Messy Art: Splat Paint Olympics

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?

Imaginative Play: Dress-up

Do your kids love dressing up? Mine do, and not a day goes by that they’re not in a bumblebee costume, waving around magic wands, or adorned with tiaras.  

I should say that I fall into the camp of allowing my kids to dress themselves, which does wonders for fueling their creativity, imagination, and independence. And it also means I have to be okay with the possibility of tutus on a farm or magic wands over brunch. I could draw the line, of course, but I don’t really see the harm in it as long as they’re safe and they’re not dressed as fairies at a wedding.

dressing up

Do you have a dress-up cabinet?

I’m a big fan of the dress-up closet, cabinet, or basket and recommend that you get one started if it’s not already in place in your home. We have a cabinet in the kids’ room that’s filled with 3 large bins. Everything gets dumped into the bins, which helps keep the room tidy at the end of the day.

What do you fill it with?

You can stock it with all kinds of things: Halloween costumes (look for these on sale right after the holiday), ballet costumes, your old jewelry/dresses/shirts/shoes, scrubs, aprons, headbands, etc.

My girls (22 months and 4-years) gravitate to fairy costumes, tutus, wings, insect costumes (bees + butterflies), tiaras, and wands.

My 4-year old is obsessed with outer space at the moment and flagged the astronaut costumes in the Chasing Fireflies catalog that just arrived in our mailbox (I’m not an affiliate…just a a fan who’s happy to pass the good word along).

tap shoes

I recently found these almost brand-new tap shoes at a second-hand store, and they’ve become a favorite of my toddler’s. She loves stomping around the house, testing them on different surfaces, and making a general rumpus.

dressing up imagination

If the dress-up supplies are easy for the kids to access, there’s a good chance that they’ll have them on at all parts of the day: play time, meals, trips to the farm, and gardening are just some of the times that my kids like to dress up.

And when they put their dress-up gear on, they’re transformed. They’ll fly like bees, twirl like ballerinas, and build an ER center with their doctor gear.

What are your kids’ favorite dress-clothes? And how do you organize them?


21 Ways to Get Creative

Do you consider yourself creative? Here’s a list of 21 ways to get creative, and you may be surprised to see that you’ve done at least one thing from this list today.

Think of these as creativity-boosters; things that you can do to get out of a brain-blocked rut. Think of how you came up with a solution to a problem while in the shower, or of traveling outside of your comfort zone and into a new state-of-mind.

This list is by no means conclusive, but if you’re like me, a too-long list just gets overwhelming. Take a look-see and add your own ideas for boosting creativity in a comment below.

21 ways to get creatiive

More Resources

The following articles inspired this post…

5 Ways to Spark your Creativity, Sarah Zielinsky for NPR

How to be Creative, Jonah Lehrer on the Wall Street Journal. Lehrer writes about the science of creativity, and shares a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago that shows when people drink alcohol they’re more creative. I originally included “drink a glass of wine” in this list to reflect this study, but since removed it since there are so many other ways to get creative.

29 Ways to Stay Creative by Ivan at Creative Bits. The format of Ivan’s awesome list inspired this one. Thanks for your brilliance!

Which of these have you already done today? And what would you add to this list?


How to Use a Sketchbook to Boost Creativity

Have you ever kept a sketchbook? Are you on the DPS (Double Page Spread) journey with me? Have you thought about joining, but you haven’t started yet?

When I introduced the DPS Challenge, I talked about the importance of starting a visual journal practice as a way to nurture your own creativity. But did you know that modeling habits of creative thinking such as experimentation, exploration of materials, problem solving, imagination, and a willingness to make mistakes is also one of the best ways to foster creativity and creative thinking in your child?

There are a number of ways to do this, and keeping a visual journal of your ideas is an easy way to begin.

drawing ideas sketchbook

by @Angelata, via Instagram

Are you blocked?

Are you on the fence? You really want to do this, but how on earth could you find the time? Maybe you’re waiting for the mood to strike, you have a fear of drawing, or you’re on the hunt for the perfect journal? I share these points because these are some of the things that have stopped me in the past: my day got off to a bad start, I slept in, I felt uninspired, or I had nothing to draw on. Wait until you see the last image of this post for a fun solution to that last problem.

I hope you won’t let these things stop you because this will only take a few moments of your day and the creative rewards…for you and your kids…are huge.

I should add that while I think I do a decent job in the drawing department, my three year old insists that her drawings are better than mine. And yours might too. Don’t let that stop you either.

happiness quotes

When I came across this quote, it reminded me of my commitment to myself to get right down to business and make something happen in my art journal on an almost daily basis.

It’s not always easy, that’s for sure. My kids demand a lot of me. My house will be a bloody mess unless I clean it. I never get enough sleep and could always use just a few extra minutes of rest. And this weekend, the weather was just too gorgeous to be tied down to a journal. But I can’t let these things stand in my way. They’re necessary, yes, but I search for pockets of time when my kids are playing independently, making art, or napping to jot down a quick sketch, collage, or visual reference to something I don’t want to forget.

by Nicky from Artful Genius

I thought I’d take a minute to share a variety of DPS entries to inspire you and further illuminate how motivating it can be to show up for something when there are others there to support your efforts.

Helen from Curly Birds drew this picture of her picking garden…the inspiration was found right in her backyard.

sketchbook drawing ideas

Please Grow Garden by Helen from Curly Birds

If you’ve been following my #tinkersketch journey on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll know that many of my DPS’s are imperfect, sketchy, and experimental. I’m not about perfection, but I do want to capture fleeting ideas and play with materials in a new way.

I love how Chelsey has taken on this challenge for herself and her daughter — in this example, they worked with similar materials (Cottonelle plastic bag) to create individually inspired pieces.

drawing ideas sketchbook

Mother + Daughter sketchbooks by Chelsey, @cmarashian at Instagram

The plan is to get the ideas out of your head and onto a page and create a visual record of experiences that you can refer back to at a later point. You may spend anywhere from three to twenty minutes (or more) on a DPS, and you shouldn’t worry about what the product will look like. This is about the process.

Melissa from The Chocolate Muffin Tree took a risk and used the huge collection of her daughter’s stickers to build this stunning mandala. No drawing necessary for those of you who don’t think you can draw!

sketchbook drawing ideas

by Melissa from The Chocolate Muffin Tree

And what happens in this process? Some of your ideas may be crap, but crummy ideas can lead to other ideas that are fantastic. If you have a fear of making crap, you’ll make nothing at all and lose the possibility of getting to the good stuff. Simple as that.

And finally, if you don’t have a sketchbook, that’s fine too. Many of us have cameras and smart phones that can document our ideas drawn on napkins, the backs of receipts, or even hands. Maya, from Meme Tales, and her daughter created these delightful mendhi designs on their hands and then uploaded them to Instagram with the hashtag #tinkersketch.

mendhi doodle

by Maya from Meme Tales

This week’s DPS prompts:

I’ll post prompts on my site at the beginning of each week. Some of you requested them, others did not. Feel free to use them if they work for you, or ignore them completely.

  • Manipulate paper bags: paint, tear, collage
  • Draw only with straight lines
  • Make a map of a childhood place from memory
  • Set a Timer: Make a 3-minute painting
  • Pick one object from nature and repeat it into a pattern
  • Write for five minutes. Circle all the words that stand out. Color them in.
  • Make a picture with tape + one other material
  • Take inspiration from a children’s book

Do you have ideas for prompts?

The more ideas, the better! I’d love to share them, so go ahead and add them in a comment or tweet them with the hashtag #sketchstarter


  • Facebook: Upload a photo of your DPS directly to the Tinkerlab Facebook page
  • Instagram: Upload a photo of your DPS with the hashtag #tinkersketch. My username is tinkerlab, in case you’d like to follow me
  • Google+: Upload your DPS photo to your own page. Tag me @rachelle doorley  and/or @tinkerlab. Add the hashtag #tinkersketch
  • Twitter: Add the hashtag #tinkersketch

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TinkerLab Newsletter

In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

Word Drawing Game

Do your kids like to draw? Do you ever play drawing games?

The other day my kids and I were cleaning out the garage. Well, really it was me while they loitered, moved things around, and made a lot of noise.

My 3-year old found an old, but never-before-opened game of a Cranium. She adores opening new packages and ran into the house for a pair of scissors.

Once the box was open and she was done exploring its contents, she asked if we could play. I love how open-minded and full of enthusiasm children can be.

If you look at the packaging I think it recommends this game for age 18 and older, so it wasn’t exactly age-appropriate, but we played a version that she enjoyed and I think it could work in some capacity for kids of all ages.

drawing games preschool

I searched through the deck of cards for something that she had some chance of drawing (and understanding). Which meant “no” on Devil’s Food Cake, Card Shark, and Wicked Witch of the East, and “yes” on Mermaids, Bubble Bath, and Potty (short for Potty Training).

My daughter can’t read yet, so this is how we played…

I pulled out a card and read it to her while she looked on (and maybe picked up on how letters form words). Then she drew it, to the best of her ability.

This part was the most fun for me, and in some cases frustrating for her. In the picture above, she was challenged to draw a mermaid and asked me if she could look at a picture of one. I pulled up a drawing of Disney’s Little Mermaid, she gave it her best effort, exclaimed that it looked nothing like a mermaid, and this exercise ended with, “it’s your turn.”

Then I drew one (a potty) while she guessed what I was drawing. Despite years of drawing classes, my drawing barely looked like a potty and it took her forever to make a correct guess. I think it helped her to see me struggle, showing that we can’t always create the things that our brains envision. At least I hope that’s what happened.

Back to her…she got to draw bubble bath…

drawing game preschool

Again, I was so curious to see how she would tackle this challenge. She chose a blue crayon….

drawing game preschool

Drew some water along the left side of the paper and bubbles on the right side. Ah, a bubble bath! We played a total of about 5 drawings before she was done.

If I were to do this again, I’d make my own cards with words of things that are in her drawing vocabulary: flowers, people, rockets, and rainbows. And I’d include a few things just outside of her drawing ability: house, bike, tree, bunny.

But venus flytraps and Hawaiian shirts may have to wait another 15 years.

More drawing games

Art Dice: A fun tool for creating randomly-created art. Also good for teaching shapes, colors, lines, etc.

Slide Drawing: A roll of paper and some crayons turn a slide into more than a downhill ride

Drawing Shadows: Play with sidewalk chalk on a sunny morning or afternoon

Organic Shape Monsters: You just need some string, a drawing tool, and a big imagination.

Hole inspiration: Draw around holes cut into a sheet of paper (The Artful Parent)

Challenge Drawings: Cut out shapes of paper and see what you can turn them into (The Artful Parent)

Pick and Draw Art Game: A deck of drawing cards reviewed by The Chocolate Muffin Tree

A simple way to learn how to Draw Circles from Lessons Learnt Journal

Stuck in a waiting room? Save this fun waiting room drawing idea (Mama Smiles)

Do you have a favorite drawing game or post about a drawing game?