Fall Luminary: Make a Lantern

Crayon Shavings :: from Tinkerlab, Creative Experiments for Kids

Today I’m joined by Arts Educator extraordinaire, Amanda Gross, who’s back to show us how to make a Fall Luminary from leaves and melted crayons. Not only are these beautiful, but the processes of collecting leaves, peeling crayons, and melting the wax with an iron are sure to capture a child’s attention.

Make a Lantern!

Luminaries are perfect for brightening a crisp autumn evening, and a crafty way to explore this season when leaves turn brilliant colors, the rosy twilight falls more quickly, and families the world over traditionally give thanks for the harvest.

You might start by reading a book that poetically investigates the unique things of autumn, such as Lois Ehlert’s Leaf Man or Lauren Thompson’s Mouse’s First Fall.

Would your child like to make a colorful fall luminary, choosing materials from outside and around the house?

Step 1:
Wander around outside, and notice how the leaves have turned a multitude of colors and have gotten crunchy. Choose leaves that have fallen off of trees, but are not too dry and can still lay flat.  If leaves are very curly, you may consider pressing them in a heavy book for a few days, before using them.  Bring your collection inside and onto a table.

Step 2:
Find a clean mason jar that will serve as the structure for your luminary.  Measure the mason jar’s circumference with sting, and cut a wax paper strip that is long enough to fit around it.

Step 3:
Gather crayons of your favorite colors.   Lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival are often inspired by butterflies, so any hue goes!   Unwrap the paper covering the crayons, and shave them lengthwise over the wax paper, with a serrated knife or vegetable peeler.  If your child isn’t old enough to wield the knife, s/he could choose the crayon, the location, and how much pigment they’d like you to shave off.

Step 4:
Place leaves over the crayon shavings, and feel free to add more shavings on top.  Explain that the crayon wax will melt, and those little crumbs will become puddles of color.  Experiment with composition, and with layering the leaves and shavings.

Step 5:
Set up your ironing board and turn on the iron (If you are like me, and not the most experienced with this, here’s one of many online ironing tutorials).  On your ironing board, place a flat, thin cloth (the crayon wax will probably bleed through the wax paper a bit, so use scrap fabric and not “good” cloth), then carefully place your wax paper with the leaves and shavings.  Over this, put a blank sheet of wax paper, of around the same size.  Layer on another thin cloth, and smooth out the wrinkles with your fingers.  Spritz the top layer evenly with water from a spray bottle, and now you’re ready to iron.  Flatten out the wrinkles and iron both sides of the wax paper “sandwich.”

Step 6:
After waiting a few minutes for the wax paper to cool, peel away the cloth.  Measure your mason jar again, and cut the wax paper so that it fits around the jar, then tape or tie a ribbon around it to hold the paper in place.

Step 7:
When it gets dark outside, drop a candle into your mason jar, and ignite it with a long lighter.  The brilliant, glowing colors and winding lines of the leaves will surely be a cozy centerpiece for your family to gather around, and is an excellent reminder to be grateful for the season.

Resources

Picture Books About Fall on Goodreads

PreservingLeaves and a Leaf Lantern

Nature’sStained Glass

MeltedCrayon Luminaries

Amanda E. Gross_headshotAmanda designs curricula to guide and inspire children, teens, and adults to appreciate art and to create!  She earned a Master’s of Arts in Teaching from The Rhode Island School of Design and is an instructor at Academy of Art University.  Amanda is also an illustrator, painter, DIY crafter, and permaculture enthusiast. Find out more about Amanda here: Art Curricula WebsiteArt Portfolio WebsiteLinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Fall Crafts: Glycerin Leaves

How to make glycerine Leaves

We’re ga-ga for all the multi-colored maple leaves of the season, and my older daughter, N, is likely to burst into a chorus of “red and yellow leaves” as we drive down the road. I’ve been reading up on how to preserve the leaves so that they’ll last more than a couple days and it turns out that you have a few choices, some of them being : preserve them with a glycerin solution, seal them with hot wax, press them between sheets of contact paper, or melt them between sheets of wax paper.

We had a bottle of glycerin in the cabinet for bubble-making, so I thought we’d try our hands at making glycerin leaves. I have to tell you upfront: the process was fantastic and my kids really got into it. The results, on the other hand, meh. Not so spectacular. More on that soon.

Supplies

  • 1/4 c. glycerin
  • 1/2 c. water
  •  Fall leaves
  • Two pans that can stack inside each other
  • Spoon for mixing

Mix the glycerin and water in your pan. Add leaves.

If you don’t have enough solution to cover the leaves, make another batch. My 4-year old loved taking charge of this step and we ooohed and ahhhed over the leaves as they went into the glycerin bath.

Find another pan that’s a bit small than the first, and place it on top so that all the leaves stay submerged.

Put this aside for three-ish days, or until the leaves are super-supple. At this point, the leaves should have absorbed enough of the glycerin solution to retain their color and texture.

Remove the leaves from the glycerin solution and pat dry on a towel. Your leaves are now ready to display.

For those of you who might be banking on this recipe as a way to preserve your leaves for years to come, I think this is worth the experiment but it may not be foolproof. About two weeks later, our leaves have not turned brown, but they definitely haven’t retained their original color. I decorated a corner of our mantle with them, and they look pretty good, but not spectacular. I found this recipe that added surfectant (found in garden supply stores), and it sounds like that may help the glycerin soak into the leaves.

This minor detail has not affected my kids, however, who have been incorporating the leaves into their projects.

Have you ever made glycerin leaves?

Any tips or thoughts on what may have gone wrong? Or was I expecting too much?

 

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DIY Pumpkin Pie Playdough

fall playdough

Have you ever made your own playdough? Store bought playdough is okay in a pinch, but making your own is a money saver and you can make TONS of it in mere minutes.

Easy! How to make your own pumpkin pie play dough with ingredients that you probably already have in the house.  It smells amazing!

Inspired by The Artful Parent’s Autumn Arts and Crafts book, The Artful Year: Autumn, we finally pitched our peppermint playdough in favor of a more seasonal scent: Pumpkin Pie!

Pumpkin Pie Playdough Recipe…

I used our favorite play dough recipe, which also happens to be the favorite of my daughter’s awesome preschool class, so I’m not going to get experimental with the dough itself, but we did experiment with the spice combination.

The dough itself takes about 20 minutes to prepare, it cooks on the stove-top, and the most complicated-to-find ingredient it calls for is cream of tartar. If it’s hard for you to find, you can get Cream of Tartar on Amazon.

Yes, you can find 2-minute dough recipes, and I’d encourage you to use them if you’re short on time, but the benefit of this recipe is that it will last for ages. Ages. Scroll down for a PRINTABLE recipe card.

playdough

After we made the dough, I placed it on the counter to cool. Meanwhile, my 2-year old worked away at pinching out a real pie crust.

playdough

When the dough was cool to touch, we squeezed orange liquid watercolors on half of it and then kneaded it in. For this step, be sure to mix on a surface that won’t absorb the watercolors. My 4-year old wanted to make half the dough orange and half of it white.

playdough

Although we had planned to use a jar of pumpkin pie spice in the dough, my 4-year old was curious about using whole spices that we just bought, so we pulled out the coffee grinder and gave it a very loud whirl. Fun! I don’t have a proper nutmeg grinder, but this seemed to do the trick. And the smell of cardamom — I absolutely love it.

We experimented with the spice blend by adding the different spices, first quite cautiously and then rather liberally, and in different combinations. I learned that my 4-year old isn’t too crazy about the smell of cardamom, but loves cinnamon.

5.0 from 5 reviews
DIY Pumpkin Pie Playdough
 
Author:
Prep time:
Making time:
Total time:
 
Playdough is a wonderful material for building fine motor skills, developing imaginations through exploratory play, and supporting early engineering and building skills. This recipe rivals anything store-bought.
Supplies
  • 5 cups water
  • 2½ cups salt
  • 3 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 10 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 5 cups flour
  • Food coloring or liquid watercolors
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice, or a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom
Steps
  1. Mix everything but the food coloring 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. 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.
  4. Place the dough on a counter top or large cutting board or cooking tray that can withstand a little food coloring.
  5. Knead the warm dough until it’s smooth and then divide it into the number of colors that you’d like to make. We divided our in half: one orange and the other white.
  6. Flatten the ball, add a little bit of food coloring, and knead it in. Add more food coloring to get the desired shade.
  7. Store the dough in a large Ziplock bag or sealed container. Unused, it’ll keep for months.

playdough

My 2-year old was very happy, however, to shake-shake-shake the pie spices all over her gigantic mound of dough. Can you imagine how yummy our kitchen smelled?

playdough

After all this cooking, it was time to bake! At this point, our orange and white/tan doughs marbled into something lovely, and we got busy making small cakes and setting them out to eat on a 3-tier plate server.

Playdough Recipes

Rainbow Play Dough, Tinkerlab

No-cook Cinnamon Playdough, The Imagination Tree

39 Ways to Play with Playdough, The Artful Parent

Downloadable (Free) Playdough Recipe Book, Nurture Store

Fall Activities

50 Simple Halloween Ideas for Kids, TinkerLab

Fall Bucket List, Tinkerlab

40 Autumn Activities for Kids, The Imagination Tree

Make Fall Sunprints, Tinkerlab

Multi-color Leaf Prints, Kleas

Negative Leaf Impressions, Tinkerlab

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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

Halloween Ideas: Spiderweb Printing

printing kids foam easy

easy crafts printmaking kids

This project uses materials that you probably already have at home, or can easily find in your drug store. The only specialty item is a brayer, but without it you’d never expose your kids to the experience of true printmaking.

Printing from styrofoam plates can help children learn that they can upcycle everyday materials into beautiful objects and teaches them patience and planning as they work through multiple steps to reach a desired outcome.

What is a Brayer?

A brayer is a tool, similar to a paint roller, that allows you to apply ink evenly to a large area. You can find brayers in art stores or order them online. I have a few different brayers, and I don’t think you need to go for the most expensive version. This Speedball Deluxe 4-Inch Hard Rubber Brayer is a really good brayer that will do everything you need.

Oh, and we used Colorations Washable Tempera Paint for this project, but I’m also a fan of using Speedball Watersoluble Block Printing Ink for a clearer image.

If brayers seem like an item that you’ll only use once or twice, you’ll be surprised at how addictive printmaking can be and you may find that your kids will make excuses to experiment with them. My own kids (ages 2 and 4) are always eager to tinker with our brayers.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Styrofoam Printmaking
 
Author:
Recipe type: Printmaking
Prep time:
Total time:
 
Printing from styrofoam plates helps children learn that they can upcycle everyday materials into beautiful objects and teaches them patience and planning as they work through multiple steps to reach an outcome.
Supplies
  • Styrofoam plate
  • Scissors
  • Copy Paper
  • Pencil
  • Paper tape, like masking tape
  • Tempera or Poster Paint
  • Cookie Sheet or Piece of Acrylic
  • Brayer
  • Paper or tablecloth to cover workspace
Steps
  1. Cut the rim off the styrofoam plate.
  2. Place the stryrofoam circle on top of a sheet of tracing paper, and trace around the circle.
  3. Remove the plate.
  4. Draw a picture or design on the copy paper. Avoid drawing small details that will disappear when printed.
  5. Tape the drawing on top of the plate.
  6. Retrace your drawing, pushing hard enough to press into and make a mark on the plate.
  7. Remove the paper.
  8. Retrace the drawing on the styrofoam plate, creating deep grooves in the plate.
  9. Roll a small amount of paint onto the cookie sheet or piece of acrylic, and then roll the paint over the styrofoam plate.
  10. Cover the plate with a piece of copy paper, and press it down firmly with your whole hand.
  11. Remove the paper to reveal the printed magic.
  12. Repeat as desired.

easy styrofoam prints with kids

My 4-year old saw the circular shape of the plate and took it as an opportunity to make a spider web. She’s also sort of obsessed with Halloween, so spiders it was! When drawing the designs, encourage your child to avoid tiny details, as they won’t show up well in this printing process.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my 2-year old got in on the action too. I gave her a pencil to draw directly onto the plate, and then she happily rolled paint with it. The printing part wasn’t that interesting to her, but the process of rolling was tops.

Clean-up

We stored our finished prints on another table. I recycled all the messy scrap paper, sprayed the table down, and dropped the brayers and sheet of acrylic into the sink. Done!

More printmaking inspiration

Abstract Recycled Packaging Prints with Printmaking Ink

Sink Mat Prints 

Cookie Sheet Monoprints

Bubble Wrap Prints

Sweet Potato Heart Prints

Styrofoam Pattern Prints

More Halloween Ideas for Kids

If you enjoyed this project and you’re looking for more Halloween ideas, you have to check out 50 Simple Halloween Ideas for Kids.

A Scientific Experiment with Celery and Food Coloring

distinct color

How to set up a simple Scientific Experiment with Celery and Food Coloring :: Tinkerlab.comWhile I’m an art educator by trade, having small people pulling at my pants has turned me into a mini-alchemist who’s suddenly found herself reading books to her kids about Galileo (The Magic Schoolbus and the Science Fair Expedition) and brewing all sorts of concoctions in our kitchen (vinegar and baking soda, anyone?).

This project is easy to achieve with basic kitchen materials and it’s embedded with all sorts of opportunities for introducing the scientific method (in short: asking scientific questions, making predictions, and conducting an experiment).

 

science food coloring celery experiment

Materials

  • Celery with leafy tops
  • Clear glasses
  • Water
  • Food coloring

The Experiment

N poured water into three glasses. about 3/4 cup in each.

Then she added a few drops of food coloring — 5-8 drops, but who’s counting! — into the glasses and stirred with a piece of celery, which was left in the glass. And then we talked about what might happen if we left the celery in the colored water for a while.

science food coloring celery experiment

We oohed and ahhed over the lava-lamp effect of the food coloring as it hit the water.

We started off with red, yellow, and green, but N really wanted to mix colors and added blue and red to the green water (far right). We revisited our earlier discussion and made predictions about how the celery might change.

While waiting for something to happen, I chopped the celery heart off the bottom of the stalk and set up a printing activity.

N humored me by making a few prints and then asked if she could play with colored water. Totally!

While I only have one photo of this, it was probably the highlight of the afternoon.

capillary action

When we checked the celery a couple hours later, this is what it looked like. I put a leafy top next to it so you can see how subtle the change is. Hmmm. While I could see the change, I wasn’t sure it would make a big impact on my daughter. And then I realized that I should have just put the leafy parts in the water for a more dramatic result. Done!

A few hours later the blue/green had the most pronounced shift, but the red and yellow were visibly different too.

capillary action

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the red and blue-green died celery tops, about 16 hours after the stalks had been sitting in the water. N seemed to appreciate the difference, but wasn’t nearly as impressed as her dad and I were.

The science behind the art

Plants need water to survive and they draw water up from their roots through their capillaries. The capillaries are hollow and act a lot like a straw. Adding color to the water helps us visualize this usually invisible process.

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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

 

Diet Coke Mentos Experiment

diet coke and mentos explosion

My 4-year old and our neighbor enjoyed witnessing this explosive soda and Minty Mentos experiment. Have you tried it? It doen’t require a huge set-up, and the show is pretty awesome. I have to warn you that the explosion itself goes by quickly, so you might want to have an arsenal of soda containers on hand so you can conduct multiple experiments.

diet coke and mentos explosion

Ingredients for Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment

  • Diet Coke
  • Minty Mentos
Hee hee — pretty obvious, huh?

mentos and diet coke

Take the Mentos out of the wrapper.

mentos and diet coke experiment

Almost as soon as the Mentos hit the soda, the explosion begins, so f you’d like to try dropping more than one into the Soda bottle, make a paper tube and fill it with all your Mentos.

filling mentos into a tube

Take it outside. open the bottle, drop in one (or multiple) Mentos, and then step back!

kids mentos and diet coke

The explosion happened so fast that I was unable to capture it with my camera, so you’ll have to try this experiment for yourself and see how it works.

Experiment ideas

  • Try this with other types of soda. I read that diet soda is recommended because it’s less sticky than regular soda, but regular soda should work too. Compare the results of regular and Diet Coke.
  • The carbonation is what’s supposed to trigger the reaction: try this experiment with carbonated water. What happens?
  • Compare the results of fruit-flavored and mint-flavored Mentos.
  • What happens when you add other ingredients to the soda: salt, rock salt, sugar, baking soda, peanuts.

soda science experiment

The Science Bit

According to Wikipedia, “the numerous small pores on the candy’s surface catalyze the release of carbon dioxide(CO2) gas from the soda, resulting in the rapid expulsion of copious quantities of foam”

Taking this 100 Steps Further…

Eepybird.com (Entertainment for the Curious Mind) shared that  the exploding Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment was first introduced by University of Chicago chemistry professor, Lee Marek. The Eepybirds later recreated this experiment in a spectacular multi-bottle show on David Letterman.

 Your Turn!

So, are you ready to run out and pick up some soda and Mentos? Have you tried this experiment? What did your kids think about it?

Make Your Own Birthday Cake

kids bake in the kitchen

kids diy make and bake birthday cake

If you know a little bit about me and my parenting philosophy, you’ll know that I welcome opportunities to get my children into DIY mode. The only way they’re going to learn how to do something is by getting involved, so I may give them a few pointers and then I’ll step back and let them take the lead.

My youngest, R, who I sometimes refer to here as Baby Rainbow, is no longer a baby. Sniff. She just turned two! When we’d ask her what she wanted for her birthday, her response was consistently “vanilla cake.”

Not only do I also drool over vanilla cake, but this simple request made for a totally low-key, low-stress birthday that I look forward to repeating again with future birthdays.

Baking Cakes

To get started, my 4-year old, N, and I mixed up one box of vanilla cake mix from Trader Joes. It doesn’t get easier than that, and the ingredients are actually fairly healthy.

We pulled out our rotary hand mixer/egg beater, which my daughter uses any chance she can get. Not only is it fun for kids to use, but it gets them involved in the kitchen and it does wonders for developing hand-eye coordination and motor skills.

kids use rotary mixer

 

After she mixed the batter up, we divided it into two 9-inch cake pans and cooked as directed on the box.

Meanwhile, we mixed a batch of our favorite frosting: Buttercream Frosting. Oh-my-goodness. If you’ve never made it before, it’s not only easy, but it’s also highly addictive. Yum.

My kids are always promised a beater to lick at the end of baking, which helps keep hands out of the bowl while we’re assembling.

Once the cakes cooked and cooled, we popped them out of the pans and started in on our grand assembly plan.

Cake Recipes

My 2-year old’s request: Vanilla Cake

My 4-year old’s plan: Two-tiered vanilla cake with vanilla frosting and strawberries in the middle layers. The top will be covered with sprinkles, Happy Birthday letters, a “2” birthday candle, and fairy cupcake toppers (basically, everything we had in the cabinet).

frosting cake with children

Decorating Step 1: The kids used butter knives to cover the bottom layer with raspberry jam (this was my suggestion, and they did not protest). Then we added a thick layer of vanilla frosting.

kids decorate cake

Frosting for Cake

Decorating Step 2: My 4-year old thinly sliced the strawberries and the kids layered them on the cake.

frosting cake with kids

We placed the second cake on top of the strawberry layer, and then covered the whole thing with frosting. When you’re working with children, it helps to value the process over the product. You can’t worry too much about how the cake is going to look. It’s a bonus, of course, if it looks amazing, but the important thing is that they have take pride in make something amazing happen.

cakes

We started gussying the cake up and R requested jelly beans. There were only six left in the box, and she eagerly plunked them into a corner of the cake. This ended up being her piece!

kids bake in the kitchen

And when we were done, they got the frosting bowl as a bonus.

Experiments

For more of our kid-led cooking experiments: How to Invent a Recipe with Kids, Cooking with Toddlers, Cooking with Kids (exploring butter and rosemary)

Also, one of my friends and favorite bloggers, Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent recently wrote about a birthday cake her daughter made: A Kid Made Birthday Cake. I think my kids would feel right at home in her house!

DO YOU LIKE TO COOK WITH YOUR CHILD? WHAT ARE YOU FAVORITE COOKING-WITH-KIDS RECIPES?

 

Make a Music Basket to Encourage Rhythm and Movement

diy music kit for kids

diy music kit for kids

Do you enjoy having music in your home? Do you have an instrument kit for your child to explore?

If you do, I’d love to hear about what’s inside your kit. And if this is new-to-you, pull up a chair and let’s talk music!

When my older child was just a few months old she got her first instruments — a few bean and bell-filled rattles. I suppose that they’re more noisemakers than musical instruments, but at a young age children love to explore the cause and effect of moving or pushing an instrument and hearing the noise it makes.

Empowering!

Our kit has grown organically over the years, and just about any noise-making tool can go into it. I’ve weeded a lot of things out for the sake of saving space, and have kept a lot of our favorites.

 

 

 

 

What goes into the Noise-making Basket?

  • Egg shakers like these by Meini
  • Animal Sound Makers like these
  • Gourd Maracas like these Axatse African Shakers 
  • Bell Shaker. These are good for babies to shake, and these Wrist Bells  encourage kids to get up and move. My older daughter fell in love with these when she was two and a half.
  • Cowbell like this one. Just because our friends gave us one, and it sounds cool.
  • Harmonica like this one.
  • DIY baby bottle rattle: Fill an old baby bottle with coins and tightly secure it with a flat bottle lid. Gluing the lid shut is suggested if you think your baby could open the lid. The Crafting Chicks made these shakers with beans. So cute!
  • Silk scarves to dance and twirl around. Ours are from my collection, and you can find a selection of beautiful scarves at Sarah’s Silks.
  • Slide Whistles like these are fun, and teach the child how to control the sound of an instrument.
  • All-in-one kit. If you want a one-stop-shop, this ready made kit is reasonably prices and looks like it has it all: Rhythm Band Rockin’ Rhythm Bag

diy music kit

How We Use Our Music Kit

  1. Clear Space. I usually start by clearing some space, just in case anyone is inclined to dance. In my house, the dancing doesn’t happen right away, but it’s almost inevitable.
  2. Turn on Music. Then I’ll turn on some music. We listen to a lot of children’s music and my kids have their favorites, so this is usually where we begin. I’ve tried introducing them to my music (and still do on occasion), but this is usually a sure way to kill their will to participate. Maybe if I had been better about diversifying the music from the get-go.
  3. Pull out the kit. I pull out our music basket and gently shake it out onto the rug. Then I have to get silly.
  4. Dance around the room. I’ll pick up one or two scarves or a few maracas and dance around the room, waving the scarves or shaking the maracas to the music. They love this. This doesn’t require any special skills or talent (trust me — I’m a talentless expert at silly making with music).
  5. Have some costumes ready. My girls often race to put on dance costumes at this point. Maybe it’s just them, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some dance-worthy costumes ready just in case.

kids dance to music

More Music and Movement Resources

Get up and Dance with Your Baby, from Christie at Mama OT. If you didn’t already guess, Christie is an pediatric occupational therapist, so she really knows what she’s talking about.

If you like classical music, Prekinders.com shares this great list of classical music that kids will love.

Debbie Clement’s whole site, Rainbows within Reach, is full of music-related ideas.

Angelique Felix shares eight musical games you can play with children.

DIY Parade in a box from Bugaboo, Mini, Mr. and Me

Take the merriment outside and make your own Banging Wall like Soule Mama’s, this gorgeous music wall from Sue Nierman on PreK + K and Sharing. or this music tree from Filth Wizardry.

Note: I share affiliate links to products we use and/or think you’ll find useful. If you purchase through those links we’ll receive a small percentage of the sale, which help keep our inspiration engine running. Thanks for your support!

Toddler Watercolor Painting, Keeping it Neat

clean and tidy painting with toddlers and preschoolers

I’m not afraid of messes, but I’m also not looking for them. Are you with me? So when my almost 2-year old said that she wanted to paint, I was ready with my spill-management toolbox: an ice cube tray and a wooden serving tray.

In case you’re wondering how the wooden tray is paint-free (I’d wonder about that), it’s seen better days and was just treated to a new paint job with a few quick strokes of acrylic paint.

clean painting toddlers preschoolers

After I squeezed a few tablespoons of Colorations Liquid Watercolor Paint (one of my favorite supplies, affiliate) into the ice cube tray, I invited R to pick a brush (she likes the fat ones), and painting was underway in less than five minutes.

Sometimes I’ll add a bowl of water for rinsing brushes between colors, and a dry rag for absorbing excess water, but this was a simple, no frills kind of project.

clean and tidy painting with toddlers and preschoolers

Clean-up was a snap. The brush and ice cube tray got a quick rinse in the sink — watercolors clean up super fast. And the tray was stored away. I also like to keep a pack of baby wipes and a damp rag near the art table for hands and spills. This happened to be a neat, mess-free day. Maybe we had some good karma coming our way?

Do you have any tricks for neat and tidy painting?

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More Art Projects for Toddlers

12 Simple Art Projects for Toddlers | TinkerLab.com
For more toddler art projects, you may enjoy the easy-to-set-up activities that use mainly everyday materials in 12 Simple Art Projects for Toddlers.

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Join the Tinkerlab network and be the first to know about simple art + science projects for kids, creativity tips, and simple ideas that will make your life more creative. Sign up for our newsletter.

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

Capture Fall Memories with Kids

Capture Fall Memories with Kids

Capture Fall Memories with Kids

Last year, my 3-year old fell in love with the Fall season. We visited the pumpkin patch (multiple times), planned and re-planned Halloween costumes, collected leaves, made leaf art, visited an apple farm, and the list goes on!

After Halloween I purchased an old typewriter and N dictated a Fall-inspired poem that beautifully captures her age and the spirit of the season. She was getting ready (in her mind) for Christmas, and titled it “Christmas and Fall,” but it ended up being all about the autumn season.

I know that Fall is a few weeks away, but I share it now since it’s a good time to start building memories as we move from one season to the next.

To make your own poem, ask your child to think about the season — this might be a great time to make a Summer Poem! — and then type or hand-write the words verbatim. I happened to use an old typewriter, but a computer or sheet of paper would work equally well. I asked N what she loved about the Fall and she started with “Candles.”

And then the rest goes like this…

 

Christmas & Fall

Candles

I love to eat cranberry pie.

I collect leaves that are very, very pretty.

I love to wear rain jackets because sometimes it rains in the Fall and Halloween.

I love jack-o-lanterns when they’re glowing.

I love to spray leaves with paint.

I love to eat pumpkin seeds when my mom makes them.

(This poem was originally inspired by the List Poems on Let’s Explore.)

Make a Terrarium

How to Make a Terrarium

Today I’m joined by my friend and colleague, Amanda E. Gross, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with at the San Francisco Children’s Creativity Museum. She has an incredible eye for all things related to creativity and kids, and today she’s here to share some tips on how to make a terrarium. I’ve wanted to make one of these for a long time, and thrilled that Amanda is here to give us some guidance.

How to Make a Terrarium

Terrariums are the perfect project to stoke both the imagination and a curiosity for nature.

Before building your terrarium, you might like to start by reading a book about an outdoor critter (i.e, Eric Carle’s Very Quiet Cricket, Leo Leonni’s Inch by Inch, or Patricia Polacco’s The Bee Tree). After reading the story, find out if your child wants to build a home for the critter with materials from outside. Talk about the critter’s habitat and its other likes and wants that might be incorporated into your terrarium.

As alternatives, you could guide the project with a focus on fairy houses or on terrariums as little ecosystems. To begin, discuss the seasons and/or plant life cycle, and how the terrarium will incorporate sunlight, soil, and water, just like the plants’ environments outside. The little world your child creates will foster a sense of eco enjoyment and responsibility.

How to make a Terrarium

Step One

Take a stroll outside, getting up close to wonderful sensory experiences like dirt, pebbles and lush green plants.  Gather interesting leaves, sticks, acorns, etc. to use in the terrarium.  Soil, pebbles, and moss may be collected if available, or purchased.

Step Two

Bring your materials home and spread them out over a plastic sheet, and play around with combinations and the possibility of making a critter house.

How to make a Terrarium

Step Three

A clean fishbowl or Mason jar makes the perfect terrarium container.

How to make a Terrarium

Step Four

Add about an inch of pebbles to the fishbowl, for drainage. Pile on an inch or two of soil mixture, with chunks of activated charcoal for filtration and fertilizer. I’ve been told that pyrite is a good mix-in, but not necessary.

 

How to make a Terrarium

Step Five

Make small valleys to add plants, while their roots are still moist. I bought a succulent to add to my terrarium, a low-maintainance green buddy (it only needs water about once a week) that is fun to watch grow over time. Next, arrange moss, sticks, leaves, and other bits. I used the top of an eggplant for the roof of my critter house.

Step Six

Tailor the terrarium to your child’s interests and skill level. If appropriate, make a little critter friend to add; I made my bug out of plasticene clay and sticks for legs. You could add a literacy component by making a collage poem or haiku about the terrarium after creating it, using words and pictures from magazines.

Place your terrarium in indirect sunlight and make sure to water it every week or so if you have a succulent nested in there, and more often for temperate plants.

Resources:

Making Terrariums so Simple
Make a Kid-friendly Terrarium
Terrarium as a learning too for children
Twig: Purchase supplies for moss terrariums and other small worlds
Terrarium Figurines on Etsy
More Terrarium Figures on Etsy

Amanda E. Gross_headshotAmanda designs curricula to guide and inspire children, teens, and adults to appreciate art and to create!  She earned a Master’s of Arts in Teaching from The Rhode Island School of Design and is an instructor at Academy of Art University.  Amanda is also an illustrator, painter, DIY crafter, and permaculture enthusiast. Find out more about Amanda here: Art Curricula WebsiteArt Portfolio WebsiteLinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Sticker Resist with Watercolors

Sticker resist with watercolors

Do you have a set of watercolors? If not, this fun project will give you reason to pick one up.

Watercolor sticker resist

My kids and I have been keeping sketchbooks for a few months, and we enjoy the challenge of testing out new techniques, materials, and ideas as we move through our books. Painting over stickers (and then peeling them back) presents children with the opportunity to learn about masking off areas of their work, negative space, and paint-resist.

This project is ideal for preschoolers and above.

Materials

  • Watercolor paints
  • Paintbrush/es
  • Paper Towels or rags for blotting paint.
  • Sketchbook or Heavy Paper that can support a fair amount of water. Watercolor Paper is ideal.
  • Office Stickers: Round, rectangular. Paper tape or kid stickers work well too.

Sticker resist with watercolors

I started with a few sheets of dot stickers from the office supply aisle at the drug store, and then made a random pattern all over my sketchbook.

Sticker resist with watercolors

Then I painted a wash of rainbow colors over the stickers.

Sticker resist with watercolors

Nutmeg thought this looked pretty cool, and jumped in with her own version: rectangle stickers and free-form painted shapes. I always encourage children to follow their own ideas when making art.

Sticker resist with watercolors

She peeled the rectangle stickers off the page to see how the technique worked, and then added a sea of circle stickers to the page.

Sticker resist with watercolors

She asked if she could peel all of my stickers off — quite easily her favorite part of the whole project.

Sticker resist with watercolors

When the paint dried, she peeled all the stickers off her page to reveal the white space below. So fun!

Printable Project Recipe

Sticker Resist with Watercolors
 
Author:
Recipe type: Painting
Prep time:
Making time:
Total time:
 
Paint over stickers, and then peel them back, to reveal the white spaces of the page. A lesson in negative space and masking as a resist.
Supplies
  • Watercolor paints
  • Paintbrush/es
  • Paper Towels or rags for blotting paint.
  • Sketchbook or Heavy Paper that can support a fair amount of water. Watercolor Paper is ideal.
  • Office Stickers: Round, rectangular. Paper tape or kid stickers work well too.
Steps
  1. Place stickers on the paper.
  2. Paint over stickers.
  3. When the paint dries, peel stickers off.

What do you think? Have you tried other techniques for masking off paper?