of making something than in the final outcome. I asked my children (ages 3 and 5) numerous times about the paint, and they agreed that this recipe is a keeper.

Valentine Crafts for Kids: Salt Dough Magnets

Salt Dough Magnets: A Valentine Gift Made by Kids

Are you looking for Valentine Crafts for Kids? This project takes a bit of time since there are a few steps involved, but the results are treasures that will last a lifetime.

Valentine Crafts for Kids: Salt Dough Magnets

Salt Dough Recipe

We used this same recipe from our salt dough Christmas ornaments

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • up to 1 cup water

Mix the water and flour together. Slowly add the water and mix until the dough comes together. If you add too much water the dough will be too sticky to work with. If that happens, simply add equal amounts of flour and salt to get a workable consistency.

  1. Flour your work surface
  2. Roll out the dough to 1/4″ thick
  3. Cut shapes with your favorite cookie cutter/s
  4. Place the dough on a baking sheet and cook at 200 degrees F for 2-3 hours. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we baked ours at 350 F for about 40 minutes, which is why some of them turned out puffy and brown. They’re still fine, however, and I’d recommend this route if you’re also short on time. Just keep an eye on the dough and make sure it doesn’t burn.
  5. Cool the pieces. They’re ready to paint!

Salt Dough Magnets: A Valentine Gift Made by Kids

Painting Supplies

  • Acrylic paint. This is a relatively inexpensive set that’s great for this project.
  • Paintbrushes. I haven’t tried this set, but it looks great!
  • Paper plate or other paint palette
  • Water bowl
  • Rag to absorb water from brushes
  • Table covering
  • Painting clothes (acrylic paints will stain clothes)
  • Paint markers, optional. We like Elmers Paint Pens and Sharpie Water-based Paint Pens

Valentine Crafts for Kids: Salt Dough Magnets

Paint the salt dough with acrylic paint. Have a covered area nearby where these pieces can dry. Acrylic paint dries quickly!

Valentine Crafts for Kids: Salt Dough Magnets

When these were dry, we added a layer with paint markers to some of the pieces. My 3-year old loved this step.

Valentine Crafts for Kids: Salt Dough Magnets

Magnet Supplies

This step is for grown-ups:

Once the paint is dry, turn the salt dough pieces over. Add a small dollop of glue. Goop makes a good product made by Goop called Craft Arte. It’s smelly and best used outside or in a well-ventilated space.

Valentine Crafts for Kids: Salt Dough Magnets

Add the magnet to the glue and allow the glue to dry.

Be careful with these magnets. They are powerful and not for use by children.

Valentine Crafts for Kids: Salt Dough Magnets

Valentine Crafts for Kids: Gifts for Family and Friends

When the glue is dry, your magnets are ready to gift to family and friends or to save favorite mementos to your fridge.

Valentine Crafts for Kids: Salt Dough Magnets

We made these for Valentine’s Day, but with a different shaped cookie cutter, you could make these magnet gifts for Christmas, Mother’s Day, or a Birthday.

Kids Art Project | Cardboard Roll Heart Stamp

Kids Art Project | Simple and Colorful Cardboard Roll Heart Prints with Kids | TinkerLab

Today we’re making a cardboard roll heart stamp.

If you’re even slightly crafty, have small children, and a tiny bit of an art supply hoarder, you probably have a small collection of paper towel or toilet paper rolls hiding somewhere, waiting to be turned into art.

If not, it’s just a matter of time before you have one, and this is a good project to save or pin for later. It’s beyond simple to execute, and young children enjoy the process of printing with these rolls.

Kids Art Project | Simple and Colorful Cardboard Roll Heart Stamps with Kids | TinkerLab

Supplies for Cardboard Roll Heart Stamp

  • Cardboard roll/s: from paper towels or toilet paper
  • Washable tempera paint
  • Palette or paper plate
  • Heavyweight paper to print on, such as card stock. We used 8.5 x 11 paper, cut in half.

Kids Art Project | Simple and Colorful Cardboard Roll Heart Stamps with Kids | TinkerLab

How to make a cardboard roll heart stamp

  1. If you’re using a paper towel roll, cut it in half to make the stamp more manageable for small hands
  2. Press the roll flat and make two firm creases
  3. Invert one of the creases and crease again to make the indent on the top of the heart
  4. Fill a plate or palette with a shallow well of paint
  5. Place the tube in paint and print

Over time, the cardboard roll will begin to lose its shape. To solve this, you can re-crease the roll, flip it over and use the other side, or make another roll.

Kids Art Project | Simple and Colorful Cardboard Roll Heart Stamps with Kids | TinkerLab

Have a big stack of paper pre-cut and/or ready for all the stamping, and a clear table or floor to store the completed work. In this session, my three-year old made ten printed pages and my five-year old made five printed pages.

Make things with your prints

Once the prints are dry, you might be thinking about what to do with all of them. That certainly crossed my mind. Ours are still sitting in a pile, but we thinking about turning them into one of the handmade cards from this list.

Kids Art Project | Simple and Colorful Cardboard Roll Heart Stamps with Kids | TinkerLab

Follow their lead

After she made about ten prints, my three-year old decided to paint her tube. As always, try to follow your child’s lead and go with the flow.

Kids Art Project | Simple and Colorful Cardboard Roll Heart Stamps with Kids | TinkerLab

More Easy Valentines Ideas

30 Valentine Activities for Kids

Valentine’s Gift: Heart Art Canvas, Red Ted Art

Deconstructed Valentines

Painting Heart Doilies, The Artful Parent

Sweet Potato Heart Prints

Handmade Valentine’s Cards, Playful Learning

Easy Valentine Bookmarks

Valentine’s Day Scavenger Hunt, Hands on as we Grow

Handmade Valentine Cards: The Amazing all-in-one Envelope

A healthy Valentine Snack

Heart Sewing Cards for Preschoolers

Sewing Card Activity for Valentine's Day | TinkerLab.com

It’s always fun to add a seasonal twist to the activities we do with children, and these sewing cards for preschoolers can be easily adapted to any holiday, interest, or season.

Simple sewing cards for preschoolers | TinkerLab.com

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner so we stitched a heart shape, but consider a shamrock for St. Patrick’s Day, pine tree for Christmas, or a fish in the middle of summer.

Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links for your convenience.

Benefits of sewing cards for preschoolers

  • Develop hand-eye coordination
  • Learn the basics of sewing
  • Practice fine motor skills

There are lots of reasons to try this activity. You might have a child, like mine, who loves to dive into mom’s sewing stash or you might want to help your child develop fine motor skills. Whatever the reason, your child should have fun with this sewing cards activity. If you get started and it proves more frustrating than fun, put this aside for a couple weeks or months, and then try again.

Sewing Cards for Preschoolers Supplies

Simple sewing cards for preschoolers | TinkerLab.com

Simple sewing cards for preschoolers | TinkerLab.com

Steps

  1. Cut a rectangle shape from the chipboard box. The piece in the photo is about 6″ x 9″.
  2. Poke holes into the chipboard with the needle.
  3. Thread the needle with embroidery floss. Encourage your child to choose the color/s. For inexperienced sewers you’ll want to double-thread the needle by making a double-length of floss and then tie the two ends together at the end. This will keep the thread from slipping out of the needle eye while stitching.
  4. Show your child how to push the needle up through one hole, and then back down through the next. Pull the needle taught each time it goes through a hole.
  5. Tie the end off and cut the extra thread after you reach the last hole.

Simple sewing cards for preschoolers | TinkerLab.com

After they stitched all the way around the hearts, my kids added some embellishments with markers, glue, sequins, and rhinestones. This should be fun, so let them go wild and see what they come up with.

Simple sewing cards for preschoolers | TinkerLab.com

More Sewing Projects and Ideas

Even Toddlers Can Sew: A great intro to sewing project

Machine Sewing with a Preschooler

How did you teach your children to sew? Thoughts from our Facebook page.

A 5-star, affordable entry-level sewing machine via Amazon

This Pinterest Board of sewing projects for kids

 

Bamboo Rubber Band Book

Bamboo Rubber Band Book

Jody Alexander on TinkerlabToday I’m excited to introduce you to Jody Alexander. Jody is a librarian and bookmaker who teaches bookmaking from Wishi Washi Studio in Santa Cruz, CA, and also teaches classes through the newly-launched Creative Bug. Tinkerlab special: Jody is sharing a code for a Creative Bug discount at the end of this post.

Once you make one of these Bamboo Rubber Band Books, you’ll find tons of creative ways to fill them with your own ideas, use them as sketchbooks, fill them with writing practice, or turn them into gifts.

Welcome, Jody!


Kids love to make books. They really do! I have been making books with kids for about 15 years now. First going into my son’s classrooms and teaching him and his classmates various book structures and then teaching at different art camps.

How to Make a Rubber Band Book

The Bamboo Rubber Band Book is a simple and easy book structure to make with kids.  I have taught this structure to ages 5 years old and up and I can’t tell you how proud they all have been after making a book.  This book can be made with pages and covers that have already been pre-printed or decorated, or with blank pages to draw or write on later.  It is a great little book for drawings and a little story.

Materials Bambook Rubber Band Book

Materials

  • 8 ½ x 11 text weight paper (2-4 pieces – can vary)
  • 8 ½ x 11 cover weight paper (1 piece)
  • rubber band
  • bamboo skewer

Tools

  • scissors
  • hole punch
  • garden hand shears

Step one

Cut text weight paper into quarters – here is how do this without measuring:

  • Fold paper in half the long way
  • Open up

Step 1 Bambook Rubber Band Book

  • Fold paper in half the short way
  • Open up
  • Cut along fold lines

Step 2 Bambook Rubber Band Book

Step two

Cut the cover weight paper in the same way – you will end up with enough cover paper for two books

Bamboo Rubber Band Book

Step three

Stack your cut paper sandwiching the text paper in between the two cover pieces

Step Three Bamboo Rubber Band Book copy

Steps four & five

Punch two holes along the spine of the book – approximately 1/2 inch from the spine edge and 1 inch from the top and bottom (this can vary but making the holes too close to the edges puts them at risk to rip out)

Cut the bamboo skewer to 5 inches in length with garden hand shears.

 Bamboo Rubber Band Book

Step six

Bamboo Rubber Band Book

Thread the rubber band through the holes and capture the bamboo skewer – this will hold the cover and pages together.

Bamboo Rubber Band Book

You made a book! 

  • Put as many or as few pages in the book that fits your project.
  • Make a book out of pre-printed pages
  • Make a book out of blank pages and write or draw in it.
  • Enjoy your book!

Want to make more books? Or make this one fancier?

Orizomega and Japanese Side Sewn Binding Bambook Rubber Band Book copy

Learn how to make Orizomegami with me on Creativebug. Orizomegami is a traditional Japanese paper dying technique that is a fun and easy kid-friendly project that is perfect for book covers.

Creative Bug Bamboo Rubber Band BookAnd, if you are ready for a slightly more challenging binding – but still quite accessible to children – try my Japanese Side Sewn Binding for Kids class on Creativebug.


Thanks for introducing us to this book-making technique today, Jody! I’m so glad that we met and look forward to learning more from you through Creative Bug.

 

Fingerprint Spiders for Halloween

Simple and Fun Fingerprint Spiders | Tinkerlab

Did you know that black widows are known for cannibalizing their mates?* Eek. Bet you didn’t plan to come to Tinkerlab today to get info like that.

Fingerprint Spiders for Halloween | Tinkerlab

Spider season has arrived, at least in the Halloween sense of the word, and while it may feel to early for some of us, kids can be wildly in tune with the changing of the seasons. And if it still feels too premature, you can pin this today and keep it up your sleeve for a spooky day down the road.

For us, Halloween catalogues have been arriving for a few weeks now, and decorations are popping up in all the local stores. So when my older daughter started drawing jack-o-lanterns I knew that this project would be a hit.

First let’s talk about supplies…

What You’ll Need

Fingerprint Spiders Supplies

Simple, right?

Step One

Make some fingerprints on your paper.

Have a damp rag handy in case your child is sensitive to having ink on his or her fingers. My kids are okay with this, and understood that that the ink won’t wash off completely until bath time. 

Fingerprint Spiders Halloween

Step Two

Draw on spider legs and faces. However you like. Add goggly eyes if you have any handy.

Fingerprint Spiders Making Prints

This is a great opportunity to talk about how many legs a spider has (8), and introduce other fun spider facts (unlike the one I shared at the beginning of this post). Try these:

Spider Facts

  • Spiders are not insects, but arachnids
  • Spiders have 8 legs. Insects have 6 legs.
  • Cobwebs are simply abandoned spider webs.
  • Spiders do not have antennae.
  • In the 1970’s spiders were sent into space to see if they could build a web with zero gravity. The conclusion? While scientists eventually concluded that the quality of the space webs were slightly different from gravity-based webs, webs were made in space!
  • The biggest spider in the world is the Goliath bird eater, a type of tarantula.

Be creative and open-minded.

Despite our conversation about how spiders have eight legs, my independent-minded five-year old gave all of hers eight legs…on both side of their bodies. She said that they look better that way. What do you think?

Fingerprint Spiders Drawing Legs

Step Three

Now that all the materials are out, experiment a little more and be open to new ideas.

We brought out a few more pens to test out the different thicknesses and textures. Then we poured some watercolors into a small bowl and made painted spiders.

Fingerprint Spiders Creative Table

From there, the painting and drawing experiments expanded to include abstract patterns and fully covered pieces of paper.

Fingerprint Spiders and Painting Experiments

See you next time for more tinkering fun!


*For more weird spider facts, Michael Miller, animal keeper at the Smithsonian, compiled a list of 8 strange but true spider facts that will fascinate you.


More Fingerprint Spiders

One of my readers and friend, Vlada, sent me these fingerprint spiders made by her daughters. I LOVE the addition of red for the legs. And the goggly eyes! What a fun touch.

Fingerprint Spiders | TinkerLab.com

More Halloween Ideas

If you enjoyed this post, you have to check out 50 Simple Halloween Ideas for Kids.

TinkerLab Newsletter

In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

Failure is Not Trying

failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”

- Henry Ford

What do you think about failure? Do you encourage your child to make mistakes? Do you celebrate attempts to try new things? Do you share your own failed attempts freely with your child?

failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently

Last night was Back to School Night at my new kindergartener’s school. The principal gave a motivating talk about the importance of extending the school’s core values into our children’s home lives as a way to reinforce the home-school connection.

At the end of the presentation the principal talked about failure, and how we should encourage our children to work hard to achieve their ideas and goals in spite of their lack of knowledge. If they don’t know how to do something, they shouldn’t see this as a limitation but as an opportunity to fail forward as they learn through the process of trying.

As you can imagine, I LOVED this talk and felt so grateful that my daughter landed in an environment with such entrepreneurial spirit at its heart.

At the end of the talk, they shared a link to an interview with the youngest female self-made billionaire, Sarah Blakely (founder of Spanx), who discussed her journey with ABC News. Whatever you might think of Spanx (I don’t own any myself), you’ll appreciate how her father redefined the word failure for her and her brother. 

“We would sit around the dining room table at night and he would say, ‘OK, kids, what did you fail at today?’ I would say, ‘Dad, I tried out for this sport and I was horrible,’ and he would say ‘way to go,’ and high five me. And it completely reset my definition of failure. So, for my brother and me, failure is not trying.”

Sadly, I can’t embed the video here, but you can watch it here. And if you find her story motivating, here’s a link to Sarah Blakely on YouTube. 

Parents and Teachers as Co-Learners

It’s so important to model our own failures to our children. If children don’t see us struggle as we try new things, and in turn find ways to overcome setbacks, how can we ever expect them to do the same?

When was the last time you celebrated a failure with a child? Not too long ago I baked a new recipe with my kids. We thought we could alter the recipe to use up some of our pantry ingredients and talked about experimentation as we went along. In end the recipe was a disaster, but it was a fantastic opportunity to discuss how we could do it differently next time. Some of the things that came up: follow the recipe more closely, take more time with fewer distractions, and don’t use so much pumpkin.

If you’re interested in this topic, you might enjoy this post on failure.

A question for you:

When was the last time you tried something new? Did you succeed on your first attempt? If not, what did you have to do in order to achieve your goal?

Bird Seed Sensory Box

Birdseed Sensory Box Activity for Toddlers and Preschoolers

I’m always happy to have cheap, simple, educational, and entertaining activities for my kids, and I know a lot of teachers who feel the same way. How about you?

I learned this bird seed trick from one of my daughter’s first preschool teachers, and I’m happy to pass it along to you.

I LOVE cheap, simple, educational, and entertaining outdoor activities like this for my kids (great for toddlers and preschoolers).

Bird Seed Sensory Box

Step 1: Pour in the bird seed.

Tip #1: Do this outside. Bird seed will spill everywhere and you’ll be grateful that it’s not all over your carpet.

pouring bird seed sensory tableStep 2: Play

Simple, right?

Tip #2: If you have a lot squirrels in your area, cover your bird seed table at night to discourage those pesky foragers from finding their next meal in your bird seed oasis.

sensory table with bird seed scoopingTip #3: The bird seed lasts indefinitely, and when your child is done with it you can use it to, um, feed birds! Nothing is wasted here, friends!

sensory table with bird seed

If you like to keep your projects in a recipe box or binder, feel free to print this nifty card that has all the info in one easy-to-read place:

Bird Seed Sensory Box
 
Author:
Recipe type: Toddler and Preschool Sensory
Prep time:
Total time:
 
Set up a fun sensory experience that encourages hand-eye coordination and helps children explore measurement and volume.
Supplies
  • Bags of Bird Seed
  • High Wall Water Table or Under-the-bed storage box
  • Tools such as scoopers, spoons, and bowls
  • Access to natural materials such as flowers and twigs
Steps
  1. Fill a water table with bird seed. We used three 16 oz bags, but could have easily used more.
  2. Offer your child some tools to scoop and pour the seeds.
  3. Encourage your child to bring natural materials to the table and build fairy homes/ design seascapes/make natural patterns.

And if you like this activity, you can give it some love by clicking on a whole bunch of stars with a comment below. Thanks!

More sensory materials

Wheat Berries — like bird seed, just different.

Wet Paper — soak some paper and tear it up.

Water Beads — our second most popular post.

Cloud Dough — our most popular post!

If you liked this post, be sure to sign up for our mailing list! Follow us on Instagram

A question for you

What do you find is the most challenging thing about setting up sensory experiences for your child?

Glowing Playdough Recipe

glow playdough recipe | tinkerlab.com


Today I’m joined by Tinkerlab reader Natasha Levochkina McCain, who’s sharing her glowing playdough recipe with us today. This is one of the coolest ways to update play dough, and I think you’ll get a kick out of it. We sure did.

Enjoy!

Glowing playdough recipe | Tinkerlab.comThis play dough inspired my whole family.

Not just my two sons (three and five years old), but even a very busy and sometimes moderately grumpy Dad and our 15 year old.

Not only was it exciting for the kids to stay up after dark to play with the dough, but they also created space landscapes, alien creatures and even an alien alphabet. While it was not an entirely accidental invention, it was not too far from it.  

glow playdough with handprints | tinkerlab.com
The intension was to make some fun looking play dough for a 6 year old boy as an impromptu present. His sister was going to receive some flower scented dough and I could think of nothing better than this for a boy. 

I started mixing the ingredients before I realized that I only had unbleached whole wheat flour left.

Disaster? Not at all!

I decided to go ahead and to make the dough anyway. I used my favorite Tinkerlab play dough recipe (with exception to the whole wheat flour) for the playdough itself:

5.0 from 2 reviews
Glowing Play Dough Recipe
 
Author:
Recipe type: Play Dough
Prep time:
Making time:
Total time:
 
Make traditional play dough...that also happens to glow!
Supplies
  • 5 cups water
  • 2½ cups salt
  • 3 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 10 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 5 cups flour
  • Food coloring or liquid watercolors (optional)
  • Glo Away by Plaid (glow in the dark paint via Amazon)
  • Black Light
Steps
  1. Mix everything but the food coloring and the glo-away together in a large pot until somewhat smooth. It will be lumpy. Not to worry, the dough will get smoother as it cooks.
  2. Cook the dough over a low heat. Mix frequently. The water will slowly cook out of the mixture and you’ll notice it starts to take on a sticky dough appearance.
  3. Before it gets too sticky add a few tablespoons of Glo Away
  4. Keep mixing until the edges of the dough along the side and bottom of the pan appear dry. Pinch a piece of dough. If it’s not gooey, the dough is ready.
  5. Place the dough on a counter top or large cutting board or cooking tray that can withstand a little food coloring.
  6. Knead the warm dough until it’s smooth
  7. Store the dough in a large Ziplock bag or sealed container. Unused, it should keep for months.
  8. Turn the lights down low and illuminate the play dough with a black light.

 
While cooking it and while the dough was still not solidified I added about 4 oz (1 small bottle) of Glo-Away glow in the dark gel by Plaid and continued mixing. The texture is rather coarse because of the type of flour but it provides a unique benefit in the end result.

The glowing particles distribute themselves differently because of the larger grain fragments. While kneading the dough on a plastic cutting board (to avoid stains) I added some green food coloring to it.

And of course, you’ll need a black light to illuminate the glowing dough.

Here’s what it looks like in the dark:

glow playdough in the dark

The next day I also made “regular” play dough with regular “white fluffy” flour. I added no color to it, just the Glo Away

glow playdough with white dough

The glow pigment looks different in this one and it is fun to use them both for creating amazingly fun extraterrestrial creatures and landscapes.

glow playdough character

About Glo Away:  The manufacturer says that it’s “Safe to use on fabric, wood, glass, plastic and ceramics. Non permanent washes away with soap and water. Certified AP non-toxic. Great for decorating kids rooms and ceilings.”

Thanks for joining us today, Natasha! If you have a favorite art recipe to share, email us at rachelle at Tinkerlab.com.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, but we only share links to products that we adore or that we think you’ll find useful.

Natasha Mc Cain About Natasha Levochkina McCain.
I am a teacher and I love children, animals and living. My husband says I am strong and I think I am feminine. So, here I am.

 

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Homemade Card Idea: Peek-a-boo Cards

Make Homemade Cards: Peek-a-boo Cards

“Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.”

- Lord Byron

Do you make time to hand-write letters? I have piles of stationary that I used to adore writing on, but now these delightful pieces of artful ephemera seem to collect a whole lot of dust since everything has become digital.

Card Making: Peek-a-boo Cards | Tinkerlab

I’d love to get back to the fine art of letter writing, but time and energy have taken this once-adored task away from me. Hmmm, I should find a way to get back to it. My kids, on the other hand, will write and make letters for just about anything. No occasion necessary. I’m inspired by this desire to connect with loved ones through their art and words.

Couldn’t we all use a little more connection in our lives?

And that brings me to this…my mother-in-law is a saint on earth.

She’s always putting other people above her own interests and loves my children with all her heart. I’m a lucky one, I know. The other day, this sweet card arrived in the mail from her, and my four-year old couldn’t stop talking about it.

cut out shape cards

After investigating the mechanics of the card, N wanted to make her own version…as a thank you card for her grandmother’s card. Awwww.

cut out shape cards 2

Note to all the grandparents out there: I promise you that the little things you do for your grandchildren do not go unnoticed. Keep on giving of yourselves and the rewards will come back to you.

cut out shape cards 3

We talked about how the card had two folds, and the front of it had a cut-out shape. N asked me to help her cut a shape out of the first panel, and thankfully she requested a simple heart.

Maybe you noticed the cute little backwards “N” up there. My daughter has decided that this is how N’s are written, and there’s no changing her mind. She’s strong-minded, and I love that about her.

Fiskar Squeeze Punch

For making cut-outs, you could also use squeeze punches like these. We recently picked up a few of these awesome Fiskars Squeeze Punches at the craft store, and they would be great for making these peek-a-boo cards in bulk. I was first introduced to this tool at my kids’ preschool, and I noticed that most four-year olds can handle them independently. They take a little bit of muscle — too much for my 2.5 year old  and they’re too large for her smaller hands — but older kids love these things!

Make Homemade Cards: Peek-a-boo Cards

A few words of love and some more decorations, and then the card is ready for mailing!

With Father’s Day just around the corner, you might want to give this homemade card a go for the amazing dads in your life.

More homemade card projects

30 Valentine Activities for Kids

How to set up a self-serve card-making station

How to make an all-in-one heart envelope

Press your own flowers, and make them into beautiful cards

Make pounded flower cards, like these bookmarks

A question for you…

Do you make handmade cards? Can you tell me about the last piece of personal mail that you sent or received? Do you have a memory of receiving a special gift, mail, or package from a grandparent?

Simple Matching Sticker Game

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

The human brain is an incredible pattern-matching machine. 

- Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com

Matching objects or shapes is a skill that can help children in so many areas of their lives. The process of matching images and symbols is a precursor to matching combinations of letters to words, and this, of course, is a pre-reading skill. Matching is also useful for developing math skills, as understanding one-to-one correspondence teaches spatial reasoning and pattern recognition. 

Fun for travel

If you have any big trips planned, make a stack of these ahead of time and bring them along for a surprise game that might keep your child entertained through a flight’s take-off or during a long road trip.

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

Materials

  • Stickers: at least two of each kind
  • Plain paper
  • Maker, crayon, or pencil

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

Set-up

Place the stickers in columns on two sides of the paper. Mix them up. Offer your child a pen or crayon and invite him to make lines that connect the matching images.

Matching Sticker Game Trader Joes

We always pick up stickers at Trader Joe’s — they’re perfect for this project!

Matching Sticker Game Hand Drawn

If you don’t have any stickers, not to worry! This project can be done with some simple sketches. I’ve done this with simple shapes (circle, square, triangle, etc.) and a variety of expressions (happy, sad, surprised).

More Ideas

  • For emergent readers: Make one column of stickers and then in the other column, write words that match the stickers.
  • Rather than use columns, draw pairs of shapes or attach stickers in random spots around the piece of paper.

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