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

 

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.

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!

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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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Time Travel with Popcorn Breakfast Cereal

How to make breakfast popcorn. via Tinkerlab

“The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.”

W.C. Fields

What can get children excited to try something new? In my home it’s always food and grand experiments, and this project includes both. My kids, ages 2 and 4, were enthralled from start to finish. Maybe it will be the same for you?!

This project encourages experimentation and curiosity, while also teaching basic kitchen skills. 

How to make Popcorn Cereal: Teach your kids about colonial times with this special popcorn cereal recipe from Tinkerlab

On the recommendation of Deborah from Teach Preschool, we picked up a copy of The Popcorn Book by Tomie de Paola. Have you read it?

The book shares a little bit about the history of popcorn while teaching children how to make popcorn. And it’s all told through cheerful illustrations and a humorous storyline. My kids adore this book, along with the other books by author Tomie de Paola, and I appreciate that my girls are learning some cool facts while we enjoy a bit of reading. In case you’re not familiar, de Paola is also well known as the author of Strega Nona and The Art Lesson. Both super popular in our home.

How to make Popcorn Cereal

At one point in the story, the author writes, “The Colonists like it [popcorn] so much that they served popcorn for breakfast with cream poured on it.” Really?

The girls and I talked about this point for a few minutes and made some guesses about how this popcorn cereal might taste. And then we concluded that the only way to find out is…

…to make popcorn cereal for breakfast!

Popcorn Cereal
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Makes: 4
Prep time:
Making time:
Total time:
 
This recipe is inspired by Tomie DePaola's "The Popcorn Book." In the book, DePaola writes that "The Colonists like it (popcorn) so much that they served popcorn for breakfast with cream poured on it."
Supplies
  • ⅓ cup Popping Corn
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil or coconut oil
  • Milk
  • Honey
Steps
  1. Pour the oil and popping corn into a covered medium-sized pot, and place the pot over a medium-high heat.
  2. As the oil heats up, gently shake the pot so that the kernels cook evenly.
  3. Listen for the popping to go crazy, and continue shaking the pot until the pops only happen once ever three seconds.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and pour the popcorn into a large serving bowl.
  5. To serve: Scoop a few spoonfuls into a cereal bowl, pour milk over the popped corn, and drizzle with honey.

How to make popcorn cereal

Whenever possible, I like to include my kids in the kitchen. Not only do we enjoy each other’s company, but cooking provides children with so many opportunities to learn through measuring, chopping, pouring, making educated guesses, and exploring volume, just to name a few.

And all of these things add up to building confidence both in the kitchen and in life. 

So, my kids measured the popcorn and the coconut oil, and I set it up on the stove.

Coconut oil can cook at a high temperature without burning, making it quite perfect for popping corn. The flavor is also divine. I recently joined Costco because they have an amazing selection of organic produce (no affiliation — I just like the place!), and I was surprised to find a big tub of organic coconut oil. Really, at Costco! I’ve also purchased it at Trader Joe’s, in case you’re in the market.

popcorn cereal tomie depaola

Once the corn was popped, we moseyed over to the breakfast table and gave our new recipe a try. The verdict? My kids LOVED it. They had seconds. And thirds. Not a spec of popcorn remained in the bowl. I can’t promise that your child will feel the same way about it, but I loved it too.

breakfast popcorn recipe

That’s my two-year old, on her second bowl of breakfast popcorn cereal!

How to make Colonial popcorn cereal

Yum, there’s even a bowl for me. As soon as the milk hits the popcorn, it gets nice and soggy just as you’d imagine.

how to make breakfast popcorn

After pouring some milk over our popcorn, we drizzled it with our favorite honey. So, so good. And then we proudly woke dad up and told him all about how we ate breakfast just like the colonists.

More Ideas

Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 12.31.39 AM

  • Try the Corncob Popcorn Experiment: Cook a dried corncob in the microwave for some serious fun and  magic.
  • I just found this recipe for making Perfect Popcorn. I’ve never tried this technique before, but it makes a ton of sense. I’m totally trying this next time.
  • The Popcorn Book by Tomie DePaola
  • Other fun and educational things to do with popcorn and preschoolers on Teach Preschool
  • Are you a fan of Tomie de Paola? Guess what? He has his own website and it’s awesome!
  • If you live anywhere near Concord, NH, there’s a Tomie de Paola show going on through June 23, 2013. And…they have some of the original illustrations from his personal collection will be for sale!
  • Subscribe to Tinkerlab and you’ll be the first to know about new posts like the one you just read.

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

 

 

 

 

Seven Tips for Setting up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio

Bundt Cake

The other day we had the most amazing weather, so we set up a garden art studio…

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

When I was in college I always loved those teachers who took their classes outside on a nice day. So why not recreate that magic with our kids? Did you know that most children don’t spend enough time outdoors?

Why Making Art Outdoors is so Awesome

  1. Being outside is calming, restorative, and resets the mind.
  2. Nature is fodder for the imagination.
  3. Getting messy isn’t an issue.
  4. You can get up water some plants/play/dig a hole, and then return to making.

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

I offered my children a few after-lunch options that included reading in the garden, making art outside, and going on a hike. Can you tell that I wanted to spend some outdoors? The weather was that incredible.

My older daughter liked the idea of setting up a blanket on our lawn and helped me hatch a plan to create an art studio picnic. 

Within moments of setting it all up, which took us about ten minutes, the girls were deep into making. At this point I gleefully broke out my new garden sheers and tackled mountains of overgrown plants. Hack hack hack. Things had gotten so out-of-hand in my poor garden, which now looks rather normal, that it initially appeared quite bald as I managed to fill our entire composting bin with greenery.

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

Meanwhile, I’d pop over to check on the kids periodically and captured 4-year old N as she decorated a big river rock with paint pens. More details on drawing on rocks over here. 

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

Her little sister has been invested in painting lately and we knew that she’d enjoy easel painting. If you really can’t get outside, 10 Steps for Easy Indoor Easel Painting will help you bring the magic indoors.

I also have a stand-up easel, but I thought this would be a nice way to have the girls work side-by-side. It was a great strategy until the watercolor jars were knocked over onto the blanket. Ahem, we only own washable paints for moments like this.

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

Also, this little easel has a tray to hold paint on both sides and I knew both kids would want to paint at the same time. All in all, it was a fantastic afternoon and just the sort of experience that I imagine we’ll invest in all summer long.

Tips for setting up an Impromptu garden art studio

First of all, it’s important to address that you don’t need a sprawling lawn to make this happen. A patio, stoop, or balcony work just fine. The important thing here is to get outside and enjoy some fresh air!

  1. Wear play clothes, aprons, or nothing at all. 
  2. Wait for a warm day.
  3. Keep the materials simple and choose one or two basic projects. We chose watercolors + easel and rock painting.
  4. Have a water source nearby for washing up.
  5. Set up a picnic blanket so that little makers can get comfortable.
  6. Make sure you have a camera to capture these moments.
  7. If you’re painting, lay dry pieces out on the ground to dry. If it’s windy, dry them on a clothesline or indoors.

Outdoors + Kids Resources

Tape paper to the wall for an Instant Outdoor Art Studio

Six Ways to Take Art Outdoors

Start a Family Nature Club with this Nature Tools for Families Toolkit (FREE download) from Children and Nature Network. I’m dying to start one of these, so if you live near me give a holler if you’re interested! The Children and Nature Network is run by Audubon medal winner Richard Louv who wrote the bestseller, Last Child in the Woods. 

If you’re in the Bay Area, get your hands on a copy of Bay Area, Best Hikes with Kids: San Francisco Bay Area by Laure Latham. I just got it and it’s awesome!

A fabulous roundup of ideas for building outdoor forts and shelters for kids, from Let the Children Play.

A question for you…

What one word comes to mind when you think of the last time you spent time outdoors?

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

Inspired by Nature: Four Easy Steps to Follow a Child’s Interests

Inspired by Nature: wasp nest and bumble bee art

four easy steps to follow a child's interests

Do you have bees, birds, squirrels, deer, possum, or other creatures milling around your neighborhood?

It’s been wild animal week here at Casa Tinkerlab. We had two big discoveries at our house: a wasp nest in the eaves by our back door and a bird nest tucked into a hole along the siding of our house.

Sad story, we found the bird nest on the ground today, and all of the eggs were gone, probably discovered by a band of squirrels. My two-year old has been keeping a watchful eye on that nest and her first thought went to the mama bird when she said, “I think I hear the mama bird.”

Sure enough, we saw the mama nervously flying around some nearby bushes, and my heart sank for her. We carefully collected the nest and put it back into its spot in the event that the mom can use the nest again.

wasp nest 2

This wasp nest, on the other hand, was something that I was determined to remove myself. No sad feelings here. Sorry if you’re a wasp fan, but rest assured that no wasps were harmed in the process. Basically, I knocked it down (quite heroically) from it’s post with the end of a broom.

My kids were impressed.

The nice thing about finds like this (as long as no one gets hurt along the way) is the opportunity to learn from them.

Of course my kids had tons of questions about the wasp nest. At first we thought it may have been a growing beehive, so we started to search for information on bees, and then we learned that it was in fact a wasp nest. We also noticed it first came out of our eaves it was round and firm, and that it sank into itself after about half an hour on our dining table.

My four-year old loves to join me in web searches for information, so we started off with searches like “bee hive” and “how do bees build their hives?” The hives looked nothing like our little specimen, but by this point my daughter had an idea and she asked me to collect images of bees and related images that you might find in a garden.

bee drawing

I started a Photoshop file and dragged black and white images to a file, resized them to make them all fit to scale, and then printed the images on her request.  She then spent over an hour carefully coloring in and cutting out her images, and then creating the composition you see here. The only thing that seemed to be missing was a pond, but that’s no big deal when you have a market to fill in the blanks.

Projects like this encourage children to be curious, explore, and tap into their imaginations.

Directions

  1. Pay attention to what your child finds interesting in nature
  2. If you’re on a walk or hike, take along an field pack: a backpack to save collected objects, camera, magnifying glass, binoculars, pencil, and a notebook to draw or write in.
  3. Go the library to find books on the topic or search the internet for more information or videos. YouTube is often a great resource for investigations like this. Like this, ahem, educational video on how to remove a wasp nest.
  4. Make something that documents your new-found knowledge. How does your child want to interpret his new knowledge? Maybe it’s drawing, building, cooking, writing a story, talking about it, or taking photos?

 

Inspired by Nature: wasp nest and bumble bee art

More ways to discover nature and follow a child’s interests

Eight Ways to Follow a Child’s Curiosities

Finding Nature with Kids

Build a Nature Table

A Question for you…

What treasures, animals, and natural discoveries have you observed around your home?

Creative Table: A Sticker Composition with Frames

Sticker composition 4

Sticker composition

Setting up Creative Invitations like this is one of my very favorite ways to encourage children to explore new ideas and develop a visual language. Here’s the basic premise:

  • Clear the table of anything that won’t be used in the invitation
  • Artfully arrange the materials to provoke ideas
  • Limit the choice of materials to just a few items
  • Provide clues about how to use the materials, but keep the project open-ended so that original ideas can flourish.

Sticker composition 4

Sticker Composition with Frames

Before I went to bed, I set up two sheets of paper that were simply marked with a hand-drawn frame. Next to to the frames were a few sheets of rectangular color coding labels. You can find these at Amazon or any office supply aisle. Alternatively, you could set this with circle stickers, some other favorite sticker, pieces of colorful tape, or squares of construction paper and a bottle of glue.

I also placed a stack of plain paper and rolls of colorful tape in the middle of the table, just in case my kids wanted to use other materials. They didn’t.

Sticker composition with Frames, on Tinkerlab.com

Here’s how my two-year old used the materials.

Sticker composition 2

And here’s how my four-year old put her composition together. The beauty of creative invitations is that children will meet them where they’re most capable.

If you’d like more ideas like this one, you might enjoy reading about the Creative Table project, checking out these highlights from the Creative Table Project, or browsing the hundreds of brilliant set-ups on Instagram by searching #creativetable,

graphic for sticker composition

A Question for you…

How old is your child, or how old are the children in your class, and what creative project have you been working on?

Note: There are affiliate links in this post, but I only share links to products I love or that I think you’ll find useful. 

Make a Simple Room Fort

How to build a simple kids fort with tape and a sheet

Hello Tinker-firends! I’ve been busy with some family business and book edits that are taking a toll on my late-night blogging time. How are you doing?

Until I get a better handle on these details I thought I’d share some quick snippets of tinkering inspiration from our days at home and out-and-about.

Today we have a down-and-dirty favorite from my husband, our resident fort builder. Scroll down to the bottom for links to hundreds of inspiring DIY kids fort ideas.

How to Build a Simple Room Fort for Kids

How to build a simple kids fort with tape and a sheet

What you need

  • Paper Tape
  • A large sheet
  • A doorway or arch to hang the sheet in

That’s it!

How to build a simple room fort with tape and a sheet

It’s not your traditional fort, but my kids loved playing with this new-to-them hanging element. It closed off a room that’s normally open to the whole house, giving the room a feeling of theater.

And speaking of theater, you could also do something like this to create impromptu theater curtains.

More fort ideas

How to Build a Simple Clip Fort

Make a Fort from a Refrigerator Box

Fort Magic, The Coolest Fort in Town

A Playhouse under the Table, Artful Parent

Handmade Hideaways, Modern Parents Messy Kids

How to Build a Great Blanket Fort, Simple Mom

And perhaps the biggest resource of all, Fort Fridays, the weekly fort roundup from All for the Boys