How to Watercolor Bunnies with Kids

Watercolor is a medium that can be as demanding and temperamental as those who choose to paint with it. But it is a colorful and exciting medium all the same – well suited to describing the many moods of the subject, as well as those of the artist wielding the brush.

–Jean Burman

how to watercolor

Do your kids like to paint? Have you had success with watercolors? Traditional dry paint palettes of color are what most of us purchase for first watercolor experiments, but my go-to supply, and one of my favorite kid art supplies period, is liquid watercolor.

Watercolors are one of my favorite mediums to paint with, and somehow I forgot about that. I became an acrylic painter in high school, and then an oil painter after college. But the immediacy of watercolors — the flowing of colors from one into another and their quick-drying quality — makes it so appealing to the parent of young children who are equally quick and impatient.

I don’t have days to wait for paint to dry and I don’t have to worry myself over toxic paint stinking up my house. But watercolors are perfect and my kids adore them too.

how to watercolor with kidsTo set this up, I removed the usual plastic sheet that protects our art table and replaced it with red rosin paper. Red Rosin Paper is heavy sheathing paper usually used as a first step to cover new roofs, and you can find it in hardware stores. It comes on a huge roll, it’s economical, and it was perfect for absorbing the watercolor paint that didn’t make it onto the art paper.

Materials

  • Table cover
  • Watercolor Paper. This paper from Seth Cole is what we used. It’s 140 lb. (it’s thick and heavy = good), professional grade, acid-free, archival, and economical.
  • Liquid Watercolors. We like Sax Concentrated Liquid Watercolors from Amazon.
  • Assorted small paintbrushes (sable or synthetic fibers)
  • Container for watercolors — I like to use an ice cube tray. A styrofoam egg carton also works well.
  • Water cups or cans
  • Cloth or Paper towels

We filled our ice cube tray with every color we own (except black). I avoided black because if it’s not used with discretion it quickly muddles up all the colors. We talked about warm and cool colors, and divided our colors into these two camps: on one side there was red, orange, yellow, and sparkly red. The other side held lime green, turquoise, blue, sparkly blue, and violet.

Set up your towels next to the paint and brushes and use them to absorb extra water or paint of the brush.

how to watercolor with kids

I like to paint across from or next to my daughter because I find that her own ideas expand when she sees me work through my ideas. I never paint on her painting, but I may test some ideas out on my own paper that can help her come up with her own solutions.

We explored two kinds of watercolor painting: wet on dry and wet on wet. Wet on dry is the process of painting on dry paper. And wet on wet is the process of painting on wet paper. She painted a little wet on dry, and then I demonstrated wet on wet for her. She’s done this before, but seeing it again got her excited and she wanted to see the colors expand on her paper. You can see the wet on wet blue dots on the left side of her paper.

how to watercolor with kids

I also experimented with tapping the side of my wet, paint-loaded brush to create dots of paint all over my page, and she did the same. She loved this, actually, and thought it was hilarious when the paint splattered her face. Good lesson in paint control!

If you’re new to watercolor painting, it helps to talk with your child about gently dragging a loaded (full) brush against the edge of the paint container before painting. This helps keep paint puddles to a minimum and also teaches your child how to control the amount of paint that goes onto the paper. I wouldn’t worry about this too much with really young children, but be three or four, your child should be able to grasp this concept.

how to watercolor with kidsAll along, her plan was to make a bunny garland to hang in our window, so we let the paintings dry and I made  bunny template that she was happy with.

how to watercolor with kidsWe placed it over the paper to see how it might look. Love it!

how to watercolor with kidsAnd then I traced them on the back of the paper. The hardest part of this process was cutting the bunnies out. Not hard, exactly, but just to warn you, this step took a fair amount of time.

how to watercolor with kidsAnd there’s our first batch of bunnies, waiting to be strung up in the window.

I’m not sure exactly how we’ll hang them. Any ideas for us? I was thinking about gluing baker’s twine to the backs, but I’d like them to be somewhat archival so that we can use them year after year.

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If you enjoy watercolor painting, you’ll want to bookmark Spiral Watercolor Streamer, Straw-blown Watercolor Painting,and Candle Wax Watercolor Resist and you will want to check out The Artful Parent’s great list of 11 Fun Watercolor Projects for Kids.

 

 

Creative Ways to Spend a Sick Day

tea for twoHow do you get through sick days?

With Spring just around the corner, I thought that maybe maybe maybe we would be the lucky ones who made it through winter without getting sick. Wishful thinking! My oldest came down with a fever the other day and we’ve been holed up at home, gathering our energy and drinking lots of fluids.

reading peg leg pekeI have an arsenal of indoor activity ideas, but to be stuck inside all day long…that’s another story. There was a break in the day when we felt a little better and threw on our wellies for some puddle stomping. Fresh air always helps, doesn’t it?

The other day I fell in love with this article on Little Stories called How to Pretend. The idea that really stuck with me was about acting out books to bring them to life.

I pulled a big box of stuffed animals off a top shelf — little friends that we haven’t seen in ages. That alone was thrilling to my kids. And then we picked out a few favorite books with animal characters that we could bring to life with our toys and puppets.

I envisioned that I would lead a puppet show of sorts while reading the books, sort of like a librarian or preschool teacher telling a story through a felt board. But my 3 year old wanted to enact the roles while I read. I live for these moments that surprise.

reading with props stuffed animalsBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was especially good for putting all of our toys to work. We don’t have a cat stuffed animal, but my kids were happy to substitute bunny. They really loved this and I’m sure we’ll do it again on our healthy days too.

So it looks like we’re home for one more day, just to be safe. I have a fun Saint Patty’s Day photo booth invitation set up, but not too many more ideas.

What do you like to do with your kids on sick days? How do you keep them happily engaged indoors all day long?

Note: Tinkerlab shares affiliate links for products we use and companies we adore. If you purchase through those links we’ll receive a small percentage of the sale, which help keep our inspiration engines running!

Cooking with Toddlers Made Simple

Cooking with toddlers made simpleAfter sharing some thoughts yesterday on how to invent a recipes with kids (by opening your kitchen up as a lab for experimentation), I thought it might help if I backed up a bit and shared a few tricks that have helped me set the stage for kitchen experimentation.

Here are my top four tips on bringing toddlers into the kitchen, making cooking with little ones fun, and keeping it simple…

 chopping salad with toddler

TIP #1

Spend time in the kitchen. I’m a big advocate for bringing children into the kitchen at an early age.

Babies won’t do much in the kitchen, obviously, but the kitchen is full of sensory experiences that can grab hold of the attention. As soon as my kids could stand, they’ve been active observers; watching me chop, stir, mix, and pour.

TIP #2

Give them tools. And as soon as they show an interest, I give my kids small bowls to mix pretend batters and salads while I make the real thing right next to them.

My youngest is 18 months old, and she loves mixing just about anything. She’s not as efficient as I am, and she’s certainly not as neat, but I know that if I include her at this young age she’ll feel comfortable in the kitchen as she grows older.

TIP #3

Find some kid-friendly knives. Did you see that my toddler is wielding a knife?

kid knives curious chef

One of my most creative friends, Rebecca Jordan-Glum (she’s just building her Facebook page — visit her here: https://www.facebook.com/JordanARTandDESIGN ) turned me on to these incredible kid-friendly knives from Curious Chef. We bought this pack of 3 knives for under $10, and use them all the time. If they’re out of stock, you can also find the knives through other Curious Chef cooking packages.

My 3.5 year old knows where to find them and can help herself, and my 18 month old will ask for “knife.” My youngest doesn’t use the knife as its intended, but she wants to join the party and I’m not going to stop her.

The knives are appropriate for children ages 5 and up, so supervision is recommended for little ones.

toddler mixing salad

TIP #4

Involve them in simple cooking projects. When I’m having a long day and I’m not in the mood for a massive clean up, I’ll try to find neater cooking projects for my kids to help with. Chopping salad is one of these projects. Scooping flour is not. Spreading butter on toast is one of these projects. Making pancakes is not.

Cooking with Kids: Resources

I’m loving Foodie Parent. It’s hilarious and there’s a section of the site called “Cooking with Kids.”

Cooking with My Kid is a beautiful site, full of practical ideas. Macki describes herself as a “Foodie by day, microwaver by night, I set out to teach my kid (and myself) the art of cooking.” I’m kicking myself because she was at Blissdom, and we didn’t meet!

Do you like to cook with your kids? What are you favorite cooking-with-kids tips? What is the most challenging part of cooking with children? Do you have a favorite “neat” cooking project?

 

Note: I share affiliate links for products I adore or think you’ll find useful. If you purchase through those links I will receive a small percentage of the sale; thanks for your help keeping this blog running!



Is it Magnetic? Testing Objects for Magnetism.

How was your weekend? We took a mini-vacation to play in the snow and I enjoyed a little computer break along the way. I thought I could get online with my phone, but it turned out that the reception was horrible and I’ve been completely out-of-touch! It was probably a good thing, as I could really focus on my family and be as rested as possible when my one-year old woke up, inconsolable, for 2 hours in the middle of the night! I also want to formally thank my good friend Melissa from The Chocolate Muffin Tree who checked in to make sure I was okay! How lucky am I?

I’ve been on a science kick lately. Maybe because my 3-year old is completely self-serve in the art department or maybe because I’ve checked every science for kids book out of our local library? If you’re in the market for a great book of kids science experiments for ages 8 and up, I checked out The Science Explorer Out and about: Fantastic Science Experiments Your Family Can Do Anywhere (Science Explorer Out & about)and it’s phenomenal. It was written in 1997 and looks a little bit dated, but the concepts are solid and it stands the test of time. If you’ve ever been to San Francisco’s Exploratorium or if you’re familiar with their publications, you’ll feel connected to this book.

magnet and water experiment materials

Today’s experiment is similar to one we’ve done before with paper clips +magnets (Traveling Magnets), and this takes it up a notch with a few more magnet surprises and discoveries. Here’s what you’ll need…

Materials

  • Glass or vase of water. Thin glass works better than thick.
  • Pipe cleaners and/or paper clips
  • Strong magnets
  • Scissors
  • Small magnetic and non-magnetic objects

pipe cleaners in water experiment

Cut the pipe cleaners up and add them to the vase of water and mix them up so the pipe cleaners sink. Three-year old N loved doing this step herself.

Using your magnet/s try to pull the pipe cleaners up the side of the vase. Once they reach the top, you can retrieve them or drop them back in.

It’s like fishing!

testing magnets experiment kids

This opened up a conversation about what would stick to the magnets, so I pulled out a handful of small metal and non-metal objects for us to test.

Meanwhile, my 1-year old enjoyed stirring the water and fishing pipe cleaners out with her hands.

testing magnets experiment kids

N understood that the magnet would only stick to metal and quickly ruled out rubber bands and post-it notes from the “Is it magnetic?” list, but we also learned that the magnet wouldn’t stick to ALL metals.

And that was a surprise!

magnets on hardwood floor nails

One of the funnest surprises, however, was when a magnet fell onto the floor and stuck to a hidden nail! We dropped the rest of our magnets onto the floor and flicked them from nail to nail, watching them dance from floorboard to floorboard.

One more thought — I kept a close eye on my 17 month old throughout because our magnets are so tiny — just a thought that you might want to do the same or find some big magnets for the under 3 y.o. crowd.

What did your weekend look like? Have you been able to take a technology break? And have you had any fun magnet discoveries?

 

 

How to Build a Simple Clip Fort

how to build a clip fort

How was your Valentine’s Day? We had a drizzly pre-Valentines romp in the park with friends and I spent Valentine’s morning leading a fun docent training workshop at the San Jose Museum of Art (SJMA). Under the leadership of Education Director, Lucy Larson, SJMA one of the most visitor-centered museums around. It’s not a huge museum, which means it’s easy to navigate with squirmy kids, and if you ever take a docent tour you’ll be surprised at how much the docents care about what YOU think. No stuffy lectures here!

So backing up a bit, I’ve been clearing the clutter from my house (see herehere, and here) –what a slow job that is with two little kids running around the house! — and I found a huge stack of sheets that we really don’t need anymore. We gave a few away to our favorite thrift store, but before I parted with all of them I asked the Tinkerlab Facebook community for ideas on what we could do with this bounty of potential fun. So many great ideas came my way that I decided I’d try a bunch of them out. So today I’m starting with building a simple fort with sheets and big kitchen clips. This activity is perfect for little kids and helps foster imagination and invention, while giving kids the opportunity to build with everyday materials.

Materials

how to build a clip fort under the table

Start by assessing your room for fort-able furniture. Anything heavy with lots of head space is good — if the piece is too light it has the potential to tip over. Move things together and shift your furniture around. Some ideas: couches, dining tables, coffee tables, kid art tables. Look for places to clip your sheets, move the sheets around and twist the corners and edges until you and your kids are satisfied with the results, and BAM — you have a fort.

These steel wire clips (above) don’t have as much reach, but I use them for just about everything in my kitchen so they’re plentiful in my house. They’re great for clipping to thin things under 1/2″ wide.

how to clip sheet to the table for a fortI’ve had these forever and couldn’t find them online, but they seem to be similar to ng this big clip (with round magnet on the back so you can stick it to the fridge when you’re not turning your house into a faraway tent planet).

clip a sheet to the coffee table

This is one of our favorite set-ups: scooting the coffee table up to the dining table for an low entry that rises for easy sitting (and sleeping). My three year old dragged a few pillows and blankets inside for an extra-snuggly spot.

take a blurry picture of your dadI was busy snapping photos when N asked if she could take a drive with the camera. So she turned the camera on my husband who is so game, and she wiggled down onto her belly to take this shot. I have a heavy camera, which makes for some wobbly (but happy) photos.

I recently came across this site, All For the Boys, which hosts a weekly Fort Friday post. It’s awesome, and if your kids like building forts you’ll get all sorts of inspiration over there. Not to mention, Allison takes photo submissions and might include your fort on her site. In her words: “If you want to share a photo of your fort to inspire us send them to info[at]allfortheboys[dot]com and I’ll share them here on Fort Friday.”


Do your kids like to build forts? What do you like to make them with?

 

6 Kids Valentines Day Activities

6 Kids Valentines Activities and Homemade Valentine Gifts

We’ve been crafting up a Valentine’s storm, which mostly means that three-year old N has been collaging all our self-serve bits and bobs of Valentine goodness into a taped-up, glued, and spackled hodge podge of Valentine craziness. In other words, we’ve been having fun, but it’s not something anyone else would likely take inspiration from or worth blogging about!

That said, we have been playing with an amazing batch of Valentine play dough that’s always good for open-ended exploration and imagination-building. And, for my 1.5 year old, it’s great for hand-eye coordination and fine-motor skill development. 

valentine play dough

I keep my play dough in a big sealable bowl or zipped bag, and it will last for months. I use this recipe, and it’s hands-down the best one out there for the play dough job. Here are the ingredients, but click over to the recipe for all the deets:

valentine play dough station

The Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 1/4 c. salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 5 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • Food coloring or liquid watercolors. I really like Wilton Icing Colors or Liquid Watercolors (from Discount School Supply), which make gorgeous shades of play dough to match any occasion, mood, or toddler request.

 

For our Valentine Play Dough Station, I made a batch of white dough and a batch of dark pink, and then the kids helped me loosely mix them together to make this fun, mottled Valentine concoction. Oh, and we added peppermint oil to the mix to give it a nice, fresh smell. This would be perfect for Christmas too…something to keep in mind for later.

valentine play dough

I gave my kids a new set of heart-shaped cookie cutters, which proved to be too difficult for my little one to effectively use on her own. But that didn’t stop her from trying! I cut a few shapes for her, which she really enjoyed pulling out of the dough and then breaking into three or four pieces. Some of the hearts were too challenging for her to pull out on her own, so I’d break the dough walls, which helped her remove the hearts somewhat intact.

She also enjoyed playing with the rolling pin and practiced rolling snakes.

valentine play dough

I was recently asked which of our art materials is absolutely indispensable, and while there are many, play dough is one of those materials that appeals to a wide variety of ages because the threshold is so low. Very young children know exactly what to do with it, and as children get older their ability to manipulate it and use it for imaginative play grows along with them.

Play dough, I love you…Happy Valentine’s Day!

Interested in more Tinkerlab-style Valentines?

Deconstructed Valentines

deconstructed valentines

Valentine Garland

Valentine Garland With Kids

Self-serve Valentines

self serve valentines

All-in-one Valentine Envelope

all in one valentine envelope

Valentine Snack

cut out valentine snack

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

Why We Would Be Lost Without Tape

Are you a “Tape House?”

We love tape in our house, and it gets used for just about everything: taping up wax paper sandwich bags, taping labels to things, taping art table creations together, taping up marble runs, taping up whimsical installations. A roll of clear tape is a fixture on the art table and we have a big box full of colorful paper tape (this tape from Discount School Supply is amazing) that enables my children to realize some of their big ideas. And painter’s tape is irreplaceable for taping up furniture and things that can’t stand up to too much stickiness.

Here’s an example:

We have a basket of diecast vehicles thats almost never taken out, but my one year old wanted to play with airplanes so we got the planes going. I saw this as an opportunity to “paint” some runways on our coffee table with blue painter’s tape.

My older daughter thought this was a great idea, but she had her own thoughts as well. I’m sure that many of you can relate!

First, she requested shorter pieces of tape and blocked my runways off with those vertical lines you see in the photo.

So, I abandoned my runway idea and made some cute little parking spaces.

That was also shot down.

N then blocked my runway with a big “X” so that the plane wouldn’t get away. I didn’t take it personally.

And then I learned the real reason for all this independent thinking!

Apparently a category 5 hurricane was on its way, and the plane was in danger of getting blown away. For extra safety, it was securely taped to the back of a large truck whose windows were also taped shut.

You know, because windows can shatter in a hurricane.

And if that wasn’t enough, the truck + airplane combination was carted off, dropped into a basket, wrapped in a blanket, covered with a pillow, and then sat on…

so that they wouldn’t blow away.

And all this started with a little bit of tape.

Now isn’t that a great way to spend $3?!

I really want to pick up some washi tape like this. Have you used it? Do you have a favorite brand?

What about you? Would you be lost without tape, too?

 

10 Steps for Easy Indoor Easel Painting

Some of us are totally comfortable setting up the easel and letting our kids have a go, but I know others who want to hide under a freshly laundered sheet at the thought of setting up what’s essentially a painting extravaganza. And you may be surprised to learn that I can easily fall into both camps!

I don’t leave our easel out all the time because our house is small, it quickly blends with the scenery if my children see it all the time, and lately I get a little stressed when my kids request paint. This is mostly because my one year old is learning her boundaries, and I don’t trust that the furniture and walls are yet beyond her consideration as potential canvases. However, once the painting station is up, I breathe easy knowing that the painting area is as organized as it can be, which will help keep my youngest focused on the task at hand. And it’s worth the effort! Through easel painting, children learn how to hold a brush, they learn to have control over their marks, and they can experiment with color mixing, paint thickness, and variations in pressure (to name a few). The way art teacher Nancy Beal explains the experience of paint mixing emphasizes the importance of learning through doing.

“The paint is in charge. The paint is teaching them. You can’t teach someone to dive into a pool by saying, ‘Walk to the end of the board and jump in.’ He has to get on the diving board himself. He has to do his belly flop into the water and keep doing it until his body teaches him. It’s the same with mixing colors. You have to do it until you know that you can’t get orange by using equal amounts of yellow and red; you have to use more yellow.”

-Nancy Beal, The Art of Teaching Art to Children in School and at Home (pp. 83-84)

Can you imagine only learning colors through a color wheel or crayons? The nuance of color that can be achieved through paint is so varied!

Like following a recipe and making something that actually tastes good, the trick to successful easel time lies in planning ahead and having all of the ingredients ready.

Ingredients

  • Drop Cloth
  • Easel
  • Paint Cups
  • Fat, round brushes
  • Tempera Paint
  • Large sheets of paper + Bulldog clips (if your easel doesn’t have clips) or a Roll of Paper
  • Apron
  • Music

Recipe

  1. Set up the drop cloth and easel in an open space, away from furniture and walls. Move furniture if needed.
  2. Clear an area or make room outdoors for completed work
  3. If using sheets of paper, clip as many as you can to the easel so that you can easily peel completed work off and your little artist can keep right on painting without too much fuss. Remember, they will be holding at least one paint-loaded brush!
  4. Fill paint containers with a small amount of paint (about 1/3 cup). You can always add more. I like to limit the number of paints with small children. In this case (above), I gave my 16 month old two colors: one for each hand. It was perfect. She likes to paint with more colors, too, but fewer choices makes clean-up easier too!
  5. Place the bottles of paint on a high shelf near the painting area so that you can reload as necessary.
  6. Cover your child in an apron, smock, or old clothes.
  7. Play some music to inspire your little mover/s with rhythm.
  8. Go!
  9. Step back and enjoy the process. Snap some photos. Drink a cup of tea. Email your best friend. Do some online shopping. Okay, dreaming just a little bit here, but it will be fairly stress-free.
  10. When your child is done, pick up the paint buckets + brushes and place them in the sink, wash hands, wash brushes + buckets, wipe down the easel, wrap up the cloth, and put it all away for another day.

What camp are you in? Do you love easel painting or does the thought of it stress you out? What’s in your recipe for easy indoor easel painting?