New Year Resolutions | Goals for the New Year

I’ve come to realize that I begin every year with similar goals. How about you? Do you make resolutions? Here are mine for the year:

Four {Easy} New Year Resolutions

  1. Clear the Clutter  —  we live in a tiny house, and this actually happens multiple times each year
  2. Exercise  —  something I haven’t done in, ahem, years
  3. Make TinkerLab More Meaningful — we’re turning over a new leaf!
  4. Make Art  —  it’s been really hard to find time for this one

Goal #1: Clear the Clutter

One thing that makes our house feel super cramped are gobs of Christmas decorations. So, pretty soon after January 1 our tree and all the baubles come down, allowing me to breathe well again. With this fresh start, the girls and I spent some time going through their toy baskets. These are basically catch-all junk drawers for toys that don’t have a proper home.

We decided that they would each keep one basket full of toys, and the rest had to be thrown away or donated. They had a great time reacquainting themselves with long-lost objects of their desire, and were very good about letting things go that they no longer held near and dear.

Studio clean up | New Year Resolutions | Tinkerlab

And then, of course, clearing away some clutter gives us more room to enjoy the things we love most about our home…

Art Studio with Kids | Tinkerlab

Goal #2: Exercise

This is one area where I have been utterly pathetic. One of the things that’s held me back from exercising is making time to do it. My kids never enjoyed sitting in a jogging stroller for too long, streaming exercise videos never worked for me, and I had trouble finding a gym that my children enjoyed spending time in. But I finally found the right gym, managed to exercise for an entire hour yesterday (gasp!), and plan to get myself back in shape.

Goal #3: Make TinkerLab More Meaningful

Last year my blog sort of hibernated and changed focus so that I could focus energy on my book. Without totally neglecting my beautiful children. No small feat.

And this year, well, I hope to give my blog more love and attention. One thing that I’m wondering about, and maybe you can help me with this, is what my readers like about my posts and what they hope to get from blogs like mine. Do you come here to get activity ideas, creativity inspiration, sketchbook prompts, or are you just a curious about our little life in California?

If you have a moment (pretty please!) would you kindly fill out this really short survey? You can do this right here without even leaving our site!

Goal #4: Make Art

Do you make time for your art? I used to have a pretty solid art-making practice and part of me really misses it. I miss the hours of tinkering and experimenting with different media and testing new ideas. But my life is so busy with kids and it seems close to impossible to make time for painting or even sketching.

The other morning 3-year old Rainbow woke me up at the lovely hour of 3 am and I could not fall back to sleep. In a desperate move to make lemonade from lemons I pulled out my sketchbooks and had three glorious uninterrupted hours of art-making before everyone woke up.

Make Art | New Years Resolutions

While I was sorely tired that day, the good news is that this brought back so many good memories of the TinkerSketch challenge that we launched in the summer of 2012. In order to help me stick with my goal to make art, I’m thinking about bringing this back.

Any chance you’d like to join me by making just one piece of art every day? I’m putting some fun prompts together and hope to have them ready by February 1, 2014.  If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them.

What are your New Year Resolutions?

That’s it for now! What about you? What are your goals for 2014? Are you clearing the clutter or exercising more? Will you join me in the TinkerSketch Challenge?

More New Year Resolutions

Family Friendly Creative New Years Resolutions

Five Resolutions for a Creative New Year

The Year’s Best Art and Creativity Books for Kids

A New Year’s Resolution to Purge and be Entrepreneurial

Inspiration Tuesday

Inspiration Tuesday

I’ve been trying to get better at organizing some of the inspiring ideas and activities that I come across each week. I’m not yet sure of the best way to share this with you, but I’ll take a simple stab at it. Today we have some cool kids activity ideas and inspiring articles on how to educate creative children.

Will you let me know what you think?

Education Articles

School is a prison – and damaging our kids. This though-provoking article from Salon, written by Peter Gray (research professor of psychology at Boston College), makes a good argument for homeschooling and alternative forms of unschooling. We’re not a homeschooling family, but I find this topic fascinating and believe that education as we know is making gigantic shifts in this direction.

I recently wrote an article for the pregnancy and parenting site, What to Expect, called 5 Tools for Raising Creative Children. One of my favorite tips is to set up a creative corner. Here’s an excerpt:

how to raise creative children

“Set up a Creative Corner: Setting aside a space to create sends your child a clear message that hands-on making is a worthy pursuit. Your creative corner could be a child-size table that fits in your kitchen (which also happens to be a great place for the kids to get busy while you make dinner), a cleared-off dining room table, or a corner of your living room. At one point, we played with the idea of turning one of our closets into a mini art studio. Once you have a spot, you’ll want to outfit it with some art materials. To keep it simple, start with white paper, colorful construction paper, crayons, washable markers, child scissors, white glue, watercolors, a heavy tape dispenser, and a stapler.”

DIY on the Cheap

Dyan from And Next Comes L came up with a brilliant way to make color blocks with materials from the dollar store. Her set cost just $3 to make! Dollar store, here I come!

Nature Inspiration

Amy at Wildflower Rambling created a set of 30 free, downloadable Leaf Identification Cards. Thanks to the cards, my smart kids have determined that there’s a sycamore in front of our house. I had no idea — this whole time I thought it was a maple, and wondered why the leaves went straight to brown in the fall. We couldn’t find all the trees in our neighborhood, and these have inspired me to make a few cards of my own.

The photos in 7 Ways To Turn Your Fall Leaf Collection Into Art from Handmade Charlotte.  make my crafty side giddy, and you’ll want to pin, and make, them all.

Simple Play Activities

Megan from Coffee Cups and Crayons has a growing series of Busy Bag Activities that you’ll want to check out if you have little kids.  Busy bags are basically bags filled with simple activities that can keep children engaged while waiting in restaurants, waiting rooms, or airplanes. If you have travel plans for the holidays, this is for you! Even better, Megan and a few collaborators have compiled over 200 busy bag ideas on their Pinterest Page that makes finding the perfect busy bag super easy.

Join us for Sharing Friday

sharing friday

Coming this Friday: Share a photo of your Creative Table (AKA creative invitation, set-up, or provocation) on my Facebook page. The benefit? You’ll share your awesome idea and everyone comes away with tons of inspiration to carry them through the next week.

Sign up for our Newsletter

Don’t forget to join our newsletter, where we’ll share exclusive offers and inside information. This week we’re giving away a complete Spielgaben set exclusively for one lucky newsletter reader. There are some cool creative books and art material giveaways in the pipeline for our next newsletter.

It’s Arts in Education Week

Happy Monday, Tinkering friends!

How was your weekend?

Creativity and Education: A Roundup of Interestingness from TinkerlabMy family has been busy with a lot of transitions and I’m finally beginning to emerge from the haze of it all. Maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve been hibernating a bit over here and the posts haven’t been flowing as quickly as they once did? The good news is that I’m finally getting into the rhythm of having my kids back to school, and I can put my thinking cap on once again.

I have a few fun bits of creativity and education interestingness to share today, so I’ll just chunk them together for easy reading…

Back to SchoolWalking to school

So first, a little catch up on my personal life…

My older daughter, who I fondly refer to as “N” on this blog (and sometimes Nutmeg) recently started kindergarten. I wrote a little bit about how her new school encourages a fail-forward point of view over here.

And my little daughter, “R”, which is short for Baby Rainbow, just turned three and starts back to preschool this week. She goes to school a few mornings each week and she’s so excited to finally be to school just like her big sister.

As for me, I’m in search of a new art studio. I’ve been looking for one in my area and they’re few and far between. It’s times like this that I wished I lived somewhere like Portland! I’m considering building a studio shed in our small backyard. If you have any experience with this, I would be thrilled to hear from you. And of course, if you happen to know about a rad + cheap studio in Silicon Valley, give me a holler!

How about you? Have you been busy with transitions, a new school, or changes with work?

Arts in Education Week

Arts in Education Week

Did you know that this week is Arts in Education Week? If you’re an art teacher (waving hello to all my colleagues out there!), I’m sure you are in the know. Just three short years ago the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution designating the second week of September as “Arts in Education Week.” Check out this link to read all the legal details. I especially love that they included this quote in the resolution:

‘‘After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are artists as well.” – Albert Einstein

If you’d like to advocate for arts-rich schools, the National Arts Education Association is full of advocacy tools for the taking. 

Creative Bug

All A La Carte Classes $9.99
I recently met Jody Alexander at ALT San Francisco. Jody is a wildly talented book maker who teaches online classes at Creative Bug. Do you know about Creative Bug? Basically, they host hundreds of online crafting classes that are beautifully shot, so that you can learn how to knit, make screen prints, crochet, or make beeswax collages from the comfort of home. And with the ability to pause and play if you need a short break.

Jody will be with us next week to teach us how to make a Bamboo Rubber Band Book. Her photos and instructions are gorgeous and clear, and I know you won’t want to miss this.

Kiwi CrateKiwi Crate Discount

Do you know about Kiwi Crate? They send a thoughtfully designed box full of thematic activities directly to your home each month. Each crate now also comes with a bonus magazine that’s full of even more ideas that will keep your child engaged and learning. They’re having a back-to-school promo if you’d like to sign up: Save up to $20 on a new Kiwi Crate subscription (that’s 2 months free) plus free shipping!

Tinkerlab Newsletter

We recently switched newsletter hosts, and I’d like to encourage you to sign up for our newsletter, even if you have in the past. We haven’t sent out a newsletter in quite a while, but when it finally launches I don’t want you to miss out on little nuggets of useful tinkering and creative goodness that we’re sure to share.

Have a great Monday, happy Arts in Education Week, and I promise that you’ll hear from me soon.

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

This Creative Week: Interactive Sidewalk Art + The Creative Table Project

Please Draw Prompt with sidewalk chalk

Interactive Sidewalk Art: Send us your Ideas!

In our last post, The Tree Tag Project, we talked about how you can set up an interactive art project that will surprise and inspire your neighbors. Related to that, a few weeks earlier, we set up this very simple prompt with a bowl of sidewalk chalk (above). Within hours our sidewalk was covered with flowers, faces, names, messages to friends, a hopscotch, and quite a few drawings by adults (that was the big surprise).

If you were inspired by this post, we would love to hear about any interactive projects you’ve set up and how it went for you. If you’re game, please send us your high resolution photos and we’ll feature your project right here on Tinkerlab. You can write to us at Rachelle at

 A question from a friend

One of our friends, Jill, has a question for everyone about The Tree Tag Project: How to Surprise Your Neighbors.

This is such an inspiring idea! Do you (or your readers) have any ideas about how to make it work in an urban setting….where art supplies are more likely to “walk” if left unattended?

Here’s how I responded to her question. What more would you add?

I wouldn’t be afraid of materials walking away (at first) — maybe test this out with something inexpensive and see how it goes. Our first interactive project was with sidewalk chalk: We wrote a prompt directly onto the sidewalk and left a bowl of chalk nearby. You could write a little blurb about returning the art materials to where they were found, along with an appeal to help other people enjoy the project. Or how about projects that only use inexpensive and easily replaced materials. I hope this helps!

Creative Table Highlights

We have a fun project brewing over on Instagram called Creative Table. You can read more about it over here or see all the Instagram pictures tagged with #creativetable here when you type creativetable into the search bar. This project is always open if you’d like to participate. Just read the instructions and take a look at some of these inspiring photos to get a sense of what it’s all about.

It’s always fun to share a few highlights from this project, so here are a few from this past week…

Craft Stick People from Molly Moo

Craft Stick Dolls from Michelle McInerney who blogs at Molly Moo.

Creativetable from An Everyday Story

Drawing birds from a book: Kate of An Everyday Story.

Paper Bag Painting from ArtBarBlog

Painting on a paper bag from Bar Rucci or Art Bar . Bar’s blog is a gorgeous, happy place (her words and mine), and one of my new favorite spots to spend some time online.

 A question for you…

Do you have any advice for Jill about setting up an interactive art experience in her urban neighborhood?

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.