Art Dice and the Creative Confidence Book

book creative confidence

Do you have Creative Confidence?

Do you think that some people are just born more creative, or do you believe that we can learn to become more creative? In the newly released creativity and innovation-boosting book, Creative Confidence, authors David and Tom Kelley not only explain that creative super-powers lie within each of us, but they go on to share actionable tools for increasing our abilities to innovate.

Stanford University’s K-12 Lab Network recently invited me to lead a hands-on maker workshop as part of the Creative Confidence book launch party for IDEO founder, David Kelley. If you’re an educator who’s interested in Design Thinking, I promise that you’ll lose hours digging into the d. School’s K-12 Lab and the K-12 wiki.

For the hour that led up to the highly anticipated panel led by David Kelley, we set up a fun creativity-booster with Art Dice in a room just off the main stage.

creative confidence d school

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you may recognize this game as Art Dice. If you’re new-ish to Tinkerlab, here’s the original post.

Art Dice is a fun prompt/tool/game for creating randomly generated art. Every flip of the dice becomes an opportunity to explore art vocabulary, drawing skills, color recognition, and shape identification. With a few changes, these dice could also used to chase away writer’s or artist’s block: Simply roll the dice and draw or write about what pops up. Combine a few dice together and rise to the challenge of combining disparate ideas into a cohesive whole.

art dice setup tinkerlab

Since I needed a few sets of dice, and didn’t have the time to paint six sets of wooden dice (as I did with our original sets), I made paper templates and printed the dice onto heavy card stock. They’re bigger than our original dice, but the scale also makes them playful and visually arresting.

How to Play Art Dice: Round One

The rules: Roll one die. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

We invited our players to roll the line die. The line die includes things like dots, straight lines, zig-zag lines, and a spiral.

With the die rolled, they chose a mark-making tool and had two minutes to interpret the line on their paper. One of the most outstanding parts of this exercise, from an observer’s point of view, is to see the variety of interpretations. 

art dice and creative confidence

Art Dice: Round Two

The rules: Roll two dice. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

For the next round, we rolled the line die and the shape die. Again, participants had two minutes to interpret these images in whatever way they desired.

art dice d school playing

Art Dice: Round Three

The rules: Roll four dice. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

For the last round we invited the players to throw four dice: shape, line, color, and mood. The mood dice included words like curious, excited, and angry. 

From the four tossed dice, players could choose two, three, or four of the dice to work with and create a final composition in two minutes. You can see the variety of interpretations of the prompt in this last photo.

art dice d school group

What we learned

After this quick round of drawing, I asked everyone to share their thoughts on this experience. Here are some of the takeaways:

  1. Creative freedom to experiment: There was no wrong or right way to do this exercise, which offered many participants creative freedom to experiment.
  2. Work did not have to be perfect: The short drawing period (just two minutes) signaled to some participants that their work did not have to be perfect, and gave them leeway to experiment and not feel the need to get it “just right.”
  3. Good for team-building: A few participants suggested that this activity could be a powerful way to open up a team-building event.
  4. Prompts work differently for everyone: Some people felt more creative leeway when they only had one die to work with, while others preferred the challenge of working with multiple dice. This reminded me of how differently our brains work, and how prompts like this are not one-size-fits all.

Art Dice and Creative Confidence

In Creative Confidence, the authors write,

creative confidence quote

I would venture to say that creative prompts like Art Dice encourage mistake-making in a safe environment. The stakes are low, and mistakes hold the capacity to lead to new ideas.

When we talked about how Art Dice could be used as a team-building exercise, I kept thinking about how prompts like art dice have the capacity to break down cultural norms and allow us to experience our own unlimited potential.

One interpretation is not necessarily better than another, and one person’s unique interpretation can inspire another person’s way of thinking.

What do you think? Would you like to have a set of art dice to experiment with?

You can learn more about Creative Confidence or order a copy today.

A Freebie and a Giveaway!

If you’ve read this far, you’re in for a treat. I was gifted an extra copy of Creative Confidence, and I’d like to share it with one of my readers.

In addition, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked about where the Art Dice can be purchased. In response to that, and as a thank you for putting experimentation, tinkering, and hands-on making first, we’d like to offer our loyal readers a free download of our Art Dice, exactly like the ones shared in this post.

These opportunities are only offered to our fabulous newsletter subscribers.

Details will be sent in our next newsletter, so subscribe today and stay tuned for more details! This is a limited time offer, so don’t delay!

Note: This post contains affiliate links, but we only share links to products that we love and/or that we think you’ll find useful.


10 Ways to Have Creative Fun with your Kids this Summer

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”   – Henry James, Author

10 ways to have creative fun with your kids this summer from Tinkerlab

Today is the last day of school for my kids before the start of summer.

Not only is summer a school-free time for many children, but it can also mean warm weather, long car trips, digging up lots of beach sand, and long empty hours to lollygag (my favorite pastime).

While we often think of creative activities for kids as easel painting or drawing, getting outdoors fills children with new ideas, an imaginative spirit, and a thirst for life that will give children fodder for their ideas and art making.

Here are ten simple ways to have creative fun with your kids this summer:

10 Ways to Have a Creative Summer with Kids | Tinkerlab

1. At the Beach. While many parents look forward to beach trips as an opportunity to relax while the kids play (me, me!!), you can take comfort in the fact that while children play they are filling their brains with the sensory experiences of playing with sand, architectural processes of building castles, and physics lessons in how waves and tides move. We love the beach as a spot for the creative adventures that always go along with tidepooling, and look forward to trying our hands at sandcasting with plaster of paris (via The Artful Parent).

DIY Travel Coloring Station | Modern Parents Messy Kids

2. During Long Car Trips. Are you dreading planning a long car trip this summer? While DVD’s do wonders for keeping backseat bickering at bay, hands-on activities not only keep the mind active, but they can encourage long, uninterrupted spells of creativity as well.

We always put together a travel art kit like the Itty Bitty Art Kit for Little Travelers. These are a key to happiness, both on the road and once we’re at our destination.

To keep everyone’s mind occupied and on the same page, you’ll enjoy this awesome list from MPMK of audio books that the whole family can enjoy.

MPMK also shares the brilliant idea of making a DIY Car traveling station (photo, above). It’s magnetized so that materials won’t fly all over the car. Once you see this you won’t want to go back to your old methods.

Related to that, The Imagination Tree shares this how you can repurpose a simple plastic tray into a drawing station with window crayons with this clever DIY Portable art board.

Backyard Camping | Modern Parents Messy Kids

3. At the Campground. Getting outdoors and taking adventures do wonders for eliciting creative thinking. If you don’t have any grand plans for camping this summer, not to worry because you can always pitch a Tent in the backyard and make sun-baked s’mores (via Kids Stuff World) on a hot day with creature comforts not too far away. Mmm.

Now, if you can actually manage to pack up all your gear and head out to the woods, This Mama Makes Stuff offers some sage advice on how to make the most of camping with kids. The Creative Homemaker shares a Happy Camper Scavenger Hunt  (with a free printable that’s super cute) that will encourage children to look carefully at the world around them.

outdoor adventure

4. Around the Neighborhood. 

Speaking of scavenger hunts, you don’t have to go very far to find cool things to look at. Just walk out your front door with a camera and you’re ready to take a rainbow scavenger hunt or any other sort of scavenger hunt you can dream up.


5. On the Hiking Trail.

And then we can always kick scavenger hunts up a notch!

Have you ever been geocaching? When geocaching was first introduced back in 2001, I was one of the first people to go out and buy a GPS. And my husband laughed at me. We planted one of the oldest caches in Southern California and then the first cache in Indonesia, and wouldn’t you know that they’re both still there!

Now geocaching is so easy and affordable with phone-based apps like the Geocaching App for the iPhone. This activity gets kids moving and encourages them think hard as they go back and forth between connecting coordinates with real-world landmarks. Not only that, but it’s fun for everyone in the family.

I can’t recommend it enough. Hmm, all this cache talk reminds me that it’s been ages since we’ve hit the trail. I’m adding this to our summer list!

climbing trees | tinkerlab

6. At the Park

Did you know that climbing trees can support creative thinking?

And then there’s the DIY Art Camp. If the weather is nice, why not invite your friends to join you for some art-making at the park? A couple summers ago we hosted a summer art afternoon for some friends. After a picnic (kids need fuel for the brains), we made sand paintings, paper bag crowns, and summer fireworks tote bags.  

7. On the Lake

Put engineering skills to work by making your own boats like these from NurtureStore, and then test them in the lake, pool, or stream.

plant a garden with kids

8. In the Garden

Whether you have a large plot of land or a tiny patio, a short walk out your own front door into the fresh air gives children a low-threshold opportunity to get close to nature. You could try making your own Water Wall, planting a Garden with  the Kids, easy outdoor water painting, set up an impromptu garden art studio, or make fairy gardens for your resident gnomes and keepers of pixie dust.

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

9. On the Plane

Make a stack of these matching games (photo above) ahead of time.

If you’re traveling with a Lego-fan, and you have some skill with a sewing machine, this fabric tray Lego base is gorgeous and brilliant. Now if only there were a way to wrangle all those Legos on the plane!

Before you travel, your child may enjoy pretending that he or she is taking a trip or setting up a travel agency. This does wonders for building excitement (as seen in these pictures!).

take an adventure trip

10. On an Adventure

Have you ever organized or gone on a mystery trip? They’re so fun, and can make even the most ordinary outing an adventure. On this recent trip to San Francisco, my husband wanted to introduce us to a Smitten, an ice cream shop that makes fresh ice cream, while you wait, with liquid nitrogen. Cool! (sorry I couldn’t help myself).

Adding to the cool factor, Smitten is located in a recycled shipping container in one of our favorite spots for people watching. Scott kept the whole thing to himself and then wowed my 4-year old with the adventure of watching her ice cream come to life.

To arrange a mystery trip, announce that you’re planning one, let your party know if they need to come prepared with any special clothes, snacks, or other creature comforts. And then hit the road!

get outdoors

On that note, enjoy the great outdoors and know that that spending time outside is one of the best things you can do for a child. 

I’ll leave you with this quote from playwright Henry Miller:

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” 

Creativity and Education Interestingness

Creativity and Education: A Roundup of Interestingness from Tinkerlab

It’s been a while since I’ve done a round-up of creativity and education resources, and since a few pieces of interestingness have crossed my desk this week, I wanted to take a minute to share these great resources with you!

I hope you enjoy them and that they give you some food for thought. And if you’ve spotted any great articles that you think I should know about, please let me know about them in a comment!

Youth Arts Month

Did you know that March is National Youth Art Month? According to the National Art Education Association, “Youth Art Month is an annual observance every March to emphasize the value of art education for all youth and to encourage support for quality school art programs.”

This post on ArtsBlog from Kristen Engebretson of Americans for the Arts has some helpful Youth Arts Month links. For anyone interested in the intersection of the arts and early childhood, later this month (March 18-22), ArtsBlog will host a Blog Salon about early childhood education, and I’ve been invited to chime in with some thoughts on the the value of process over product in the early years. More on that in a couple weeks!

youth art month

How will you celebrate Youth Arts Month? 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Sit down and make some art with your child.
  • Subscribe to School Arts Magazine. If you’re a teacher or homeschooler, this is one of the best magazines on the topic. When I was a teacher, I always looked forward to finding this in my mailbox.
  • If the arts are limited in your child’s school, can you advocate for more? Is there anything you can do to give the arts a bigger presence in your child’s learning?
  • Set up a self-serve creativity zone in your home.
  • Pin the image (above) and help spread the word that it’s Youth Art Month
  • Order a copy of Jean Van’t Hul’s inspiring and soon-to-be released book, The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity
  • Thank you child’s art teacher/s for their hard work and commitment toward making the arts a relevant and meaningful part of your child’s education.
  • Look at real art with your child. Here are some of my favorite tips for facilitating arts-based conversations with children: 5 Easy Steps for talking with Children about Art

 Stephen Round: Resignation Letter

Have you seen this compelling video of Stephen Round submitting his letter of resignation to the Providence, Rhode Island School District? Since he resigned in December, 2012 it’s gone viral and has been viewed over 400,000 times.

Round was a second grade teacher and resigned because he found that his school was so focused on standardized testing as a measure of student achievement that it missed the point of raising children to become lifelong learners, which is at the heart of his teaching philosophy. Stephen’s story isn’t a new one, but his heartfelt letter is worth watching if you care about how teachers can find their own unique and creative voice in a public school system that’s caught under the net of standardized testing.

My oldest child enters kindergarten this Fall and stories like this have me on edge about sending her to public school. If teachers like this are resigning, school boards and parents need to pay close attention.

What do you think?

Big C and little c Creativity

Have you heard of “Big C” and “little c” Creativity?”

There’s a fascinating study on creative and education that’s just emerging from the Learning Research Institute at California State University San Bernardino.

Nurturing the Next Van Gogh? Start With Small Steps

From the article:

“Kaufman and Beghetto suggest teachers should meet unexpectedness with curiosity. Rather than shutting down a potentially creative solution to a problem, explore and evaluate it. What seems like a tangent could actually help other students think about the problem in a different way.

They also note that part of incorporating creativity is helping students to read the situation. There’s a time and a place for a creative solution and kids need to learn when it’s appropriate to take the intellectual risk. They should also learn that there’s a cost to creativity; it takes effort, time, and resources and depending on the problem the most creative solution may not make sense.”

Self-Doubt Kills Creativity

This is an interesting read for any of us grown-ups who consider ourselves creative, but find that self-doubt holds us back from pursuing creative ideas. And it’s also a reminder of how important it is to encourage a child’s creative ideas without judgement.

This article from Psych Central is full of ten actionable strategies for pulling yourself out of a self-doubt funk: 10 Ways to Overcome Creativity’s Number 1 Crusher

From the article:

“Self-doubt can persuade us to stop creating or keep us from sending our work out into the world. It can be so influential that it colors how we see ourselves, ensuring we don’t pick up a pen, paintbrush, camera or other tool for decades.”

 Note: There may be affiliate links in this article, but I only share links to resources that I love and/or think you’ll find useful.

Marbled Paper Suminagashi

Are you looking for a last-minute hands-on gift, or maybe an idea to bookmark for a cold winter day? I’ve been saving this Suminagashi kit for a quiet morning and it was a true winner with both my 2-year old and 4-year old.

The process of marbleizing paper encourages creative thinking, open-ended exploration with ink and water, and experimentation.

Marbled Paper with Suminagashi

But first, maybe you’ve noticed that it’s been a little quiet around here. I’m sorry that I’ve kind of dropped the ball on my blog this month. I’ve been hunkering down with my other writing project and something had to go sit on the back burner. (sorry, bloggy).

Maybe you didn’t notice, in which case — yay! You’ve probably been busy too. It’s the holiday season after all. What are your plans for the holidays? Have you been baking? Are you going anywhere tropical or fun?

My kids finished making and packing their gifts for friends, my shopping is all but done, and now only the dreaded box of holiday cards is staring at me from across the room, waiting for messages of holiday cheer and stamps (that have yet to be purchased — eek).

But that can wait just a few more minutes because I have to share this important, colorful, festive, and fun art meets science experience with you…

Marbled Paper

I ordered our Suminagashi kit from Amazon for about $16 and you can find it here: Marbling Kit, Japanese Suminagashi. I just checked and if you order today it’ll arrive before Christmas. You know, just in case.

The beautiful word, suminagashi, translates from Japanese to mean “spilled ink.” I love saying suminagashi, and hearing my kids try to say it is a-dorable. Suminagashi is traditionally done with Sumi Ink, which is oily. Since oil floats on top of water, guess what? So does the Sumi ink! The ink that comes in this kit is non-toxic and “made by high-grade cosmetic pigment with P.V.A via a special process.” Loosely translated from Japanese, I assume.

The kit is recommended for ages 6 and up, probably more for dexterity reasons than anything. Both of my children handled the dyes quite capably — my younger daughter with a little help — so I wouldn’t let the age thing stop you if that’s a concern.

Marbled Paper with Suminagashi

The process is fun and simple: Squeeze a little bit of color into a tray of water, swirl it around, drop a piece of paper on top, and you have a print.

Marbled Paper with Suminagashi

Marbled Paper with Suminagashi This is one of those projects that’s tough to stop at just one. Because each print is unique, it’s compelling to try multiple variations on the theme. This kept us active for a good hour, and when they were dry my 4-year old turned these into holiday cards for her fantastic teachers.

More Suminagashi around the web

If you’re interested in another version of this experience, we did some marbling experiments  a couple years ago with spectacular results: Marbleized Paper with oil and liquid watercolors.

Inner Child Fun shows how to make gorgeous concentric circles — I wish we had tried this ourselves. Next time!

The History of Suminagashi

Oder this book, How to Marbleize Paper if you’re interested in learning how to make 12 traditional marbleized patterns

**Note: I am an Amazon affiliate, but I only share links to products that I adore and/or think you’ll find useful**

Make Your Own Birthday Cake

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.


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.


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!