Art in the Park

Can you imagine my excitement when the folks at Elmer’s Glue asked if I’d like to participate as a blogger in their summer Kid’s Craft Camp promotion? Of course I was thrilled that they offered me a humongous crate of wonderful art supplies (featured in this post), but mostly I was thinking about how on earth I could pull off setting up an art “camp” with my three year old AND 10-month old. The crazy thing is that I’m actually a seasoned art camp teacher and spent many hot summers leading hundreds of kids in art activities at the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena. But I’d never attempted this with my own kids…who nap and need diaper changes and whine. You get the picture. But I invited a handful of forgiving friends and it all turned out great! I survived, and if you have any thoughts about setting up your own “Art in the Park,” I’m happy to say that it can be done.

One more thing in case you missed the headline…this is also a BIG giveaway! Details below :)

Project #1: Firework Book Bags

One of the materials that came in the crate were these ginormous double-sided permanent markers called Project Popperz. The children I invited were pretty young, and permanent markers are way far down on my list of desirable materials for this age. However, I recently saw this project on Mom’s Crafty Space and knew we had to try it. And I’m so glad we did — it was fun, a cool science experiment, and the results were stunning. **Note: This project includes permanent markers and rubbing alcohol and should be done with adult supervision.


  • Project Popperz permanent markers
  • Canvas Bag or other light colored fabric (a t-shirt a dress shirt would work nicely)
  • Board to put inside the bag to keep the markers from bleeding through. We used these Elmer’s Bi-fold boards and they worked perfectly.
  • Rubbing Alcohol 70%
  • Eye dropper

Step #1. Invite some friends to join you.

Step #2. Draw anything you like directly onto the bag. If you want yours to look like the fireworks you see up there, try making circles of dots like those that N is making.

Step #3. Once you have a design that you’re happy with, squeeze some rubbing alcohol into the eye dropper and then squeeze it out right in the middle of the circle. Watch the markers bleed and ooh and ahh at the results. Lovely.

Step #4. Admire your work! Our friend, E, not only made a firework, but she worked on her letters too. Oh, how I love children’s drawings.

Steve Spangler Science shares more about the science of how this works.

Project #2: Sand Paintings

While Elmer’s didn’t send me any of their famous school glue (why, I don’t know — isn’t that what they’re best known for?!), I really wanted to use this stuff. Kids love squeezing the bottles and I knew it would make them all so happy. And since we were at the park, I also wanted to include some sand in a project. At first I envisioned that the kids could just hunker down right in the sandbox to make these, but the artsy side of me opted to color the sand ahead of time. Here’s how we did it…


    • Colored Sand. Scoop some dry sand into a bowl and squeeze in a healthy amount of liquid watercolors or food coloring. Mix it up until the sand is covered and then spread it out on a paper plate to dry. I let ours dry overnight. Pour it back into the bowls.
    • White Elmer’s Washable School Glue in bottles
    • Colored Card Stock or Sulphite Construction Paper (what we used here — I love this paper. The colors pop and the weight is like construction paper).

Step #1. Squeeze glue into a design on the paper. Encourage children to squeeze it thinly (rather than in one huge pile) to help it dry more quickly. If they just want to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, I say let them do that instead. It should be all about the process.

Step #2. Sprinkle a handful of colored sand on the glue. Repeat until done.
They all come out completely different, just like the kids who make them.



One lucky friend of TinkerLab will receive one adult and two kid craft kits, which amounts to a whole lot of art supplies! Kits include X-Acto scissors, Craft Gel pens, Painters pens, glue sticks, Craft Bond tape, Project Popperz, Bi-Fold Bords, etc. (Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of all the materials that will be included, but it’s more than what you see here!). Packaging will also differ.

To enter

  • Leave a comment here
  • Extra entry: Leave a comment on my Facebook Page
  • Extra entry: Tweet about it. Tag me, tinkerlabtweets, so that I can see it :)
  • Shipping address must be in the U.S. (sorry to all my International friends)
Submissions accepted until 5 pm PST on Friday, Sunday, July 31. Winner will be chosen by Random Number Generator.

Good luck!!


Photo Documentary with Kids

Taking time to look closely at the details of life is a skill that comes naturally to many of us, and worth fostering in children who can run like the wind. When we pay attention to details, we develop a healthy curiosity of the world that surrounds us, make comparisons, and notice nuance. And all of these good things contribute to creative and critical thinking. If you’d like to help your child sloooow down, pay attention to details, and smell the flowers (literally!), you could try this fun and interactive photo documentary activity. Your child could take all of the photos or direct an adult to, as mine did!
A few nights ago, the girls and I walked around the neighborhood just before bedtime while my husband cleaned up the kitchen. Lucky me, right?! N, my oldest, truly stops to smell the flowers (it’s a skill we’ve been working on!) and collected all sorts of treasures along the way. When we finally arrived home, we were welcomed by a joyful sidewalk chalk drawing. What a surprise! N and her dad talked about the ephemeral nature of the drawing and how it would probably be gone in the morning, a victim of the sprinklers. So, she asked my husband to take a picture of it….

She enthusiastically shared details with her dad about the walk-adventure we just took, and invited him to join her on a bike ride along the same route (a brilliant bedtime procrastination move if you ask me). And he bit!

So off they went. He brought the camera, and she asked him to take photos of things that she wanted to remember later on…

The first photo: Fuzzy Yellow Flowers

Rainbow Lantana. Did you know that Lantana is poisonous? I love this plant, but with a baby piranha in the house I recently pulled it all from my garden.

Pink Flamingos. What 3-year old wouldn’t stop to check these out?!

Garden Rocks

Green Bamboo

They circled the block and returned home. Happy, tired, and ready for bed!

How do you help your kids slow down and smell the flowers?

Do you have a favorite walk or bike ride ritual?

Painted Paper Mural

It’s summer, so just about everything we’re doing over here has taken us outside. And I also have a 10-month old who’s far happier outside than in, so I’m busy dreaming up all sorts of things that will keep my 3-year old entertained in the great outdoors. This project could also be easily set up inside — just add a drop cloth to protect your floors!

This would be a fun project for a birthday or block party — with more kids involved the enthusiasm would be sure to build!


  • Fence or Wall
  • Large Sheets or Rolls of Paper
  • Bowls filled with Paint. I used Tempera Paint
  • Paper Tape
  • Large Brushes

I taped sheets of paper to a fence, placed bowls of paint on the ground with some textured foam brushes, and my daughter took it from there.

I’ve noticed that N has been particular about keeping her paint colors separated! She kept each brush in its color, and that was that! This hasn’t always been the case; when N was younger she was more invested in mixing paint than applying it to paper.

Do your kids have a favorite way to paint?  

Mud Pie Kitchen Ideas

This is the third post post in our three-part series on How to Set up a Mud Pie Kitchen. In case you missed it:

Part 1. How to Set Up a Mud Pie Kitchen: How to test and conduct some basic need-finding to see how your child will use the kitchen before you invest in the location or supplies

Part 2. Shopping for Mud Pie Kitchen Accessories: Sourcing the op shop, thrift store, or second hand shop for all the supplies you’ll need. As an option, bring your child along and give him or her a budget to work with.

Mud Pie Kitchen Ideas

So, after testing out our basic mud pie kitchen and shopping for accessories, we had more mud pie kitchen ideas than we knew what to do with!

In case you’re just catching up with us, we’ve been building a mud pie kitchen in our yard. It began in part as a way to lure my child into our yard, but its popularity with our resident 3-year old has organically turned this into one of our summer’s bigger projects. And the biggest surprise is that it’s been almost entirely child-driven.

About a month ago we started with this. A couple crates, some sand toys, and lots of big ideas. Two weeks later the kitchen was still going strong, so we piled into the car to drive to the Goodwill to search for mud kitchen treasures. 

This is how it looked after our thrift store trip. But did you know that my daughter likes things in their places? I was aware that the hodge-podge pile of dishes and scoopers might eventually keep her away from the outdoor kitchen, so I pulled out a jar of nails for us to hammer in “hooks” for our pots and utensils.

What I didn’t anticipate is N’s interest in hammering the nails in HERSELF! But I should have. This child has three (3!!) wooden hammers and couldn’t scramble into the house fast enough to get one.

She hammered in a few nails, but really enjoyed directing me to hammer nails in specific places.

N’s friend came over and the two of them were so industrious in this new space. It was actually very difficult to turn off the caramel-maker and break up the party at closing time!

And now I think we’re done! I love the order that the hanging utensils brings to the kitchen.

See our Mud Pie Kitchen Series

How to Set Up a Mud Pie Kitchen

Shopping for Mud Pie Kitchen Accessories

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