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.
Ingredients
  • 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.
Instructions
  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?

 

Drawing over Old Photographs

drawing on photo

The following post is from the archives. It originally appeared in August, 2011.

Drawing over old photos :: Tinkerlab.com

Drawing over over old photographs is a fun way to turn old images into new treasures. Not only is the process totally enjoyable, but the product can be turned into postcards that are fun to mail to family and friends.

Old photos can be found in thrift stores, antique stores, garage sales, reuse centers, and mom’s attic. Can you think of anywhere else?

To start, I collected a big, random stack of photos when we visited the San Francisco re-use shop, SCRAP, with the idea that we’d use them for some kind of collage.

And then I remembered doing a fun photo painting project at some point in my own past, which inspired the direction we took this.

N recently started representing objects in her drawings, so I thought she might be at a point where we could have some fun playing with the intersection of realism and abstraction.

N likes to find new places to create, and on this day it was the kitchen floor. To do this project, all you need is a stack of old photos and some paint pens like these Elmer’s Painters Pens. Sharpies would work too, but with a slightly different effect.

Print a Recipe

 

Drawing on Photos
Author: 
Recipe type: Drawing
Prep time: 
Making time: 
Total time: 
 
Drawing over photos with paint pens is a fun way to mix realistic imagery with abstract coloring.
Ingredients
  • Paint Pens (such as Elmer's Paint Pens)
  • Old Photographs (or photos printed on photo paper)
  • Covered table or work area, since paint pens can be permanent
  • Smock to protect clothing
Instructions
  1. Place a stack of photos and a bucket of paint markers in the middle of the work area.
  2. If your pens are brand new, depress them ahead of time to get the paint flowing.
  3. Offer your child a stack of photos to sort through and choose from.
  4. Each of you will choose one photo to work with.
  5. Draw over the photos in any way you see fit.
  6. Display the photos or turn them into postcards and mail them to friends and family.

If you don’t have any *actual* photos lying around, you could try sourcing them at a thrift store, cut images out of a magazine, or print your own photos onto photo paper or card stock.

As you can maybe tell from the images above, we collaborated on a few of the photos. I marked up a photo and then handed it to N, and then she added her own ideas.

After I drew on a photo that she started, N said to me, “you do it your way and I’ll do it my way.” Yikes. I’m usually really sensitive to drawing on kids’ art, and I learned that she didn’t see this as a collaboration — she was okay drawing on my photos, but didn’t want me to draw on hers.

So, I took a few big steps back and allowed her to do it her way!

A few of our creations — both “collaborations” and our own works of art. We turned these over later in the day and made some of them into postcards.

What do you think? Have you tried this yourself? Any other ideas on what we could do with these works of art? Do you have a favorite spot for collecting treasures for reuse?

Re-use Shopping Resources

I Heart RAFT (SF Bay Area)

National (US) search for contractor/building reuse: Building Materials Reuse Association

Find FREE stuff on Craigslist: List of SF Bay Area resources

Find FREE stuff in your neighborhood through the Freecycle network

SCRAP Portland

SCRAP San Francisco

Surplus Sales at Stanford University

East Bay Depot Creative Reuse (Berkeley, Oakland, CA)

Reuse Resources via East Bay Depot Creative Reuse

 

Scanner Art Experiments

scanned toys and acorns

The following post is from the archives. It originally appeared in February, 2011.

This low-mess project kept my preschooler busy for a whole morning. Lots of fun for curious kids!

scanner art experiments

Not too long ago we had a big print job in our home, which peaked my daughter’s interest in the printer. The noises, lights, and moving paper were all new and exciting, I’m sure. Every time I printed something, she volunteered to rescue it from the machine. So we set up a scanning project, just for her. For the first run, we helped her select some objects to scan. Once she got a hang of it, she was off on her own!

Setting up materials on the printer bed.

Soooooo exciting!!

She experimented with different materials: puzzle pieces, acorns, baker’s twine, and her own hands. And she experimented with different colors of paper.

While this quickly became HER project, I was lucky enough to be invited to join her.

If you don’t have a printer/scanner, you could easily do this in your local printshop (which we’ve done too!). N thought this was cool field trip. I think she liked the big machines, the whirling sound of copies as the come out of the printer, and the novelty of it.

Learning Outcomes

  • Cause and Effect: How placement of objects on scanner affects the image output
  • Exploring the functions of machines and how they can help us
  • Composition and Selection: Making choices about what objects to place, and in which location

You might also enjoy

Follow my Tinkering board on Pinterest

Your turn!

Have you tried scanning with your kids? If this inspires you to do some scanning, please come back with your stories with me.

This post was shared at We Play @ Childhood 101. Go ahead, give it a click for more play ideas.

Messy Art: Splat Paint Olympics

splat paint olympic rings kids

Today I’m over on the Melissa and Doug blog, writing about our experience making Splat Paint Olympic Rings with household sponges. Painting with non-traditional materials does wonders for helping children look at the world with fresh eyes. And throwing paint-soaked sponges? Well, that’s just silly fun.

 

While we did this with the end-game of the Olympics in mind, I could imagine setting up this process-oriented, messy art exploration at a block party, artsy outdoor birthday party, or just for the joy of throwing paint at big sheets of paper.

Since we set this up in the driveway, clean-up was simple. Read the post to see how we did it.

Have you tried painting with sponges? Do your kids enjoy making messy art?

Washi Tape and Found Paper Collage

tape and found book collage process based art with kids

                        “Above all, we are coming to understand that the arts incarnate the creativity of a free people. When the creative impulse cannot flourish, when it cannot freely select its methods and objects, when it is deprived of spontaneity, then society severs”   ~ John F. Kennedy

Do you set up open-ended prompts or invitations for art-making?

Making art, and in turn creative thinking, is rooted in discovery, experimentation, and the free exploration of materials. Projects that foster independent thinking focus on the processes of creation and experimentation rather than  the final product.

 Washi tape and found book collage. A Tinkerlab Art Invitation.

If you spend any time on Pinterest, you know that the internet is full of ideas for creating beautiful kids’ crafts, but I caution you that while these projects may deliver a tidy product, they may not have your child’s best interests in mind. Your best bet for fostering creative growth is to set up open-ended art-making invitations. Not only will your child’s imagination thrive, but you’ll have less to stress over and prepare for.

To get started, choose a few related materials, lay them out on your table, and see what your child (and maybe you!) can come up with.

Our most recent art invitation included these materials:

tape and paper collage

I placed the materials on the table and began by flipping through the book in search of interesting images. My 4-year old paid attention to my curiosity and jumped right in to share which images she wanted me to cut out for her.

tape and paper collage

We built a small collection of favorites. As she glued or taped, I cut. An added surprise is that we talked a little bit about the content of the images along the way (bird houses versus bird feeders, the most colorful birds we could think of — she insists it’s the Scarlet Macaw and I can’t really argue with that!).

tape and paper collage

Washi tape is one of my more recent art material splurges. If you don’t know about washi tape, it’s a decorative Japanese masking tape, It has a bit of a glossy sheen to it, it’s usually somewhat transparent, and it makes everything look adorable.

Before leaving on a recent trip we visited the art supply store for traveling supplies, and two packs of Washi tape begged for us to buy them. Washi is not cheap, but I’ve noticed that a little bit goes a long way. While my 23-month old could use miles of it in 5 seconds flat, my 4-year old used it sparingly.

The plaid rolls come in this set of three: Kikkerland Plaid Washi Masking Tape. I heard that Target carries an inexpensive brand of washi tape (I think the brand is Smash), but they were all out when I visited. Not surprised, really, since washi tape seems to be all the rage in the scrapbooking world at the moment, but I’ll an eye out for it on future trips.

tape and paper collage

The beauty of the art invitation for us parents is that they cut down on our stress. Aside from making sure that you have some materials to work with, these invitations don’t require a lot of fancy preparations or planning. On top of that, there is no expectation to create something with a specific outcome. Keep these words in mind for successful art making with kids: The Journey is the Destination.

More on Invitations

Do you set up art invitations? How does your child respond to them?

Note: Tinkerlab shares affiliate links for products or companies that we think our readers will enjoy knowing about. If you purchase through those links we’ll receive a small percentage of the sale, which help keep our inspiration engine running!

 

Invisible Ink: A Citrus Painting Experiment

invisible ink citrus lemon lime kids

It’s summer and we’ve been doing a lot of citrus juicing in our home. Between my 4-year old expert juice squeezer and my almost 2-year old juice taster,  our simple and inexpensive juicer has been hard at work.

invisible ink science activity kids

While little Rainbow napped, Nutmeg and I gathered materials and set up the project. We talked about how we’d have to reveal the ink (lime juice) with the high heat of an iron or hair dryer, and she couldn’t wait to get started. She loves dangerous tools.

invisible ink citrus kids

We gathered our ingredients.

Here’s the full recipe:

5.0 from 2 reviews
Invisible Ink: A Citrus Painting Experiment
Author: 
Recipe type: Science
Prep time: 
Making time: 
Total time: 
 
Lemon juice is acidic, and acid weakens paper. When paper is heated, the acid burns and turns brown before the paper does.
Ingredients
  • Lemon or Lime Juice
  • Paper
  • Paint brush or Q-tip
  • Iron
Instructions
  1. Squeeze lemon or lime into a bowl.
  2. Paint the juice onto your paper with a paint brush or Q-tip.
  3. Wait for the paper to dry.
  4. Heat the paper with an iron, hair dryer, light bulb, or other heat source. Be careful that you don't hold it there to long, as it could burn the paper.
Notes
Experiment with other liquids: milk, orange juice, white wine, vinegar, and apple juice are good bets.

 

invisible ink citrus lemon lime kids

Just as we were getting started, baby R woke up to join us. She’s 22 months old now, and enjoyed the sensory experience of squeezing the limes with her bare hands, and then licking her fingers. According to my mom I used to eat lemons right off our tree, so this wasn’t too much of a surprise.

invisible ink lemon lime juice

The girls experimented with different colored papers and brushes. Afterwards I realized that Q-tips would have been perfect for this project, but we enjoyed the challenge of small watercolor brushes.

invisible ink citrus lemon lime kids

The papers dried pretty quickly on this warm day and we were able to get right to the fun part of burning the acid with heat. N’s grandma blows her hair dry every day, and N is obsessed with this tool. Obsessed. We ran the heat on the paper for about a minute with little success. I never blow dry my hair and have a cheap blow dryer for projects like this, and maybe that’s why? In any case, we decided to move on to the iron.

invisible ink citrus lemon lime kids

I folded a thick towel, placed the art on top of it, and she ironed away. In most cases an ironing board would have been better, but ours pulls awkwardly out of the wall and it’s too tricky to get the three of us around it safely. This worked perfectly and only took a few seconds to show its results.

invisible ink citrus lemon lime kids

N’s picture of her and her dad (he’s above her head, slightly visible in all his heated lime acid glory).

invisible ink citrus lemon lime kids

I really like how the abstracted images turned out and wished I had joined them once I saw how cool these looked. I usually join in when we’re creating and somehow forgot to on this round.

How about you? Do you find yourself doing projects with your kids, or are you in more of the facilitator mode? And what do you think about the new recipe card tool and header?

Explore Modern Artists: Painting with Edward Hopper

learning art masters edward hopper

Welcome to the first project in our newest series: Explore Modern Artists. Today we’ll take a look at one of my favorite American Artists, Edward Hopper, with a preschool-friendly painting technique.

Explore Modern Artists with Kids : series of projects on Tinkerlab

The Q-tip painting technique that we used could be applied to the work of just about any 2-D artist, so definitely take this as inspiration and run with it in another direction if that works better for you. If you’d like to connect the technique with the artist, take a look at the work of Georges Seurat, who painted with dots of paint.

 

Explore Modern Artists: Edward Hopper

I thought we would begin with Edward Hopper because it’s been warm and sunny around here and my kids and I have been looking at some of his paintings as we talk about an upcoming visit to Cape Cod, which is where Hopper had a home and studio. Edward Hopper’s iconic seashore paintings masterfully capture light and evoke a sense of calm, while transporting us to the Eastern Seaboard.

My children are preschoolers and I wanted to make this a project that would be fun for them while encouraging them to look closely at Hopper’s work. This technique has little to do with Hopper’s work, but it got my kids talking about what they saw in his pictures while inventing their own patterns of color.

set up edward hopper art project

Materials:

edward hopper kids art

Set-up:

The project itself is easy to set up and children will enjoy learning about an artist while layering paint on top of his images. Give yourself 20+ minutes for set-up, the activity, and then clean-up.

When we paint, I cover our table with a plastic tablecloth. Each child had a paint palette filled with dollops of tempera paint, and a big cup of Q-tips, which we used as brushes. You could use brushes instead, but they thought the Q-tips were fun.

We selected a few paintings that we enjoyed. I’m adding links to the images in case you’d like to use these too.

Before the painting began, 4-year old N and I talked a little bit about Edward Hopper while looking at some of his art. I gave her an age-appropriate synopsis of his life and then we talked about what we saw happening in his paintings. This bit was under 5-minutes because she was excited to paint. Fair enough.

ground swell edward hopper inspired

More on Art Looking

I’m a huge fan of an in-school program called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), which helps children build visual literacy and critical thinking skills through the process of looking closely at a work of art. A facilitator sits in front of a group of children and leads an interactive discussion about one work of art. I’ve led many of these discussions myself, and the energy around these conversations is palpable. To see VTS in action, there a some great videos on the Visual Thinking Strategies website. 

More from Explore Modern Artists

Paint like Jasper Johns

How to Make a One-minute Bubble Solution

how to make a one minute bubble solution

how to make a one minute bubble solution

I’ve been so busy with all sorts of parenting/household/traveling/social things lately, and love to find easy projects that make my kids happy. This is one of those things.

My daughter’s preschool has a big bubble table set up all summer long, and it’s a magical place where the kids can chill out and regroup while they make and pop bubbles. The other day I set up a few water areas around our yard, and the kids would migrate to this bubble table after a few rounds on the Slip ‘n Slide or bounces on our neighbor’s see-saw.

Materials

  • Dish Soap
  • Water
  • Big Bubble Wand
  • Large tub, small pool, or water table

how to make a one minute bubble solution

Squirt some dish soap into the water table and then fill with a little bit of water. Add a big bubble wand and you’re good to go!

I use the dish soap from Trader Joe’s, and was surprised that it worked so well. I’ve used Dawn in the past, and the bigger, commercial soaps make fantastic bubbles.

I’d encourage you to experiment with your soap and see if it works before setting this up for a big group of eager kids.

I’m always looking for easy projects that my kids will enjoy? Do you have a favorite one-minute activity?

DIY Paper Tape Roads

paper tape road kids play

kids car collection
Sometimes we have to push our kids outside their comfort zones to help them take on new perspectives, face and overcome challenges, and confront their biases.

I have a growing collection of diecast vehicles that I keep in a nice, inviting basket. And do you know who plays with these cars, trucks, and airplanes? Boys who visit us.

Despite my best efforts at diversifying my childrens’ clothes and play things, I have become zen with the fact that I have two tutu + tiara loving girls who do not play with mini cars. If you want to see what I mean, take a look at this post.

It’s nice to have something that appeals to our friends, but I wondered if I could make these cute mini roadsters more appealing to my fairy princesses.

paper tape road kids play

The Invitation

After my kids went to bed I removed the plastic tablecloth from their art table and laid out a series of roads, parking spaces, and dead-ends with orange paper tape. I love this 10-roll set of 1/2″ Colored Masking Tape from Discount School Supply.

I used paper tape because it’s low-tack and easy to remove from the table without harming the surface. You won’t want to leave it on for days on end, but it’ll do the trick for a couple days.

Then I placed a few vehicles, action figures, and road features around the table as an invitation to play.

Did they bite?

paper tape roads kids

Hellz yeah!

You can see them still in their jammies and stages of undress, eager to play a new game. The beauty of it is that this new game came with a $0.00 price tag.

paper tape roads kids

After a few minutes, 4-year old Nutmeg wanted to peel up some of the tape to make new roads and build better parking areas. She insisted that the airplane remain in this spot until her little sister started to have her own strong opinions.

v

They enjoyed speeding the cars along the roads, crashing into vehicles and stop signs, and being some of the worst drivers I’ve ever seen.

paper tape roads kids

But they seem to still be fairies at heart, and the play ended after about fifteen minutes. Nutmeg wanted me to remove the tape completely, but I convinced her to allow me to leave it up for her sister.

The next day I converted it into a backyard roadway for their dollhouse. You can see it features as a backdrop in yesterday’s post: Dollhouse Games.

Do your kids enjoy playing with cars? What kind of games do they play? Do you have any tips for making them more fun for children who aren’t natural fans of vehicles?

Hands on: As we Grow has a comprehensive list of 35 activities for Things that Go! It’s great, and will keep active vehicle-fans happy for hours.

12 Doll House Games and Ideas

doll house games

12 easy dollhouse games with kidsDid you grow up with a dollhouse?

I grew up with a beautiful hand made dollhouse, built by my cousin’s father about twenty years before I was born. It was a family treasure that got passed around from cousin to cousin. I always imagined that my own children would play with this imagination-building house, but it was time to send it back to its original owner.

So when I found this handmade house in a second hand shop that looked so much like the doll house I grew up with, and knew it could become a family heirloom. I mean really, look at those cute shingles! It needed some work (painting, wallpaper, cleaning) , but it’s also sturdy and hand-made, and I couldn’t pass it up.

I found some fancy Plan Toys wooden dollhouse furniture on Ebay, picked up little wooden peg people, made a few dolls myself, and my mom shipped me a big box of my old dollhouse furniture that reeked of 1981.

When my kids visit their grandparents, they play with some fantastic wooden Melissa and Doug dollhouses that are every bit as wonderful as this house, and I especially love that they fold away when my kids are done playing: Melissa & Doug Fold and Go Princess CastleMelissa & Doug Fold and Go Wooden Castle (the Princess Castle, in grey), Melissa & Doug Fold & Go Woodland Treehouse.

doll house games

How to Play with your Doll House

doll house games

Okay, so you have a dollhouse (or you’re about to after you check out the links below). Now what? Kids are natural inventors with rich imaginations. If you do a good job setting the stage for them, they’ll most likely know what to do. In the event that you need a little extra help, here are a few pointers and dollhouse game ideas:

  • Get some furniture and dolls. Keep your eyes open for miniature things in unexpected places: Ebay, Craigslist, Amazon, Museum Shops, Tourist Stops. I found our canoe at a sailing shop by San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
  • Play games based on real things that happen in your home: cleaning day, birthday party, getting ready for school, packing for a trip, eating breakfast. Children love to recreate their experiences, as it solidifies their learning and understanding of the world around them. To do this, each of you can take a character (or two) and role play with the dolls.
  • Make up something fantastic and highly imaginative. For example: Fairy’s first visit to Unicorn Palace, the house becomes a zoo for animals or parking garage for cars.
  • Move it around. Our dollhouse has a spot on the floor, and it’s rarely used. I moved it to a low table and my kids acted like it was a new toy. This advice could go for any unloved toy. Move it to a new room or spot and see if it gets new attention.
  • Add something new. I added tape lines to the table to suggest roads and parking spaces, which gave my kids something extra to consider and puzzle over. Other ideas: Roll butcher paper underneath/around it and draw streets, gardens, etc. Find a new character (our doll house gets more use with Strawberry Shortcake Dolls), add a new piece of furniture, make a tunnel or slide out of a paper towel tube, add holiday lights, cut old t-shirts to make sheets or rugs.
  • Decorate. Give your kids paper and markers and invite them to make miniature art for the walls. Decorate the house for the holidays. Paint wooden furniture or wooden dolls.
  • Give it time. My older child was never into small-world play and didn’t take to the doll house until her younger sister took an interest. It may not be for your child, or they may not be ready for it yet. I put ours in the garage until a few months ago, and now it’s getting tons of use.

doll house games

More Doll House Play Ideas

Do you want to make your own dolls like the little man in the boat up there? I’ll teach you how to do it with simple materials here: Felt Dollhouse Dolls.

Do you have a shelf? Let the Children Play offers this clever alternative to the traditional dollhouse 

Do you like to spend time outdoors? Make a fairy garden.

Maybe you just have cardboard? How to Make a Cardboard Doll’s House from Red Ted Art. She also has tutorials for making a baby doll and a dollhouse bed.

Cardboard Shoe Box Doll House with Egg Carton Furniture, from Pink and Green Mama.

Check out the life-sized dollhouse by installation artist Heather Benning. It blows me away.

Note: Some of the links in this post connect to affiliates that I think you’ll find valuable. If you purchase anything from these vendors, you’re helping me keep the Tinkerlab engine go. Thanks for your support!