Tinkering on the Typewriter

I’ve been thinking about getting an old typewriter for a long while (this post from The Artful Parent struck a chord, and I love how Jean set up a writing area around her typewriter), but since I’ve been on a purging streak since the first of the year it was hard to justify the purchase, and find a good spot for it.

By the way, if you’re interested in organizing your life and home from the inside out, I found this book enormously helpful. Okay, so fast forward many months…closets are mostly cleaned out, the garage is full enough to host 3 garage sales, and I’m flipping through a copy of Cottages and Bungalows magazine when I come across this bit of inspiration…

I immediately got on craigslist and within minutes, I found a cool 1970’s Galaxie Deluxe for $20! After recently spotting another machine in our thrift store for $100, I knew this was a deal. Score! My 3-year old was so excited about it, and we made a big adventure out of going to pick it up, cleaning it when we got home, and just playing with it for a solid hour that morning. Typing, spelling, checking out the inner workings of the machine, asking questions about how it works, scrolling, pounding…

Amy at Let’s Explore has been making these wonderful List Poems about Fall with her daughters that are wonderful keepsakes of a fleeting moment in time. I’ve wanted to try this with N, to capture her thoughts of the Fall, and she was game! Here’s what she dictated to me…

Don’t you just love the variety and hand-made quality of the type? So much character!! I think this wil be a fun addition to our Thanksgiving…thinking about asking each of our guests to share a message of thanks that we’ll add to a memory book.

If you’ve been playing with typewriters, or have a thought about picking one up, what would YOU do with a typewriter?

This post is shared on It’s Playtime

Halloween Tradition: Little Fabric Ghosts

This little fabric ghost tradition began last year, and N has been begging me to revive it for weeks. We haven’t had any white fabric in the house, I didn’t have the energy to make a fabric run, and then low-and-behold I found a quarter yard of fabric in a closet sweep a few days ago! Yay for “free” fabric. It’s more craft than art, but you’ll see in a minute how this can be open-ended and exploratory for curious, creative little minds.

We started with approximately 15″ squares of thin cotton fabric, a little thinner than muslin. But really, almost any thin white fabric will work. We filled the middle with about six cotton balls. Actually, it started out at “five,” but when N took over she increased the number by one or two, until the last ghost had about nine cotton balls in the head. This is good for counting, too!

I cut cotton string into lengths of 12″ – 30″ and then tied them around the “heads.” We then glued on googly eyes with white glue.

Now for the fun part! N wanted to draw a mouth on one of the ghosts so we found a Sharpie marker. Drawing the mouth turned into drawing hair, ears, and decorating the entire body. So fun!

She even drew inside the ghost. There are no limits, are there? We made four ghosts altogether, and she named this one the “dad.” The others (mom, baby, and sister) were plain white…what does this mean, I wonder?

We hung them in the tree to scare our neighbors for Halloween. Monofilament might have eliminated the noose quality of the string, but you work with what you’ve got! Boo!

I love hearing from you. Please share your Halloween tradition/s!

This post is shared with Sunday Showcase. Craft Schooling Sunday

Organic Shape Monsters for Halloween

When I saw this idea over at We Heart Art, I loved it for its open-ended qualities and simplicity. Joanna did this project with Kindergarteners, but it was adaptable to my 3-year old and could easily scale up for older children. Plus, the monster theme played out so nicely with Halloween right around the corner. Grrrrr….

And, are you ready to hear how easy this is? All you need are about 20″ of yarn, paper, and some markers or crayons. 

We talked about witches, ghosts, and jack-o’-lanterns all morning, so when I asked if N wanted to make a monster she was game. In general, she hasn’t drawn too many realistic drawings, so I was curious to see where this experiment would go. We each started out with a piece of yarn. I moved the yarn around my page to make an organic shape, connected the two ends to close it, and then traced an outline around the shape. N took note and did the same. So far, the process intrigued her.

We removed the yarn and I invited her to turn it into a monster. And this is what’s so cool about this project: There’s no expectation and the outcome is totally up to the child’s imagination. The red apostrophe shape she’s working on is a little baby monster. Awwww. At first glance I thought it was the mouth, which is a good reminder on why it’s best to never make assumptions and ask the child about their work without making interpretations!

Okay, now you can see the mouth. Ferocious!

She also added some arms, eye lashes, a forehead, a belly button, and fur. It’s kind of Jabba the Hutt, no? And despite it’s obvious scariness, I love it!

Have you ever heard that people learn as they teach? (In case you’re wondering, it can be credited to the Roman philosopher, Seneca — I had to look it up, and subsequently learned about it so I could share it with you!). Well, N’s friend came over the next day, and at one point in the afternoon the two of them sat down at the art table and she independently showed him how to make a monster! You can imagine my surprise and delight — I guess she really embraced the concept and thought it was worth sharing.

More Halloween Ideas

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

Shrinky Dink Charms

Shrinky Dinks!

I just learned that these polystyrene plastic (#6) sheets were invented by two housewives from Wisconsin in 1973. Weren’t they smart and industrious! I’ve been told that you can make your own shrink plastic projects with #6 plastic, and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried this.

We made Shrinky Dinks a while ago and my 3 year old requested them again the other day. This is such a fun project, and a perfect indoor activity on a cool Fall day. Although it happened to be about 90 degrees when we did it. Fall in California…go figure. We set ourselves up with a sheet of Shrink Plastic, Paint Pens, and Sharpie Markers. You’ll find that Shrinky Dinks can come in all sorts of themes, but I wouldn’t bother with that. I really like the Shrinky Dinks Refill Set of 6 plain 8″ x 5″ sheets. Nothing fancy, but they work!

I set this up on our plastic-covered table and opened the windows since we were using stinky, non-washable pens. I also placed the shrink plastic on top of a sheet of white paper so that N could clearly see her work. All of the drawing happens on the rough side of the plastic, and you’ll want to avoid using oil-based crayons and pencils because they can catch fire in the oven. Yikes.

Rather than draw on individual pieces, I thought it would work best for my little one to draw all over the big sheet before we cut it up. N added all sorts of lines and shapes, but left a lot of white space. We talked about how the plastic would shrink the whole thing down and that we’d see more of her designs if she filled more of the sheet with marks. She understood the point, and found a way to fill that space…with dots. I love it!

She cut the plastic up into three organic shapes, and then I punched one hole in each of the pieces so we could turn them into necklace charms.

After she cut them out, I placed them on aluminum foil on the lowest rack of a 350 degree oven. They start to curl and shrink. Once they flatten, after about 2 minutes, pull them from the oven and wait for them to cool.

I wish I had a good picture of one of the charms around my neck, but I’ve noticed that while I’m really good at documenting each step of our projects, I’m terrible at capturing the final result.  Something I need to work on, for sure. But, at least you can see them as they came out of the oven, all shrunk up. I think they’re adorable, and my daughter enjoyed the process.

Thank you for a fun afternoon, clever Wisconsin Housewives!

Negative Leaf Impressions

It’s been unseasonably warm around here — check out the flip flops and dress! And the Easter Basket there…well, would you believe it’s for collecting Fall leaves?

We don’t have a lot of Fall color yet, but enough leaf beauties have hit the pavement that we ventured out for some Leaf Pickin’.

N picked up all of her favorites. She was only limited by the amount of space she had in the basket. My plan was to take them home and make some negative space impressions of the leaves with a spray bottle.

When we got home we laid them all out on huge sheets of paper. And then had a snack. Snacks are important. If we hadn’t been so impatient, pressing the leaves for a day would have made our leaf impressions clearer, but I was working with three-year olds, and, well, they like to do things when they think of them. Patience only goes so far.

I filled a spray bottle with a solution of 1/2 water and 1/2 orange liquid watercolors. And oh-my-goodness if this wasn’t the most fun part of the entire project. It could have been the project all by itself. And we could have done it outside. That would have been smart. But fortunately our table was covered with paper and plastic, and the kids sprayed to their heart’s content.

Despite the curling leaves, you can see that the impressions are still pretty clear. It worked best when the kids stood up on a chair and sprayed straight down. Once dry, we hung one above our play kitchen.

And once this was done, we went back outside for bike riding, popsicle eating, and watermelon seed spitting. Really. It’s been that warm.

How are you enjoying these first days of Fall?

 

Fabric Stamping and Painting

Despite our vast apron collection, one of my daughter’s favorite dresses was splattered with blue paint stains. I tried to casually brush it off (no pun intended), but she was keenly aware of those stains and wouldn’t wear it. So we came up with a plan to cover the little blue dots with fabric paint, and it worked! I lined the dress with a piece of foam core (cardboard would also work), and we were ready to go.

To make the paint, I added Textile Medium to acrylic paint — the textile medium thins the paint so that’s it adheres nicely to the fabric. N mixed it up and applied it to a large foam stamp, and then pressed it on the dress. Not on the blue paint stain exactly, but there’s time for that.

The fabric medium is awesome because it can be added to any acrylic paint and makes painting on fabric much more economical than buying individual bottles or tubes of fabric paint.

The large scale of these foam stamps worked well with the goopy paint.

At some point, N decided that sidestepping the stamps and going straight for painting on fabric was the way to go. Hello, Project Runway moment! Do you think Michael Kors would say it looks like unicorn crashed into a Kindergarten cotton candy factory? I was actually surprised that she left a fair amount of the dress unpainted. And, she painted over those blue stains…not that it really mattered at this point!

My daughter was so proud of her mad fabric painting skills that she requested MORE CLOTHES. But not hers…MINE. I should have seen this coming. I found a pair of yoga pants that needed some embellishment.

After it dried and took a spin in the washing machine, the new dress was good to wear. I was taken by how proud she was of it when she wore it to school later that week. If you want to empower your children, “making” their own clothes could be a good way to go. Or, with Halloween right around the corner, maybe painting on clothes could be incorporated into your costume-making plans.

Have you ever painted clothes with your kids? What did you do?

Tin Painting for El Dia de Los Muertos


El dia de los muertos Tin Painting, Tinkerlab.comThe Mexican folk art of tin painting is eye candy for little kids, such a fun medium to play with, and it’s perfect for El Dia de Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead, November 1 & 2).

I used to lead this activity when I taught art in Los Angeles elementary schools, and I’ve seen 100’s of children get sucked right into it, inevitably asking for more. I was curious to see if my 3-year-old would have the same reaction…she did!

She made 6 tin paintings before I had to cut her off. If you try this, you’ll have to let me know if you have the same experience with it. If you do a quick image search for Mexican Tin Art (or click this link), you’ll have some good inspiration for this project.

For this project you’ll need:

  • Permanent Markers (like Sharpies) in multiple colors
  • Pure Metal Tooling Foil. Kitchen aluminum foil is too thin to do the job, but I encourage you to try heavy duty foil it if that’s all you have. If you’re feeling more DIY, you could try cutting an aluminum can with tin snips as Anjie did here.
  • Paper tape or electrical tape
  • Blunt pencil
  • Magazine
  • Scissors

This is essentially an embossing project, and I think the joy in it lies in pressing into the foil to create a relief print. It’s highly rewarding, the foil is shiny and enticing, and the final product is a keepsake.

Directions

  1. Cut the foil to the desired size. I like this foil because you can cut it with household scissors or a paper cutter. So easy!
  2. Tape off the edges to avoid cutting little fingers
  3. Place the foil on top of a magazine and draw on it with the blunt pencil. Press down firmly to make a good, strong mark. You can experiment with both a blunt and sharp pencil to see how they work differently. The magazine (or stack of newspaper) creates a cushion that allows the embossing to happen.
  4. Once the drawing is complete, decorate the tin painting with permanent markers. The foil will maintain its sheen beneath the Sharpie marks.
  5. Display proudly.
My daughter taped off these edges by herself (she was proud) and drew one of her signature spiral shapes.
When I introduced this project to elementary age children, we would also include a small piece of tracing paper (the same size as the foil) and images of Pre-Columbian and Mexican symbols (see Resources for a link to a great book). The children would trace the symbols of their choice, place the tracing paper on top of the foil, and then trace the image again. It’s a different experience from the free-form preschool activity I’m sharing here, but it may be of interest to those of you with older children.

Resources

 

Experiment: Make Fake Snow

How to Make Fake Snow

We’ve been making fake snow, which is equally fun for kids like mine who celebrate winter under a sea of palm trees or those who are house-bound by piles of real winter snow.

How to make fake snow: a cool experiment with kids  |  Tinkerlab.com

Note: This post contains Amazon links for your convenience.

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.com

Supplies

How we did it

We started by pouring a small amount of sodium polyacrylate, or fake snow  into a large tub. This material used to make fake snow is non-toxic (although you wouldn’t want to eat it), and you’ll recognize it as the same stuff used to absorb liquid in disposable diapers. I picked up a small bag of “snow” at RAFT, but I’m curious about pulling apart a diaper to mine this fun-to-play-with polymer. If you try this, let me know!

I almost always fall into the camp of “you can always add more,” so we started with just a little bit. When I bought the fake snow, the woman working there joked about a desire to fool her parents by pouring the powder all over their lawn in the middle summer, only to be greeted by a sea of snow once their sprinklers went off. This vision sat firmly in my mind, so I poured gingerly, not knowing just how much the powder would expand.

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.comIt turns out that it does in fact expand, but nothing to worry yourself about!

one year old drawingMy one-year old was too little for this activity, and I was happy to situate little sister with an activity of her own. She was happy.

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.comA request came in for a spoon and a bowl to fill. The project is expanding! I asked N to describe the texture for me, and she said it was cool and wet. I agree.

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.comWorking side-by-side, I now live for moments like this.

Mix colors into your fake snow

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.comWhen playing with white snow seemed to run its course, I introduced Liquid Watercolors and a plastic pipette. I limited N to two colors (mostly to keep the crazy factor down) and she requested blue and magenta.

toddler sharpens pencilsMeanwhile, little R learned a thing or two about sharpening pencils.

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.com

This turned into a cool color mixing experiment. It was fascinating to see how many of the “snow” pellets absorbed one color or the other, and cast an illusion of purple when viewed at once.

Make Fake Snow with a Friend

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.comThe next day our neighbor, J, came over for another snow-making session. J likes a good experiment as much as my daughter does, and the two of them scooped, squeezed, stirred, mixxed and poured until they had to be pulled away for dinner!

What do you think? Will you try to make fake snow?

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.com

Resources

Learn more about how disposable baby diapers work from Imagination Station

Watch Steve Spangler demonstrate Intant Snow on the Ellen Show. I can’t help but smile at Ellen’s reaction to Steve. She’s hilarious.

Note: Use your best judgement and due diligence when using these materials with young children.

This post is shared with It’s Playtime