Four Creative Thinkers to Follow

Since I started this blog I’ve been following a lot of cultural thinkers through blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, and I’ve come across some incredible leaders who have changed the way that I look at the world. This list is a small sampling of who I’m paying attention to (mainly the result of time limitations…babies can only play by themselves for so long) so I welcome you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and see more of the people that I follow.

I’d also love to know…who do you think should be on this list?

Happy reading!


Gever Tulley, Tinkering School:!/gever

His Twitter Page: i make stuff – http://gevertulley.com

Why you should follow him: Tulley is the visionary behind Tinkering School, a place where “children can build anything, and through building, learn anything.” He’s opening a new school this fall in San Francisco called Brightworks, where “students explore an idea from multiple perspectives with the help of real-world experts, tools, and experiences, collaborate on projects driven by their curiosity, and share their findings with the world.” If I could justify the drive, I would be over-the-moon if my kids attended this school. He also wrote a book called Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do). What’s not to like? Tulley explains Tinkering School here in about four minutes.


Maria Popova, Brain Picker:!/brainpicker

Her Twitter Page: Maria Popova, Brooklyn, NY. Interestingness curator and semi-secret geek obsessed combinatorial creativity. Editor of Brain Pickings. Bylines for @WiredUK @TheAtlantic @DesignObserver

Why you should follow her: Brain Pickings is a well-curated blog of all sorts of interesting ideas from the worlds of design, science, psychology, art, you name it! From her blog (because it’s hard to classify this one): “Brain Pickings is a discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.” You just never know what you’ll find there, but you know it will always be good. Maria also writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and tweets all the gosh darned time. Just look at her profile picture — she’s out there, finding the best of the best for you and me to devour. For example, check out this recent article from The Atlantic:A round-the-world tour of children’s bedrooms. So freakin’ interesting! She also has a popular Facebook page.


Sir Ken Robinson, Author:!/SirKenRobinson

His Twitter Page: Sir Ken Robinson, Los Angeles, CA.

Why you should follow him: Sir Ken comes from the world of arts education, and has grown to become one of the most forward-thinking leaders in the realm of creativity. He wrote Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative and The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, which I’m reading right now. Not only is his writing friendly and approachable, but he’s also a riot to listen to. The word “brilliant” barely begins to describe him, and you’ll want to know what he knows. If you haven’t already heard of Sir Ken Robinson, watch this video and you’re sure to become his newest fan.


Nina Simon, Museum Director:!/ninaksimon

Her Twitter Page: I design participatory, interactive, slightly strange museum exhibits all over the place.
Why you should follow her: Nina runs a blog called Museum 2.0, where she talks about participatory museum experiences and making cultural institutions more relevant (and less stodgy) spaces. She wrote a book on the same topic called The Participatory Museum. In a world full of buttoned up museums, Nina’s voice stands out as controversial. She’s been bucking the system as a consultant to museums, and now she’s running her own show as the ED of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. In this recent post, Nina writes about a newly installed Creativity Lounge where visitors can look at art WHILE assembling a jigsaw puzzle. This leaves the artist feeling like her work is compromised, but the museum’s visitors love it. Follow her for big thinking on breaking down traditions that may be holding on for the wrong reasons.


Who would you like to see added to this list, and why?

Water Scooping for Babies

Sensory Play: Water Scooping for Babies

While my older daughter tore up the grass with the Slip ‘n Slide, I set my 10 month old up with a bucket of water and some measuring cups. And she got right to work, filling and emptying the cups. It was interesting to watch her attempt to fill the cups when they were upside down, and then exciting when she figured the “problem” out and corrected for it.

And then, presumably, she was proud of one of her many accomplishments.

The provocation is simple — Set your project up outside (since most babies thrive when there are airplanes to track and birds to listen for) and provide your baby with a low bucket of water. Tools are optional. And then see what discoveries come about.

Any other ideas for playing in water with babies?


Taped Trees from Observation

My older daughter, 3 year old N, likes to look through my library or “read” blogs with me and pick out activities for us to work on. I love it when this happens because then she’s self-motivated to work on a project, it supports my philosophy of educating children through an emergent curriculum, and cuts back on those “failed” activities. I was doing some research for a project I’m working on and stumbled upon a British early childhood education site when N spotted this activity (I want to give credit, but the link was lost). This is a wonderful exercise in observation and it doesn’t require a lot of materials or set-up…my kind of project!


We began by looking at a tree outside the window to observe and discuss the lines and scale of the trunk and branches. I loved how N’s eyes continuously darted back and forth between the tree and her paper. I suggested that she start with the trunk, so she chose black tape to make two vertical lines. I thought she might be representing the width of the trunk in relation to the branches, but I asked her about it before jumping to conclusions.

She responded that there were actually *three* trunks and still had one more tape stripe to make. Our little tree is propped up with support posts — she was so observant!

Her eyes moved back to the tree so she could take in the branches and leaves. At this point we went outside to get a closer look before returning indoors.

She added leaves in a bounty of colors, saying, “I bet you’ve never seen PURPLE leaves before!” As an aside, we went to the plant store later that week and bought a plant with purple leaves. She was impressed.

This project worked especially well with my daughter because she was able to articulate an image of a tree without having to draw one (something she’s not yet able to do). And it would be an appropriate project for older children as well.

Do your kids like to play with tape too? What kind of tape do you like to use?

Slide Drawing

My daughter loooooves going to the park and we’re blessed to live in a place that’s teeming with them! So it didn’t take much convincing or prodding to get her excited about setting up this high-energy mark-making activity with me. The juxtaposition of art materials on playground equipment made for a rich, memorable experience, and prompted her to see things from our everyday experiences in a new light.

We gathered our materials — roll of paper ($5 at IKEA, I also spotted this Melissa & Doug Easel Paper Roll for $6.95), crayons, and masking tape — and moseyed over to the park for some Slide Drawing!

There were a couple of other kids at the park, and we waited for them to move toward the sandbox before I covered a slide in a long sheet of paper. N took her crayons to the top and tested them out…a crayon in each hand. I have to admit that I was nervous about monopolizing a slide, so I tried to work quickly and keep a low profile. It reminded me of a when I helped a street artist on a very fun, clandestine night, way back when, with a bucket, brush, wheat paste, and large stack of posters in hand.

The children in the park were curious about what we were up to, so we invited them to join us. It turned out they were more interested in chit-chatting and provoking us than drawing, but having an audience is also an experience. Yay for performance art!

My daughter could have done this all afternoon, but the other kids wanted to use the slide so we wrapped up shop and we’ll return again for more soon. Maybe tomorrow!

Would you try slide drawing?

This post is shared on It’s Playtime

Face Collage for Scribblers

When I was an art teacher, the youngest age group I worked with was Kindergarten so I rarely had the chance to witness a child’s transition from scribbling to representational drawing. My three year old daughter is at the precipice of representational drawing and it’s an exciting place to be, but she can get frustrated that she can’t create what she imagines (which is often!) and frequently asks me to draw things for her. This can be tricky because it goes against my belief that children should find their own way with visual representation and I’m often reluctant to draw things for her.

This project was born from a need to manifest her vision while also matching her abilities, and would be appropriate for children on the verge of creating representational drawings as well as those who draw realistically. Links to information about stages of artistic development at the end of this post.

I cut circles, rectangles, half circles, and some organic shapes from colorful recycled pantry boxes and spread them out on the table for my daughter to choose from. N chose a light blue oval for the face shape (also pre-cut), glued it to a 9 x 12 sheet of paper, and selected pieces to represent the parts of the face.

Facilitating and Asking Questions

I acted as a facilitator and if she seemed stumped I would ask questions such as, “What part of the face is next to the eyes?” “Ears? Okay, can you find a shape that could be an ear?”

I tried not to guide her decision-making and made room for her to adhere the pieces in the way she envisioned it, even if I didn’t think it was “accurate.”

She added the eyes (on top), nose, ears, orange cheeks, a mouth, and an aluminum foil philtrum (the area between the mouth and nose!). Did you know it’s called a philtrum? I didn’t!! I thought she was adding a mustache on top, but she explained that it was just a ribbon! Always ask before making assumptions!

She wanted to make curl the ribbon into a circle and I helped her glue it together. I enjoyed watching her vacillate between reality and imagination in one sitting.

When she finished the first picture she moved on to the next one (after a costume change, of course!), and this time it was all about the imagination — no faces involved!


  • For more on the developmental stages of children’s drawings, Viktor Lowenfeld is the last word on this topic and you’ll learn a lot about it here.
  • For even more from Viktor Lowenfeld, you could read this seminal book from him: Creative and Mental Growth. I just bought a used copy for myself for just $7!

How did your children make the transition from scribbles to representational drawing?