Architecture as Art

“Architecture is a science arising out of many other sciences, and adorned with much and varied learning; by the help of which a judgment is formed of those works which are the result of other arts.” -Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, Roman architect and writer

We have a basket of blocks that come out every now and again, and when they do I’m always reminded of how much learning comes from building, stacking, and organizing blocks into innumerable configurations.

Do your kids play with blocks? What do you do to make them more appealing and fun for them?

Top 10 Posts of 2011

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” – Edith Lovejoy Pierce, Poet

So here we are at the end of 2011. Can you believe it? Are you looking forward to a better year, making concrete changes that will improve your life in 2012, hoping for a little more down-time or “me-time?” Whenever a year comes to a close I do a lot of reflecting on where we’ve been and where we’re heading, and I plan to continue on my quest for more organization and clarity in 2012. I always feel better when I can be my most authentic self, and find that this is more possible when my life is cleared of the excess.

We’re planning to ring in the new year tonight with a big family + friends play date, and thanks to the magic of YouTube, my 3 year old is looking forward to watching the big Ball Drop at midnight (it’s only 9 pm PST, thankfully!).

It seems to be a blog tradition to do a “best of…”, so I thought you might like to take a peek at some of the more popular posts of the past year. I’m saving my #1 post for Monday, which means this is really a top 11 list, so be sure to check back after the new year.

Even Toddlers Can Sew

Yes, it’s true. With some simple materials little ones can begin to learn the elements of sewing, and there are additional ideas in the comments of this post.

Salt Dough Ornaments

Not just for the Winter Holidays, salt dough could be used to make all sorts of sculptures year-round.

Flubber-Gak-Slime Exploration

Best sensory project ever! Hours of fun, over multiple days. Great for little ones who won’t put this gooey mess in their mouths.

Vegetable-dyed Easter Eggs

It’s almost Easter and you might want to sock this idea away for Spring. Featured on Craft Gossip.

Easy DIY Light Table

Light tables are wonderful for adding a little magic to your sensory play. We used ours with salt (pictured here) and Water Beads. With a little resourcefulness you can make one without breaking the bank.

Coffee Filter Flowers

Nice little rainy day activity to cheer up your house on a gloomy flower-less day. Or save it for the warmer months as we did, and make flowers inspired by your surroundings.

6 Tools for Building a Child’s Confidence

I love this post as it shares some insights into my thinking around raising creative kids. Bonus: There’s a link in the article to three more tools for building a child’s confidence for a total of nine tools!

Jell-o Excavation

Featured in Real Simple Family Magazine, Fall 2011, Ohdeedoh, and Craft Gossip. I still get comments and questions about this project. So much fun, with endless play possibilities.

Creative Challenge #6: Cardboard

If you like to upcycle materials into something fabulous, you’ll want to check out this exciting challenge that brought 20+ creative bloggers together with the collective challenge of making something, with their kids, with cardboard.

Rainbow Play Dough

Whether you want rainbow, blueberry blue, or cinnamon-scented brown play dough, this is the recipe you’ll want to use. It’s never failed my, it’s used by EVERY preschool teacher that I know, and it lasts forever.

Wishing you and yours a creative 2012!

Make and Takes, the book {Giveaway}

When I started blogging waaaaay back in 2010, Make and Takes, a crafty blog run by former kindergarten teacher Marie LeBaron, was one the first amazing kid craft blogs to enter my radar. One of my favorite things about Marie’s site is a section called Spotlight, a collection of the best food and crafts submitted by readers. The photography makes me drool (not a pretty image, I know) and she does a great job curating the best ideas for us all to pick and choose from.

Well guess what? Marie just wrote a book, and we can all have Make and Takes on our shelves for the holidays.

Here’s a little blurb from the publisher (Wiley):

“Highlighting the best of each month of the year, Make and Takes for Kids offers 50 projects to make with kids, each centered around an upcoming holiday or season. The ideas are unique and simple to produce, and each project is thoughtfully constructed and designed to create an ideal environment and setting for crafting. Each craft requires little preparation, few supplies, and almost everything can be readily found at home or at a local craft supply store.”

In the same spirit as Marie’s blog, the photography in the book (by Nicole Gerulat of A Little Sussy) is gorgeous. As my 3-year old flipped through our copy she kept saying, “I want to make that! And that! And that!”

N finally settled on making a craft foam bracelet (the one in the book falls under February: Valentine’s Day). She selected the ribbon, a few sheets of craft foam, and then started cutting away. I was directed to punch holes and cut a heart (to match the one in the book, above). N wanted to wear it right away, but then complained of it scratching her wrist after a few minutes, at which point she proclaimed that it would be “a decoration.”

Kudos to Marie on writing her first book!! If you’re looking for more craft books like this, or more inspiration from the publisher, you can click over to Wiley’s craft page: or follow Wiley on twitter: @wileycraft

Make and Takes should be available at all major book stores and online at Barnes and


If you’d like a chance to win your very own copy of Make and Takes for Kids, please leave a comment and share your child’s favorite art or craft project. The winner will be selected at random, and must have a U.S. shipping address. Deadline to enter: Wednesday, November 23 at 9 pm PST. Comments are now closed.

For an extra entry, tweet about this and add my handle @tinkerlabtweets and the hashtag #mtbook

In Search of Life Balance

I have to confess that I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed for the past few weeks. Or maybe months. The feeling comes and goes, but striking the right work/life balance has been tough, and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. If you’re not familiar with my story, I’m a SAHM who has the working bug in her soul. I want nothing more than to be with my kids on a daily basis — to watch them grow, document their journeys, listen to their needs, and help them blossom. But I also love the work I do and I’m compelled to show up every night to spread the joys and importance of arts education long after my kids are in bed. I’m quite certain that many of you are in the same boat as me, which is why I’m sharing all of this with you. I saw my own mom struggle with this tension between parenting and working that was so prevalent in the 1980’s, as highly successful working women were equally compelled to succeed at domestic duties. She had her own business (based at home, of course), which enabled her to always make time to show up as the room mother, bake sale goddess, and birthday party organizer. Frankly, I took all of this for granted since it was my life and she was amazing, but I now understand why it nearly tore her apart.

So tonight, and tomorrow, and probably the day after that, I’m going to do those long overdue dishes, de-clutter my closets, toss out the random odds and ends that fill up the gaps of my consciousness, try to go to bed early (since a 5 am waking child won’t let me sleep in) and spend a little bit more time dealing with the other details of life that I’ve been neglecting.

This child is one of the two main reasons that I write here, and I need to make more time for sleep so that I can fully enjoy these precious, fleeting moments. I have so many projects to share with you, but I know I need to step away from the computer for a little bit in order to organize myself and clarify the rhythm of my days, so that I can come back to work with a fresh mind. And I expect that you’ll understand, so thank you!

What does the rhythm of your day look like and how do you find your balance?

I heart RAFT

I spent part of Saturday at Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT) in San Jose, CA. Despite my best efforts, I can never get out of this place in under an hour! I was first introduced to RAFT, an enormous warehouse full of all sorts of wonderful upcycled baubles and bits, when I managed the school programs at the San Jose Museum of Art. Imagine the neatest, cleanest, most organized heap of recyclables, and you have a pretty clear picture of RAFT.

And this is why it’s like my second home.

Everything is sorted so nicely, just waiting to be turned into something fabulous. It’s an incredible resource for teachers, and I’m lucky enough to have an excuse to continue shopping there. I’m designing the curriculum for a DIY art space at the San Francisco Children’s Creativity Museum, which will open its doors in October. Yay!

All sorts of paper.

Colorful stickers and tapes, sold by the yard (that’s almost a meter, for my Aussie friends!).

Some of the tape is sold by the roll. I got a roll of caution tape for about $2!

One of the loveliest things about RAFT is that they have a team of smart and friendly staff who spend hours figuring out what you can actually do with this stuff. I got a demo on how you can turn a record + pencil + foam + pin + paper cup into a simple phonograph. Brilliant!

If you’re interested in RAFT, you might like to read about our trip to SCRAP.

Where do you go to find recycled materials? Your trash? Sidewalk? Resource center?