Engineering for Kids | Fort Building Kit

Fort Magic Kit Review

This post is sponsored by Fort Magic. Read all the way to the end for a special offer!

Do you have a child who likes to build forts? Have you heard of Fort Magic, the fort building kit for kids? 

We were first introduced to this super-fun engineering kit for kids over a year ago, and our fort-building is still going strong. You can read our original review of Fort Magic here. Since we first built that submarine, our kit caught the eye of our neighborhood friends and by some miracle it made it back to our house!

Engineering for Kid: Super Fun Fort Building Kit

So what is Fort Magic?

Fort Magic is an innovative fort building and construction toy that enables children to build 3D, kid-created, “life-size” worlds for inventive play!

The kit includes 382 poles and connectors that can be assembled to build forts of all kinds. To keep the pieces tidy when they’re not being used, they come in a handy mesh bag that has extra room and an easy-to-close velcro top. If your child enjoys Legos, there’s a good chance that this fort building kit would appeal to them.

The kit also comes with a small instruction manual that shows you how to easily assemble things like a boat or tent. 5-year old Nutmeg enjoyed the process of following the instructions to figure out how the pieces could connect. I love that she could do this on her own.

How we played with Fort Magic

To tell the truth, we actually started with a small argument. Rainbow wanted to build a Princess castle and Nutmeg wanted to build a tall rectangular structure. What to do?

We compromised and built a short rectangular structure with some arches.

And they were both genuinely thrilled.

Engineering for Kid: Super Fun Fort Building Kit

Every now and then the girls would stop and look carefully at the instructions for guidance.

Fort Magic Kit Review

Fort Magic Instructions

And while we started with the instructions, my kids quickly figured out how to manipulate the pieces in their own way. 3-year old Rainbow took it upon herself to decorate the edges with curved pipes. She was very serious about this business. And 5-year old Nutmeg devised a plan to add arches to the top.

Fort Magic Kit Review

Before you knew it, the whole thing went up. My kids put most of the bottom together on their own, with Nutmeg guiding her sister along. She turned out to be a very strong leader, and I relished the collaboration and teamwork that went on between the two of them.

I was responsible for the top level, and covering it all with sheets.

The kit doesn’t come with fabric, so you’ll want to have a few extras set aside for your fort building. We only had two spare sheets, but the kids didn’t seem to mind one bit.

After it was covered, Nutmeg added some more pieces to the front of the fort to make an entryway.

Fort Magic Kit Review

Once it was all set up, it proved to be the perfect place to snuggle in and watch a movie.

Fort Magic Kit Review

What you should know about Fort Magic

  • The kit comes with instructions to make things like a submarine, castle, tent, boat, and car.
  • The pieces come in an easy-to-close, durable bag.
  • Children can assemble forts themselves, but may need some adult help with tall forts and securing sheets to the fort with fabric clips (clips are included).
  • Sheets are not included, so be sure to have a selection of sheets handy. But stay posted because Fort Magic lets us know that fabric covers are coming soon! The kit does include a ton of clips for securing your fabric to the pipes.
  • The forts will take over your room, but it’s worth it for the problem-solving, teamwork, and hours of fun involved.

Fort Magic imagination toy

What people say about Fort Magic

We really love this toy, if you’re still wondering if it’s for you, take a look at all these reviews to get your questions answered.

Where can you buy this Fort Building Kit?

Fort Magic can be purchased right here.

Giveaway!!

We’re excited to share that we will be giving away one Fort Magic Kit, valued at $199 to one of our lucky newsletter subscribers in our next newsletter. If you’re not already a subscriber, click over here and sign up today.

Nature Silhouettes

Sarah Olmsted Headshot

Today’s post is brought to you by Tinkerlab sponsor, Imagine Childhood. I first met Sarah Olmsted, founder of Imagine Childhood, when we  I interviewed her about her book by the same name.  Sarah also has an inspiring shop that outfits children and families for creative adventures. I’m a huge fan of the child-and-earth-friendly supplies that she carries in her shop, and excited to bring you a little piece of  Imagine Childhood magic today.

Read on for more details about a generous discount and a fantastic giveaway opportunity!

Welcome, Sarah!

Nature Silhouettes on Tinkerlab

It can be a challenge sometimes to find a last minute activity for those days when the weather just isn’t cooperating.  From snow and ice to wind and rain, some days, no matter how much of a diehard nature enthusiast you are your only option is indoors.

This simple and fun nature silhouette activity is the perfect fit for just those moments and a great holiday gift idea to boot!

Nature Silhouettes by Imagine Childhood

What you need:

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Paint
  • Tape (optional)
  • Nature guides (books or websites), house plants, and/or photos from sunny days gone by
  • Frames (optional)

Nature Silhouettes by Imagine Childhood

How to:

  1. Trace: Grab your preferred nature study materials and let the kids pick out their favorite plants and animals. Trace the outlines lightly with a pencil.  If you are doing this from a book, thin paper and dark images with a lot of contrast work best.  If you’re using photographs or images printed from the internet, tape them a window with your paper on top and use the sun to illuminate the images for easy tracing.
  2. House plant option: If you have plants in your house, try placing them in front of a light source and tracing their shadows.
  3. Paint: Once you have your outlines or silhouettes, have fun painting them in.  You could put one silhouette per page, or you could make a composition from a few of them.
  4. Discuss: While the kids are painting, share interesting facts about their plant or animal with them, or maybe even join in on the creative fun!

Nature Silhouettes by Imagine Childhood

Gift Giving Options:

Simple and lovely, these silhouettes look great in a frame or on a postcard blank like this.  If you want to make a particularly special gift I would even opt for a colorful mat inside the frame in a cameo shape to really set off the artwork.

Nature Silhouettes by Imagine Childhood

A Gift For You Too!

Now that you have gifts for your friends and family, we’d like to give a gift to you from Imagine Childhood (total value is $150)!

Today’s giveaway includes:

To enter this generous giveaway, please leave a comment in this post by Wednesday, December 11. The giveaway is open to all readers world-wide. Winner will be chosen by random number generator, and notified shortly after the close of this contest.

One more thing!

Sarah is also offering Tinkerlab readers 10% off all purchases in the Imagine Childhood Shop, with the discount code Tinkerlab, valid through 12/11/13.


Sarah Olmsted HeadshotSarah Olmsted. A former exhibition designer for the Field Museum of Natural History, Sarah is the co-founder of imaginechildhood.comand author of IMAGINE CHILDHOOD: Exploring the World Through Nature, Imagination, and Play.  Keep up with Sarah on her blog, or via Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.


Is this your first time here? Join the Tinkerlab network and be the first to know about giveaways like this, easy art + science projects for kids, creativity tips, and simple ideas that will make your life more creative. Sign up for our newsletter here.

 

Creative Table: Leaves and Glue

Creative Table with Leaves and Glue

This post is sponsored by New York Life. One way to pass along good is through Life Lessons: Simple but important truths that guide our everyday actions.


In an effort to help you minimize holiday stress, through the end of the year, we’ll share some of our favorite, simple Creative Table invitations. Today’s set-up was inspired by a parent-led project at my daughter’s preschool.

Two of the things that I adore about today’s creative table are that it’s low-cost and seasonal for Autumn, when fallen leaves are abundant.

The Benefits of “Leaves and Glue”

This activity will help children…

  • develop fine-motor skills
  • learn to work independently
  • build creative confidence through experimentation
  • Encourage creative thinking
  • build an eye for aesthetics by developing a composition
  • develop a broader understanding of upcycling materials (i.e. leaves) as art supplies

Creative Table with Leaves and Glue

Creative Table Supplies: Leaves and Glue

  1. Leaves
  2. Chip board or card board
  3. A sturdy paintbrush
  4. Shallow bowl or plate filled with glue

leaves and glue on paper

Step One: Clear Your Table

Remove any distractions that will take your child’s focus away from the creative invitation. Create a set-up that looks something like our photo (above).

Arrange the leaves artfully to make this appeal to your child’s aesthetic sensibility.

Once the table is “set,” ask your child if he or she would like to use/explore/experiment with these supplies.

leaves and glue painting

Challenges and Critical Thinking

One of the exciting challenges in this prompt relates to gluing down bumpy, twisted, and generally non-compliant leaves. If your child is frustrated by the non-flat quality of your leaves, or has difficulty gluing them down, this is an opportunity to tease out solutions. You could say something like, “Hmmm, I see you’re having trouble attaching the leaf to the paper. What could we do to help it stick better?” From that, ideas such as “add more glue” or “turn the leaf over” might emerge.

Variations:

  • Replace leaves with paper cut into leaf shapes, circles, rectangles, etc.
  • Tint the glue with a little bit of food coloring or liquid watercolors
  • Before you set up the invitation, go on a leaf hunt together to collect your materials

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Be sure to subscribe to our useful and fun newsletter if you’d like the inside scoop on more ideas like this, giveaways, exclusive contests, and more.


This post is sponsored by New York Life. One way we pass along good is through Life Lessons: Simple but important truths that guide our everyday actions. You can see all the Life Lessons here and even share one of your own. This short video celebrates the spirit of passing down hobbies through generations.

Summer Camp for Little Innovators: Camp Galileo

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Are you thinking about summer camp yet? If you’re super-organized, you may already have a plan in place. And if not, there’s still time! We’re not planning on summer camp this year, but if I was this is where I’d begin…

When I was out for dinner the other night I spotted this awesome poster for Camp Galileo.

Camp Galileo

I don’t know about you, but this is not the summer camp of my childhood!

Power Tools. Innovating. What??

Here’s a snapshot of my summer camp memories: Peeling glue off of my hands all afternoon while drinking gallons of fruit punch that came from a jug of pink powder mixed with water. Hmmm.

Okay, so let me start by saying that Camp Galileo is a San Francisco Bay Area camp. If you’re local, this post is for you. And, there’s a whopping discount code at the end of this post.

If you’re not local, you might still be interested because I bet there’s something similar in your neck of the woods.

camp galileo

In Camp Galileo’s words, this is what children get out of their camps:

They learn how to fail. Not in a humiliating or dispiriting way. But in a self-assured way, that helps turn them into hardy, risk-taking creators and problem-solvers.

I love that!

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A camp with a focus on innovation, collaboration, and imagination

Here’s how Camp Galileo describes their programs…

Galileo’s mission is to create a world of fearless innovators. We think kids who learn to explore and fail without fear—the essence of innovation—are happier, more creative and more confident when faced with life’s challenges. Drawing from the innovation process developed by the Stanford d.school, Galileo runs an evolving series of imagination-sparking programs for kids from pre-K through 8th grade.

In pre-K, campers may build a crude xylophone or design a lion mask. By 8th grade, they may program their own video game, design their own fashion line, or breathe life into some creation entirely of their own invention.

The Details

  • Location: Camp Galileo has locations all over the Bay Area
  • Ages: The program is for children in grades pre-K-8. 
  • Promo Code (yes, you can save money on this rad camp!): From now until May 31st, Galileo is offering $25 off your camp registration fee with the code, 2013INNOVATE.
  • Register for Galileo today. And then rest easy knowing that you can check this task off your to-do list.

A question for you…

What’s the most surprising this you remember about summer camp? And are you registering your child for a camp this summer?


I only share content that I love and/or think you’ll find useful. Thanks to Galileo for sponsoring today’s discussion.

Give the Gift of Art

cooks in the kitchen curated by tinkerlab from art.com

Do you do your holiday shopping online or offline?

I love shopping in little boutiques and arts and crafts fairs, but life with little ones means that I’m generally happiest shopping in my PJ’s, away from the crowds, while dropping items in the virtual shopping carts of some of my favorite online shops.

My Art.com Gift Guide

Have you ever given or received the gift of art? Just last week I opened my mailbox to find a surprise care package of art from my bestie in L.A. My heart fluttered and I hung it up right away. One of the best things about the gift of art is that it can come straight from the heart.

Maybe you’d love to give art as a gift, but you don’t know where to shop, or maybe you’re like me and you don’t have endless hours to putter around artist studios. To help you out, I put together seven Art.com Gift Guides as a bit of inspiration. If you see something here that you like, click over to my Gift Guide Galleries, place your order, and your art will arrive in time for the holidays. You could also visit Art.com and browse their ginormous selection of prints. I own a few pieces from Art.com and can vouch for the fast shipping and high quality of the prints and frames.

Bonus: Get 20% off if you place an order now through November 29, 2012 with the code: NJWQ87

Happy Go Lightly

for some extra whimsy and playfulness

happy go lightly curated by tinkerlab from art.com

Cooks in the Kitchen

for chefs and people who love to spend time in the kitchen.

cooks in the kitchen curated by tinkerlab from art.com

Oh so modern

for the streamlined, geometric home. That might be an Eichler.

oh so modern curated by tinkerlab from art.com

Wee Little Ones

for the nursery or new babies.

wee little ones collage curated by tinkerlab from art.com

For the Girls

for girly girls and tough girls — they’ve got you covered.

for the girls curated by tinkerlab from art.com

For the Boys

is for car lovers, robot, and pirates.

for the boys curated by tinkerlab from art.com

Film Buff

for the popcorn-eating, Academy Awards-watching connoisseur.

film buff collage curated by tinkerlab from art.com

This post is sponsored by Art.com.

 

Discover the Art You Love

art.com

This post is sponsored by art.com.

art.com favorite artDo you love the art on your walls?

There’s not one thing on my walls that I don’t love for one reason or another, and I’m a huge advocate of filling our homes with the things that make us happy, move us spiritually, or make us think.

We have this dark, little hallway that was begging for something at the end of it. I had all sorts of ideas, but ultimately needed a place to store a collection of favorite family photos and small pieces of art. After pulling a sea of black frames together, I now have a happy collection that includes my smiling grandparents, mother-in-law as a 2-year-old, and my faraway niece and nephew mixed in with art that I love.

Art has this power to transport us to another time or place, make us smile, change a mood, or get us back on track.

I’ll give you some examples from my hallway gallery…

art.com favorite art

An artist gave me this piece because I loved it so much. Gave. It. To. Me. Artists are like that.

The wash line and tile roofs in this sweet watercolor garden scene remind me of where I grew up and of the first neighborhood my husband and I dug our heels into in Silver Lake (Los Angeles), which, by the way, was just named America’s Hippest Hipster Neighborhood in Forbes. It’s a cool spot of interestingness that I miss terribly. The Mission in SF and Williamsburg in Brooklyn came in next, in case you’re wondering.

art.com favorite art

I found this funny piece by  Jose Pulido on Etsy, and immediately fell in love with these little devils in a battle between good and evil. The skeleton, or Calavera, imagery is everywhere here in California, and this piece makes me think of my mom whose home is filled with Mexican art.

It also reminds me of my roots in printmaking. It’s an original print. See the 11/100 on the left? That means that this was the 11th print he pulled in a series of 100. And after that, there will be no more prints. Some artists scratch the plate out once the last print has been pulled, but I have never been able to bring myself to do that.

art.com favorite art

I found this upcycled art book at a gallery in Crockett, CA, right around the corner from my sister’s college. The artist turned old library cards into small, nostalgic paintings. The way she artfully repurposed these antiquated cards remind me of my own desire to upcycle and repurpose whenever I can. This piece is not an original, but it really doesn’t matter because I love looking at it.

If you’re rounding out a developing collection of art or just starting out, consider visiting Art.com for its huge selection of images. I’m actually floored by all the thing you can find there.

One of my favorite ways to search art.com is by subject. I happen to adore maps and after a couple clicks I landed on 100′s of city maps. Not exactly what you’d expect from art.com, right? I’m eyeing that Los Angeles map up there (no big surprise, right?). In case you’re wondering where Silverlake is located, you can spot it just above the “S” in Los Angeles.

 

Working with Art.com to help them launch their new site has been such a joy for me. The quantity and diversity of the images on their site is mind-boggling, and having yet another excuse to share my art with you has been fun.

If you’d like to see more of the art in my home, visit these pages:

 

How we fill our home with art, Part 1 and Part 2

Are you surrounded by art that you love? You’re invited to share an image in a comment, along with a story about why you love it

The Artful Year: Autumn, A New eBook from Jean Van’t Hul

Autumn Fall ebook

My friend Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent releases her gorgeous new eBook today, The Artful Year: Autumn, the first of a new series of seasonal eBooks under The Artful Parent brand. If you don’t already follow her blog, it’s one of my favorites, and one of the reasons I’m blogging today.

Autumn Fall ebook

I had the pleasure of taking a sneak peek at the results of her hard work, and I can honestly say that if you enjoy celebrating the seasons with your family, you’ll be inspired by every last bit of this book.

As you know, I’m a super hands-on, crafty parent, and this book is filled with lots of new-to-me ideas that are getting me excited to whip out a batch of pumpkin pie spice mix (recipe included in the book) and make a batch of Jack-O’-Lantern Playdough (recipe included for this as well). Um, our playdough smells like candy canes, so we’re definitely in need of a seasonal facelift.

The 78-page book includes 17 Autumn Leaf Crafts, 15 Halloween crafts, 7 Autumn Recipes, and 5 Thanksgiving Projects. It’s full of clear, beautiful photographs and the instructions for each of the projects are easy to understand and well-researched.

Here’s a quick visual tour of some of the autumn goodness…

Plaster Leaf Casts

Coffee Filter Spiderwebs. Just like snowflakes — this is genius!

Apple-Cheddar Hand Pies. I’m a fan of apple pie, and have always wanted to make one with cheddar cheese — super excited about this one. Not to mention the on-the-go, individual quality of hand pies. Love this!

And one of my “art vs. craft” favorites: Not-a-hand Turkeys, where Jean gives some tips on how to draw a turkey from observation, moving children away from the rote hand turkeys we’ve all made.

More of the crafts, decorations, and recipes that you’ll find inside:

  • Yarn spider webs
  • Thankful stones
  • Painted paper leaves
  • Fall Scavenger Hunt
  • Cardboard haunted houses
  • Felt Bat Garland (we made these last year)
  • Pumpkin-oat scones

The book is beautifully organized, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do. If you’d like to order your own copy for just $9.99, click here to visit Jean Vant Hul. Just think, if you did each of the the 40+ activities in this book, that’s just 25 cents/project.

Happy almost-Fall!


Tinkerlab shares affiliate links for products we adore and/or think you’ll find useful. If you purchase through those links we’ll receive a small percentage of the sale, which help keep our inspiration-engine running. Thanks for your support!

How We Fill Our Home With Art {Part One}

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This post is sponsored by Art.com. Love your space more. This is the first of two posts on how I fill my space with art.

I love having art in my home. How about you?

Milestone pieces by my children, brilliant bursts of creativity from my artsy friends, and carefully selected pieces by inspiring artists energize me as I move through my day.

My home is filled a mix of my family’s art, art by my friends, and purchased pieces, but I do have the personal challenge of fitting all the things I love into our small cottage. To keep our space light, I try to limit what I show, group small pieces together, and only display what I love. I’m attracted to work that’s upcycled, illustrative, graffiti-covered, and kid-made. Where does your art come from? And what inspires your choices?

When I choose pieces for my walls, I try to answer two questions:  Do I love it? How does it balance or effect the room? If I answer “yes” to the first question, then I look around the house for the best place to display it.

I don’t show the “background” of my home here very often, and look forward to taking you on a little tour of my art-filled spaces. Today I’ll start with some of living areas. If you like what you see, be sure to come back tomorrow for more.

First, the kids’ art area. This table has moved around the house numerous times, but I really like it in its current spot. There are two kid-made pieces above the table: a watercolor painting by my older daughter and the first drawing made by my younger daughter. The frames are from IKEA — high quality and very easy to use.

rex ray collage in my home

Next to the kids’ art table is my newest piece, a print of a Rex Ray collage, Agua Fresca, from Art.com. Art.com has an amazing collection of traditional and contemporary art, and I was thrilled to discover that they have multiple choices by Rex Ray, one of my favorite local artists.

I usually prefer owning original works of art because I like to see the brush strokes and rawness of real art, but Rex Ray is waaaaaay out of my budget and this print enables me to bring a favorite artist into my home. It also looks great and Art.com did an amazing job framing it and shipping it without a scratch. I chose the frame to compliment the previous two, and they tie together beautifully.

Below the Rex Ray is one of our recycled textile trees by San Francisco artist, Suzanne Husky. I own three of them (how could I stop at one?), and I’m inspired by their resourcefulness and whimsy. Click on this installation of Suzanne’s these trees at the de Young Museum.

graffiti painting san jose artists

Across from the art table is this grafitti-inspired mixed media painting is by my friends Gwen and Joey ReyesI worked with Gwen at the San Jose Museum of Art, and her work reminds me of Los Angeles, my childhood home.

My girls make a lot of art in preschool, and the school smartly sells these useful frames that have a slot in the back that can hold up to ten paintings. I like the raw wood, but I’m thinking about painting the frames white or staining them. What do you think?

rex ray print

Across from the preschool frames are these two pieces: I made the collage on top and beneath it is a Rex Ray stretched canvas print, Acapulco One, from Art.com. (I love this mid-century chair, but it’s desperate for new upholstery — any suggestions?).

That’s it for today. Come back tomorrow for a peek into my bedroom: How We Fill Our Home With Art {Part Two}

What’s on the walls of your home? Do you have trouble picking pieces or does it come naturally to you?

This post is sponsored by Art.com, but all opinions are my own.

Kiwi Crate Summer of Giving {St. Jude}

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This post is for all the parents who struggle to set up enriching hands-on projects for their kids, grandparents on the search for a unique gift for their grandkids, and anyone who wants to donate hands-on fun to children with pediatric diseases.

 

For one week only, Tinkerlab is teaming up with the hands-on project company, Kiwi Crate, and eleven kid-friendly blogs to give you the opportunity to sign up for a Kiwi Crate subscription while also helping a child in need. For every crate subscription purchased through my link this week (June 16 – 22, 2012), Kiwi Crate will donate a crate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 

How awesome is that?

Why St. Jude? St. Jude is a non-profit that puts saving the lives of children at its core. With our support, St. Jude can provide families with everything they need to get them through hard times as their children face the unthinkable. One of the most amazing things about St. Jude is that they freely share the research and learning in their hospitals to help save the lives of children around the world.

Summer of Giving

This summer, Kiwi Crate is committed to giving back to the community by reaching out to children who might not normally have access to fun and enriching crafts and activities. So they reached out to me and a few of their favorite bloggers and charities to launch the Summer of Giving.

During this program, for each new subscription ordered, Kiwi Crate will donate one crate full of arts, crafts, and science activities to St. Jude.

Kiwi Crate is a suscription service that delivers a beautifully packaged thematic crate of hands-on projects to your home each month.  In each box are 2-3 carefully designed and kid-tested projects, which cover a range of developmental areas and subjects, including art, science, and imaginative play.  All the materials and inspiration to encourage creativity and curiosity are included – you just supply the kid!

The materials are high quality, the learning packets are painstakingly assembled, and every review I’ve read about Kiwi Crate (including my own) has been outstanding.

Our goal is to donate 100 crates to St. Judes. Will you help us? If you’ve ever wanted to try out Kiwi Crate, now is a great time to give it a spin. YOU get a crate and a child who’s facing a terrible illness gets a crate too. Win – Win.

To learn more about the Summer of Giving or to donate a crate, please connect to Kiwi Crate here. You can also make a donation to St. Jude with the Donation Code: STJUDE

Kid-friendly blogs that are participating in this week’s Summer of Giving:

Creative Family Fun  .  Edventures With Kids  .  Famiglia and Seoul   .  Glittering Muffins  .  Make Do and Friend  .  Mama Smiles  .  Plain Vanilla Mom  .  Playdough to Plato  .  The Golden Gleam  .  The Good Long Road  .  Tinkerlab  .  Train Up a Child

Note: I’ve been an advisor to Kiwi Crate since May 2011, but I have not been compensated for this post. 

 

We Are Art {Art.com Has a New Look}

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I’m excited to share that I have a brand new partnership with the popular art-shopping- hub-o-the-web, Art.com.

we are art

Art.com *just* launched a radically new website designed to offer easy access to the world’s largest selection of handpicked art images.  If you’ve ever been to the site before, definitely pay it another visit — it’s a whole new experience. Very cool, lovely eye candy, and easy to use.

Isn’t this cute? You can find it, and other preschool-related happiness, in the preschool category on their site.

This new Art.com is filled with original content featuring art and design inspiration, curated collections by designers and tastemakers, social and sharing features and great new tools to help people find the art they love so they can love their space more.

What kind of art do you like? We all have different tastes in art, and mine leans toward whimsy, irreverence, and abstraction. 

The old Art.com site was a great spot to find the traditional art (still is!), so I was delighted to find some quirky surprises like this knee-high wearing deer.  Isn’t he funny?

I started a public gallery on the site called Happy Go Lightly where you can see more of my whimsical curated picks, including those I’m featuring here .

I was invited to choose one piece of art from the collection for my home, and the decision was so hard. Our house is tiny and most of our walls are already full of art, but there’s one spot in our dining area that is begging for something fresh. When I found a whole series of mixed media collage prints by San Francisco artist, Rex Ray, I knew I had to choose one for this spot.

I first fell in love with Ray’s work at Michael Martin Gallery in San Francisco and have since seen it all over town at The Slanted Door restaurant in the Ferry Building, Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park, and Gallery 16. What attracts me to Ray’s work is his use of layered paint, textures, and color.

The room is currently swimming in blues and greens, and I think this will bring it all together.

All this talk about hanging art reminds me that I have a Pinterest board called “I Heart Art.” If your taste aligns at all with mine, you’ll probably dig some of my selections over there too. Art.com put this great video together that you’ll want to watch.

What kind of art do you love? Is there a spot in your home that’s begging for a piece of art? Where is it?

 

Camp Sunny Patch Honor Counselor

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Hey friends…Guess what? I’ve been asked to partner with the well-loved toy company, Melissa & Doug, as an Honor Counselor during their virtual summer camp, Camp Sunny Patch. How fun! I’m a fan of M&D and I get to put my camp counselor skills to work (no surprise that I was once a camp counselor, is there?).

Does Melissa and Doug play as big role in your home as it does in mine? In our little corner of the world, we love Melissa & Doug for their wooden play food, numerous wooden puzzlesWooden Take Along Tool Kitstamp sets, and sticker books. Soooo, I’m obviously delighted to have the chance to bring this super-duper company in front of you, my readers.

How Camp Sunny Patch Works…

At the beginning of each summer month (June, July, and August) Melissa & Doug will post a calendar of easy-to-implement activities that you can do in your own home or backyard. Here’s the June calendar that’s already underway. If you save corks or know someone who does, this week’s Camp Counselor Allie from No Time for Flashcards is leading us in a cuddly animal-cork craft. You can follow the complete Camp Sunny Patch Guide here.

To participate in any of the activities, you can easily download and print the month’s calendar and your child can earn badges for completing each project. The projects range from crafts to high energy play, they don’t require a lot of materials, and they aren’t difficult to implement. You can download weekly play activities, camp badges, and more at blog.melissaanddoug.com.  It’s summer camp, but without all the extra costs and it’s right in your own home or backyard.

If you’re a fan of Melissa and Doug products and you don’t want to miss out on the latest M&D news, you can also sign up for their newsletter.

Keep your eyes open for some summer camp fun from me in the next few weeks.

Note: Tinkerlab is compensated for participating in the Camp Sunny Patch program. All ideas and opinions in this post are my own. Thanks for understanding that this helps keep this blog running!

How Climbing Trees Builds Creative Thinking

tree climbing.023

Have you ever climbed a tree? Do your kids like climbing trees?

This has never been high on my list, even back in the nursery school days, but my 3 year old N has climbing in her soul and will climb just about anything: rock climbing walls, trees, jungle gyms, furniture, fences, etc. She seems to gravitate especially to trees that offer a challenging climb, and I like it because it gets us out into the fresh air and builds strong minds and bodies.

I love good ol’ fashioned play like this, and thought we could all use a visual reminder of how important free-range outdoor play is for kids.

outdoor play kids

The spirit of play is at the heart of imagination, creativity, and innovation. In playful environments, we’re prone to divergent thinking (generating numerous ideas about a topic) and are more inclined to push the limits of what’s possible into the impossible.

Climbing trees may not seem like highly cognitive work, but let’s take a look at what might be involved…

tree climbing kids

First of all, you have to map your idea (a will to climb a tree) with your reality (how will you climb that tree?). And then you have to send signals from your mind to your body to problem solve the execution. Our neighbor’s poor flowers were pelted by too many little climbers who have deemed this the most climbable neighborhood tree, so you might also have to navigate around the mini-flower-shielding fence that’s now in your way.

You might have to make room for a friend, which can build emotional intelligence and help develop spatial reasoning.

You might not yet be ready to climb a tree, but you’re building your confidence by climbing things that are within the zone of proximal development. Go you!

tree climbing kid

And when you reach that branch that always eluded you, the feeling of pride is beyond belief. You’ve accomplished something that only you could accomplish. You’ve tested your strength and your limits, and proven to yourself that you can achieve what you set your mind to.

I always watch my children closely and offer a lot of support when they first take on new physical challenges, but since my goal is to empower them I will step back once I get the cue that they’re comfortable without my assistance. I was talking with a friend today about free-range parenting (maybe you’ve heard of this movement?) and I follow this parenting philosophy to a great extent. I’m very involved in my childrens’ lives and everyday experiences, offer them a great deal of compassion and emotional support, but I’m raising them to be confident, independent thinkers who can make decisions for themselves without a lot of supervision.


I’ve partnered withGoGo squeeZ, the first squeezable, re-sealable, no-mess, 100% fruit, no-sugar added apple­sauce based snack for kids in the U.S, as a Playbassador, which means that I have more reasons to share fun outdoor activities that celebrate play and creativity. All opinions in this post are my own.

GoGo squeeZ believes in the simple mantra of “always play” and is putting this belief to work through the “Pass the Play” campaign with the goal of bringing the simple joy of play to those who need it most across the country.