Best Craft for Kids Blog

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Hi friends!

Gosh it’s fun to share fun news and I’m excited to let you know that we’re nominated for Best Craft for Kids Blog over at Parents Magazine. Seriously. I’m in there with some lovely blogs (and even voted for some of my favorites) so I’m not under the illusion that I’m going to win or anything, but you know, it would be nice if I did. Or at least got into, say, the top three. Anyhoo, if you click on the Parents Best button it’ll take you over to their site and you can vote for TinkerLab (and anyone else you like while you’re there). You may have to register to vote, but please don’t let that stop you. If you’ve ever come away from my site inspired, I’d love your support.

Oh, and in case you’d like to share this on Facebook or Twitter, the answer is “yes.”

Merci.

Styrofoam Prints and Baby “Painting”

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Printmaking is one of my passions, so we invariably make a lot of prints in my house. I was about to recycle a styrofoam tray (I think it was from a pack of corn) when N asked if we could print with it. Why yes, we can! We’ve printed with these before (Abstract Recycled Prints) and the technique is the same except this time we printed the pattern found on the tray instead of creating our own design.

I like this project because it’s inexpensive, helps children look to their surrounding for inspiration, and utilizes the pattern found in the tray.

We cut the tray into a flat piece.

My daughter squeezed tempera paint onto a cookie sheet, rolled it with a brayer, and then rolled it onto the styrofoam tray. She chose a red + white paint combo.

N moved the tray (or “plate”) onto a clean sheet of paper, covered it with another piece of paper, and then pressed it to transfer the paint.

Checking the print. Yay — it looks good.

Carefully peeling the print off the plate.

Meanwhile, Baby R, who now stands and walks along the furniture (i.e. cannot be contained with a happy basket of blocks) was desperate to join the fun and made a nuisance of herself, grabbing papers and reaching for paint . While she made the printing difficult, we wanted her to join us and came up with this alternative:

Baby Painting!

I scooped some yogurt onto her highchair tray and added a few drops of red food coloring to match our paint color. (The food coloring, India Tree Liquid Natural Decorating Colors, is made from plants and completely natural. I love that I can feel safe giving this to my kids).

While N continued to pull prints (without the distraction of baby sister grabbing her papers), R happily stirred her paint and ate away.

Prints, and most art projects for that matter, often get turned into other projects. N decided this one should be glued to a card.

And Baby R continued to enjoy the activity until is was gone.

Have you tried printmaking, and have you “painted” with yogurt?

This post is shared with It’s Playtime.

Pounded Flower Bookmarks

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Last week I wrote a guest post on The Crafty Crow where I shared instructions for making Pounded Flower Bookmarks. This high-energy (and very loud) art activity tied in with one of our favorite kids+art books, A Day With No Crayons.

The set-up only requires a handful of colorful flowers, a pounding tool (like a rock or hammer), watercolor or other heavy paper, wax paper, a hole puncher, and ribbon. My daughter couldn’t get enough of this project, probably because she has big energy and lurved all that pounding.

Special thanks to Cassi for inviting me to join her on her fabulous site. If you don’t already know about The Crafty Crow, Cassi curates an incredible selection of beautiful crafts and process-based activities for children from around the web. Definitely a site to bookmark! Click here to read the full post.

What could TinkerLab be?

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I’m moving things around today and promise you a spiffy, new site in no time:) Why, you ask? As pretty as my previous design was, I received questions every week about searching for specific activities or for projects by age group. And wouldn’t you know…the site didn’t have a search function! I felt trapped in 2001, and struggled with the whole form vs. function riddle. Ultimately function won, thank goodness. While I think this will be a good thing in the long run, for now I’m sorting out the nuances of my new site design.

Sooooo, if there’s anything that you lurve about TinkerLab, or anything that you hope I might change or add, I invite you to share your ideas with me. Is anything missing? Can I add anything to make your experience here more fun? I love to hear from you, and I want this site to be wicked awesome.

Oh, and do you see that empty space over there on the right, just below the subscribe button? If you can think of anything that would be useful or nice to look at, I’m trying to figure out what kinds of goodies to put over there.

Happy Holidays!

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We’re taking a little tinkering break to spend some time with family and friends, and we’ll be back in the new year with more creative experiments for kids. There are a few other fun surprises for next year that I’m excited to share with you.

Meanwhile, wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season and healthy 2011.

New Creative Studio Corner

Creative Studio Corner

Putting our closets/bills/holiday cards in order is enough of a thankless job without even beginning to consider corralling toys and art supplies. I have a short fuse for all of the things that get dumped all over the house (today it was a bucket of blocks, pillows from the couch, toy cars, and migrating books), and find that organizational systems are enormous time-savers that help me keep my cool amidst all the chaos.

I wrote about organizing art supplies in September, and after turning my home upside down about four times in the past year, it’s become more clear that I live in a fluid space where solving for my family’s needs is an ongoing process. While I’ve been reading books on organization (I love Donna Smallin’s One Minute Organizer), creating order isn’t my forte, and I welcome all ideas for improvement!

The big changes? We repurposed a bedroom armoire for supply storage after this weekend’s DIY bedroom makeover killed my weekend and left this blog bereft of good content. Truly sorry about that. The doors have been removed for easy access to materials. Gaining all of this extra storage enabled us to pull excess art materials off of the table, freeing up room for creating. And a clear table is so much nicer and more inspiring to look at!

My daughter can reach her favorite supplies on the lower shelves, leaving the top shelves for things I’d like out of her reach. And I finally have some nice, clear bins so she can find what she needs without dumping out every single box on the living room floor (yes, it happened!). Light from the window and lamp on the art table are also a huge improvement.

How do you organize your art space? Do you have any great organizational tips?

Cardboard Christmas Tree

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Have you ever had a weekend that began like this? It doesn’t bode well for fun and games, does it? The good news is that we’re now the proud owners (and, let’s not forget–makers!) of new bedroom dressers, and the bad news is that it was at the expense of being holed up in the house all day.  Okay, back to the picture up there. Don’t you love the repurposing of our Hello Kitty breakfast bowl? I got our 2.5 year old invested in the building process by asking her to sort all of the hardware into bowls. Not only did she love this task, but not a screw or dowel was missing! As I was breaking the boxes down at the end of the day, I cut a couple large tree-ish shapes for tree decorating.

I cut some colored circles, and then N pulled out the markers and glitter glue. She can’t get enough of the glitter glue. Guess what she’s getting for Christmas?

This is where we left it tonight. Exhausted and ready for bed.

As a result of our dresser-building mission, we were also able to create a little more room in our art space and clear most art supplies off the table and onto a nearby shelf from what used to be my armoir. Ahhh, I now envision many more hours of happy art-making with a simpler clean-up. Well, one can dream.

Bubble Paint Recipe

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The bubble recipe I used in yesterday’s post didn’t live up to my expectations, so I went back to the drawing board (paint and soap laboratory?) and came up with something that creates big, rewarding bubbles that are easy to pull prints off of. While this worked for me, feel free to experiment with your own ratios and solutions. And if you come up with something good, please share it here. Thanks to Amy for suggesting Dawn soap and glycerin in yesterday’s comments. I love getting feedback :)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons tempera paint (liquid, not powdered)
  • 2 tablespoons dish soap. I used Palmolive. Dawn or Joy (or something along these lines should also work, but we had far less luck with all-natural dish soap).
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Straw/s
  • Paper. I cut mine into pieces that matched the size of the bowl’s opening.

Directions

  • Pour ingredients into a small bowl. (If you decide you want more bubbles, stick to the same 2:2:1 ratio and size up).
  • Insert straw into bowl and blow.
  • Place paper on top of bubbles and you have a print!! Voila!

Bubble Painting

Bubble Paintings

“There are no failures, just experiences and your reactions to them.”

Tom Krause, Author and Motivational Speaker

What follows is my pitch for attempting the unknown for the sake of having a new experience, and maybe the end result will match your expectations. Or not. Either way, you’ve tried something new.

Aren’t these pretty? These are the result of a moderately failed experiment in bubble painting. The failure isn’t evident, is it?

I started with a mixture of tempera paint (red with a little silver), dish soap, and a little bit of water to make it runny.

Whole Foods dish soap is apparently great for dishes, but truly terrible for making good suds. If you’re up for this project, Dawn or Joy are most likely the way to go for a bowl full of bubbles. Mine fell flat. I’ll try this again for sure, and will be sure to share the winning recipe. That was the first failure, but here comes one that’s even bigger.

Can you guess what happened here? We poured the mixture into a little bowl, and then after a little demonstration, I instructed my daughter to blow. Out. Don’t suck it in. It’s not a drink. Don’t forget to blow OUT.

“Oh no, is that red paint all over your FACE?” I’m the worst mom ever! Wash it out. Check the bottle. Phew, it’s non-toxic. Ack!

She did great for the first five minutes of blowing, but then just forgot what she was doing. Totally understandable. She’s only two, after all. And sometimes I forget that.

MaryAnn Kohl has a good suggestion in Preschool Art, which I wish I had read beforehand: Pierce a hole near the top of the straw to keep your child from sucking paint into their mouth.

After that short, freaky interlude, we resumed Project Bubble Paint. From this point forward, I was responsible for blowing bubbles.

And they make for delightful gift tags, don’t you think?

Do you have a good bubble paint recipe?

Raindrop Collage

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Saturday was a gorgeous day, and then the rain came pouring down on Sunday. Amidst a full circuit of rainy day activities like treating patients in our tented doctor clinic and practicing gymnastics on the furniture, we conducted art experiments in the rain. A shift in weather can captivate young minds with questions about seasons, popping bulbs, falling leaves, flurries of snow, and pounding hail. The elements provided us with an improvisational opportunity to celebrate the excitement of rain, get a little wet, and play with a cause and effect relationship (i.e. IF I open an umbrella in the rain, THEN I will stay dry).

We each worked on our own piece, gluing strips of bleeding tissue paper to our papers. N noticed that a little bit of glue was still showing on my artwork, and did a good job covering it up. Phew!

We had a bowl of dry pasta on the table from another activity, which she decided to incorporate into her piece. Nice 3-D touch!

Then she put them out in the rain to let the raindrops do their work. I asked her to think about how the rain would affect our pictures.

Once dry, we took a good look at them. When I again asked what happened when the rain landed on the collages, she said, “It smeared the colorful paper, but not the big paper.” Righty-oh!

For a prettier after-effect, I’d recommend glue sticks over white glue. Just keep in mind that glue sticks add extra friction to tissue paper, making them more difficult for little ones to use.

More improvisational weather activities

Windy Day: Make long streamers  or wind socks to blow in the wind.  Or, fill a large ziplock bag with small pieces of tissue paper. Put a straw in the bag and zip it shut. Blow into the bag and watch all of paper fly around. Discuss how the wind works in a similar way.

Rainbows: Create rainbow-colored marble paintings.

Snow: Paint directly on the snow with spray bottles and food coloring.

What are your favorite weather-related activities?

Improvised Caution Tape

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My daughter is FASCINATED by caution tape. It all started about a month ago when we walked past a building that was surround with the stuff, and I was barraged with questions like: Why is there caution tape there? Who can go over there? What happened? How did the fire truck get in the building? Why is that man behind the caution tape? Why can’t I go behind the caution tape? And so on. And ever since, her radar is attuned to caution tape like mine is attuned to drive-through coffee shacks (which are way too few and far between!)

So, one fine Sunday morning, she and my husband decked out our house with their version of caution tape. While I bought this tape with more traditional art projects in mind, I’m impressed with how they interpreted it as a medium for blocking off areas of our home. When this all got underway I was thankfully on the right side of the tape, as I was told that the other side was only for “workers only” and I wasn’t permitted to pass. Toddlers and their rules!!

In case you’re wondering, this is what she was stockpiling on the other side of the tape.

This simple play-acting game kept her entertained for close to an hour, which I attribute to paying attention to her interests, one of the first posts I wrote about back in May. While we could have purchased a head-to-toe construction worker kit like this, she got into the spirit of it all with simple yellow tape and orange paper repurposed into caution tape and cones, and it didn’t cost us a dime. Kids are awesome like that. And who needs a yellow safety vest when you can wear a pink tutu? (Bet you didn’t realize you bought her a construction outfit, Auntie Danielle!)

With rainy (and maybe where you are, snowy!) days ahead, I plan to look for opportunities to support my child’s interests using materials that we already have on hand. Or none at all. This afternoon we laughed through an improvised outing to a friend’s house to pick up stickers, using nothing but our bodies and voices. What a great way to pass an otherwise dreary afternoon!

How have you supported a child’s interests with a creative use of materials? What improvisational games have you found yourself playing?

Tape Play

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This is what the breakfast table sometimes turns into in our home.

Pancakes, coffee, napkins, and, ahem…tape. Of course, yes, please pass the tape!

Tape has been a favorite medium since it arrived in our house a couple months ago, and it’s taken on all kinds of forms since. The colors are incredible, and full of tons of possibilities. You can find a set of ten colors here. Great stuff. Not only is it useful for adhering one thing to another, but kids catch on quick that it can be used to make lines, designs, and shapes. Sometimes on a large scale. And my 2.5 year old is really into cutting it right now. Something she’s working on, and by golly she’s determined to master the technique!

Nothing is safe when the tape comes out!

But why is tape fun for kids? It can be layered, twisted, and bent around the edges of paper (or objects!). It’s sticky! If you spend time around young kids, you’ve no doubt witnessed a near-universal adoration for stickers. And because the impact is immediate, it’s highly accessible. There are no questions about how bright the color will look (as there might be with paint), and the limitations of the medium give children a clear sense of what the material will do.

Children who haven’t mastered scissor skills shouldn’t be limited from exploring tape. I just peel off multiple strips and stick them to the edge of a bowl or table for my child to pull off at will.

Tape as an art medium has been gaining steam in recent years. Melbourne street artist Buff Diss makes large-scale tape installations (this is one of my favorites) and Philadelphia-based Mark Khaisman creates beautiful images with transparent brown packing tape. And that’s it…tape is their medium, and they’re really good at it. So, if you ever thought that your child isn’t artistic or creative because he or she doesn’t draw or paint, fear not! Creativity comes in many shapes and forms, and sometimes that form is masking, painters, or packing tape.

Tomorrow I’ll share another unexpected use for tape that came from one of my daughter’s current obsessions. Stay tuned!