TinkerLab http://tinkerlab.com Creative Experiments for Makers and Tinkerers Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:13:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 TinkerLab Book Blog Tour Highlights http://tinkerlab.com/tinkerlab-book-tour-highlights/ http://tinkerlab.com/tinkerlab-book-tour-highlights/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:47:15 +0000 http://tinkerlab.com/?p=13004 Did you get a chance to catch the TinkerLab Blog Book Tour? Twenty-three incredible blogs shared reviews, projects from the book, giveaways, and cool tinkering insights with their readers. I’m so grateful for all that they shared and thought a recap would be helpful for those who might be thinking about picking up a copy of the […]

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Did you get a chance to catch the TinkerLab Blog Book Tour? Twenty-three incredible blogs shared reviews, projects from the book, giveaways, and cool tinkering insights with their readers.

I’m so grateful for all that they shared and thought a recap would be helpful for those who might be thinking about picking up a copy of the book for themselves, or as a gift.

TinkerLab Book Review

Jean from The Artful Parent, which happens to be one of the very first blogs I ever read, shares some great photos of her marked up book and a peek at a bunch of the pages.

TinkerLab Book Review

Toddler Approved shares how her kids made one of the activities from the book, straw rockets.

TinkerLab Book Review

Ten Powerful Lessons Life Lessons from TinkerLab, written by Stacy at Kids Stuff World, just blows me away.  She shares some great nuggets of inspiration from the book. Here’s an example…

10 Powerful Lessons from TinkerLab

I invited a handful of Creativity and Education experts to write pieces for the TinkerLab book, and one was Parul Chandra, Head Teacher at Bing Nursery School at Stanford University. Christie at Childhood 101 took inspiration from Chandra’s interview on Discovery Areas and set up a Discovery Area in her home. This post is wonderful, and Christie shares a lot of Chandra’s interview so we can all learn from her words of wisdom.

Set up a Discovery Table, inspired by the TinkerLab Book | Childhood 101

Aligned with the book’s philosophy to encourage experimentation and curiosity in childhood, Creative with Kids shares a list of 15 “I wonder what would happen if…?” questions that invite play and experimentation. So good!

Questions that encourage experimentation and curiosity | TinkerLab.com

Maggy at Red Ted Art shares a whole bunch of ways that the book has inspired tinkering and open-ended exploration in her artistic home, including the set-up of their very own art trolly.

Art Trolly from Red Ted Art | TinkerLab.com

Amanda Morgan, mom to four boys and author of Not Just Cute, shared her kids’ DrawBots. Click over to her page and you can see videos of how they work.

Make a Draw Bot with Kids | from the TinkerLab book

The photos of the Naked Egg Experiment over at Let’s Lasso the Moon are beyond gorgeous. If Zina didn’t live 2000 miles away from me I would probably beg her to photograph images for my next book. Go on and check it out…

Naked Egg Experiment | Lets Lasso the Moon

Inspired by how the book encourages experimentation, Rachel of Kids Activities Blog made up a batch of Edible Pantry Paint with her kids.

Edible Pantry Paint from Kids Activities Blog | TinkerLab.com

Whitney from Rookie Moms (pass this site along to new moms!) talks about our Creative Table invitations, and shares this quick summary of the book:

  • Make space in your kids’ lives for creativity
  • Present them with opportunities to experiment, and try not to interfere too much
  • Introduce tools and materials they can test and play with
  • Accept that boredom is a jumping off point, not a problem for parents to solve

Whitney then offered her kids a selection of materials and stepped back to see what they would come up with. More here.

Creative Invitation for Kids | from Rookie Moms 

Tiffany from (the awesome spot for planning a Disney trip) Peanut Blossom, shares her kids straw rocket activity. 

Make Straw Rockets | TinkerLab.com

Steph from Modern Parents Messy Kids, is an advocate for STEM and STEAM, and has this to say about the book, “If you’re at all interested in the growing STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) movements – this is the book for you! The “Take Thinks Apart” activity we tried (see below) is from the Build category.”

tinkerlab1

 The Imagination Tree is one of my very favorite spots for Early Childhood Education ideas, and Anna shares a peek into the pages of the book with us.

TinkerLab book review

Ana from Babble Dabble Do shares her new art cart, inspired by the pages on How to Organize your TinkerLab. This is one of my favorite eye-candy sites, and it’s full of great ideas for little builders and inventors.

How to Organize art supplies | Babble Dabble Do | TinkerLab.com

MaryLea from Pink and Green Mama has a beautiful creative space in her home, and shares how the ideas in the book align with how she’s created her home studio.

How to set up a creative space | TinkerLab.com

 

Shana, the talented engineer – mom – fashionista at The Mom Edit, are Instagram buddies. She inspires me to dress better and I inspire her to set up creative invitations like this with her kids…

Setting up a Creative Invitation  | The Mom Edit | TinkerLab.com

Make and Takes features the Straw Rocket activity and shares full instructions on how to make straw rockets. Fun!

How to make a straw rocket

Playful Learning makes the Lava Lamp activity from the book, and shares full instructions on how to make them. This is a really fun activity and will wow both kids and adults.

DIY Lava Lamp from Playful Learning | TinkerLab.com

 

Imagine Childhood tests out the Pounding Flowers project from the TinkerLab book. I recently ran this project at my daughter’s preschool and it was a huge hit with the kids, as they came up with lots of ways to experiment with creating colors and textures.

Pounding Flowers project | TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors

A Mom with a Lesson Plan shares all the info and directions you’ll need to create your very own straw rockets. I love how her kids invented their own rocket shapes and designs. I led this activity at the Stanford Play Symposium a few weeks ago and it was a huge hit with the grown-up crowd, too!

Straw Rockets | A Mom with a Lesson Plan | TinkerLab.com

The color of this egg is spectacular. Cathy at Nurture Store ran the naked bouncing egg experiment with her kids. This project teaches patience, with a really big payoff at the end!

Naked Egg Experiment | NurtureStore | TinkerLab.com

Kara at Simple Kids is the creative mom of four kids. And her blog is a wondrous place for keeping things simple as a parent. I subscribe to this philosophy — how about you?

In Kara’s review she shares her thoughts on the book, and she has a lot of really nice things to say.

Says Kara, “Tinkerlab takes the kids craft book to the next level:  beyond just amazing projects (and there are some truly unique ideas here), Rachelle goes into the hows and whys of tinkering, encouraging parents to embrace the mess (one of my personal mottos) and to see mistakes as gifts. Sprinkled throughout the book, like little gems, are some thought-provoking essays by various authors that this artist/mama/maker found really inspiring and helpful.  My favorite, as a parent who also strives to live simply, is the essay on the benefits of basic materials by Jennifer Winters, the director of Bing Nursery School at Stanford University.” Read her review for more.TinkerLab Book Review | Simple Kids

 

Asia at Fun at Home with Kids is a natural inventor and creates recipes for all sorts of slime, dough, and other kid-friendly supplies on her blog. She and her kids built a drawing machine, inspired by the book’s Draw Bot, and…she’s giving away a copy of the book. Hurry on over because the giveaway ends in just a few hours!

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I’m honored to share that TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors (affiliate link) has been the #1 Best Seller in Crafts for Children on Amazon. I’m so happy to know that this labor of love is reaching out to families and educators in search of some creativity inspiration.

If you’ve reviewed the book or have a tinkering activity to share, leave a note in the comments. I’d love to see it!

Warmly, Rachelle

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Easy Stop Motion Animation for Beginners http://tinkerlab.com/easy-stop-motion-animation-kids/ http://tinkerlab.com/easy-stop-motion-animation-kids/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 05:05:52 +0000 http://tinkerlab.com/?p=12980 While my girls have been in a little bit of camp this summer, it’s mainly been Camp Mom for our family: local adventures, crafts, and lots and lots of unstructured play. We’re lucky to have some great neighbors with kids, and our girls have been lost in imaginative play that expands beyond the reach of anything I could […]

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While my girls have been in a little bit of camp this summer, it’s mainly been Camp Mom for our family: local adventures, crafts, and lots and lots of unstructured play. We’re lucky to have some great neighbors with kids, and our girls have been lost in imaginative play that expands beyond the reach of anything I could possibly fabricate for them.

However, we’ve had a few mornings filled with creative projects and this stop motion animation project is a winner. 

Stop Motion Animation, explained

For the uninitiated, stop motion animation is a film making technique that makes inanimate objects appear to move on their own. Think Gumby or Wallace and Gromit.

To make it work, you place an object in front of a camera and snap a photo. You then move the object a tiny bit and snap another photo. Repeat this process twenty to ten thousand times, play back the sequence in rapid progression, and the object appears to move fluidly across the screen.

Easy Stop Motion Animation for Kids | TinkrerLab.com

While my older daughter, age six, really flew with this project, her little sister who’s just two months shy of four also got in on the stop motion animation action. I’ll share their finished projects in just a moment. But first, let me show you just how simple this set up can be. Take this as a starting point and feel free to add your own flourishes.

Supplies for Stop Motion Animation

This list contains affiliate links for your convenience

Easy Set-up for Stop Motion Animation with Kids | TinkerLab.com

The Stop Motion Animation Set Up

As you can see, there’s nothing too fancy about the set up. While you could certainly add some elaborate lighting, we set this up by a window to keep it simple. I added the trash can behind the piece of foam core to keep it from falling over during filming. I know, super glamourous, right? Any heavy object should do the trick.

Collect characters and objects for Stop Motion Animation Project | TinkerLab.com

The kids had fun sorting through what we call the Character Basket for their just-right objects. My six-year old was up first, and my little one took it as an opportunity to play with cars and mini sheep while she waited her turn.

Easy Set-up for Stop Motion Animation with Kids | TinkerLab.com

Using the stop motion app was really easy and intuitive. I did a demo run to show the kids how it worked, and then my six-year old took over and worked on her video for a solid half hour. When she was done, her little sister took over. I was surprised at how easy it was for her too.

My kids’ Animations

From three-year old R…

From six-year old N…

Some Benefits of Stop Motion Animation

  • Offers children ownership and autonomy in the film making process
  • Teaches children how stop motion animation works
  • Debunks the mechanics of how movie-making happens
  • The creative constraint of the medium encourages problem solving
  • It’s a simple, hands-on technology that young children can achieve
  • Encourages children to project and plan out where a story is heading
  • Fosters iteration and experimentation through trying and testing
  • Supports storytelling

So, are you ready to give it a try?

If you upload your animation somewhere, leave a link in your comment. I’d love to check it out!

Easy Set-up for Stop Motion Animation with Kids | TinkerLab.com

More Stop Motion Resources

How to make a Stop Motion Animation, YouTube. This is a great little video, and it sounds like it was made by KIDS! Yay.

You can’t really beat the classic stop motion animation of Gumby! Gumby on the Moon, YouTube. This would be an inspiring thing to show a child as an intro to stop motion animation.

Best Stop Motion Videos from Short of the Week. Lots of good inspiration here.

How to make things fly in Stop Motion Animation, using PhotoShop: YouTube. This is for the super-advanced students, and worth checking out if you’re curious about how these things work.

What do you think?

We’re just getting started with this and have only tested a couple stop motion apps. Do you have a go-to app for stop motion, or a favorite resource?

 

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20 Inspiring Letter Writing Centers http://tinkerlab.com/letter-writing-centers/ http://tinkerlab.com/letter-writing-centers/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 09:02:38 +0000 http://tinkerlab.com/?p=12944 Today we’re sharing some of our favorite ideas for setting up an inspiring letter writing center. If you’re familiar with this blog, you’ll know that I like to move my furniture around. A lot. A few weeks ago I moved our dining table back to the dining room. It’s so very traditional of us! Here’s […]

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Today we’re sharing some of our favorite ideas for setting up an inspiring letter writing center.

If you’re familiar with this blog, you’ll know that I like to move my furniture around. A lot. A few weeks ago I moved our dining table back to the dining room. It’s so very traditional of us! Here’s how the space used to look. And then here’s the dining table (aka work table) in my studio space.

Amazing and Simple Letter Writing Centers for Kids | TinkerLab.com

With the table in it’s new spot, we were ready for a new Creative Table invitation. Considering my three-year old’s growing interest in letter writing, I set up this simple prompt:

Letter Writing Station | A Simple Creative Table Invitation | TinkerLab.com

With the table clear, I placed a long wooden container in the middle of the table. Inside it were a:

  • bucket of colored pencils
  • bucket of crayons
  • our self-stamp address stamper
  • postage stamps
  • address book
  • a selection of envelopes and cards

This reminded me of the self-serve mail center I set up in a drawer for my older daughter a couple years back.

My three-year old got busy right away by pulling out her favorite rainbow colored pencil to work on a card for her grandpa. While we have to work on her pencil grip, she is very confident in holding writing tools in this way. Any tips for correcting this? Her preschool teacher recommends a triangle-shaped pencil grip.

Letter Writing Station | A Simple Creative Table Invitation | TinkerLab.com

We stuck with this for about thirty minutes and then we were on to the next project.

Letter Writing Station | A Simple Creative Table Invitation | TinkerLab.com

Tips for setting up a letter writing center

  • Clear the table of extra clutter
  • Keep the supplies simple
  • Print or write out address labels for pre-writers
  • Make it fun by adding some stickers or playful stamps

19 More Letter Writing Centers

You can’t go wrong with any of these 11 Inspiring Writing Centers from Playful Learning.

If you like to make your own books, check out Homemade Books: An Invitation to Write from Creative with Kids.

And the Handmade Books Center from Soule Mama will give you even more ideas.

How to Create a Writing Station for Children from My Little Bookcase shows some amazing before and after photos.

Make Writing Irresistible from Nurture Store gives us some good tips on how to make writing fun.

The Family Mailbox from Let’s Lasso the Moon is a great way to build a new family tradition around writing.

This Christmas Writing Station from Teach Preschool is so thoughtful, and not just for Christmas. One of my favorites.

The Recycled Materials Writing Station from Growing Book by Book is one that will save your pocket book.

Inspired by Playful Learning, this gorgeous Letter Writing Station from Sew Liberated is beyond inspiring.

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Fun Science Experiments: Vinegar and Baking Soda http://tinkerlab.com/fun-science-experiments-vinegar-baking-soda/ http://tinkerlab.com/fun-science-experiments-vinegar-baking-soda/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 17:37:02 +0000 http://tinkerlab.com/?p=12929 My kids love fun science experiments. While cooking breakfast the other day, my three-year old asked about making concoctions with the breakfast supplies. While I’m all for mixing up ingredients with kids, I wasn’t prepared to have a lot of good food go to waste. So we set up a classic concoction center with some baking […]

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Baking Soda and Science Exploration | Fun Science Experiments  |  TinkerLab.com

My kids love fun science experiments. While cooking breakfast the other day, my three-year old asked about making concoctions with the breakfast supplies. While I’m all for mixing up ingredients with kids, I wasn’t prepared to have a lot of good food go to waste.

So we set up a classic concoction center with some baking soda and vinegar. So much fun!

Supplies: Fun Kitchen Science Experiment

I’ve included some Amazon affiliate links for your convenience

  • Vinegar - I like this big jug for the convenience of having lots of vinegar on hand for more experiments
  • Baking Soda
  • Tray
  • Small pitcher
  • Spoon/s
  • Bowl/s
  • Food coloring (optional)

Baking Soda and Science Exploration | Fun Science Experiments  |  TinkerLab.com

Steps: Set up a Concoction Experiment

  1. Set up a tray or deep tub and fill it with a handful of small bowls.
  2. Fill a bowl with baking soda and a small spoon
  3. Fill a small pitcher with vinegar
  4. Offer this invitation to your little scientist

Baking Soda and Science Exploration | Fun Science Experiments  |  TinkerLab.com

After some fizzy exploration, my daughter wanted to see what would happen if we added some salt, so we brought salt over.  In the past we’ve also added flour, baking powder, and a variety of vinegars. At this point, you could also introduce some food coloring for extra-colorful fun.

More Fun Vinegar and Baking Soda Experiments

When my older daughter was three years old, we did this same science experiment with a slightly different set-up. Hop over here to the fun Baking Soda and Vinegar Science Experiment.

Baking Soda and Science Exploration | Fun Science Experiments  |  TinkerLab.com

This project, like so many others that you’ll find on TinkerLab, is process-based and it’s part of the CREATIVE TABLE PROJECT. 

These projects are set up as Creative Invitations, meaning that the materials are laid out in an inviting way where the child is invited to interpret and use them however he or she likes. With creative invitations like this, I’ll sometimes give my kids a little prompt, but usually I sit back and see what they come up with…and I’m often surprised by their ingenuity.

One of my favorite things about Creative Table projects is that they’re simple. Set up takes minutes and the child determines the outcome through a process of discovery and exploration. There’s no expected outcome, which frees the parent or teacher up to relax and enjoy the process.

Around here, these creative set-ups are part of the Creative Table series, and you can find more of these ideas here.

Creative Table Project | Baking Soda and Vinegar

If you enjoyed this activity, be sure to check out our new book, TinkerLab: A Handbook for Little Inventors (affiliate link). You might also enjoy these creative invitations:

Creative Table Highlights via Instagram

Creative Table: Tape and Paper Bags

Creative Table: Paint and Looping Lines

Creative Table: Doilies and Scissors

Creative Table: Leaves and Glue

Creative Table: Stickers and Frames

 

 

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Join the TinkerLab Creative Challenges http://tinkerlab.com/next-tinkerlab-creative-challenges/ http://tinkerlab.com/next-tinkerlab-creative-challenges/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 22:24:10 +0000 http://tinkerlab.com/?p=12898 Every two months we host a Creative Challenge, where we invite you to invite you to create with a common material . The objective of these challenges is to explore a material’s potential, build creative confidence, encourage invention, and envision new purposes for common objects…. skills that are at the heart of innovation.  Do you want to know more about our […]

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Every two months we host a Creative Challenge, where we invite you to invite you to create with a common material . The objective of these challenges is to explore a material’s potential, build creative confidence, encourage invention, and envision new purposes for common objects…. skills that are at the heart of innovation. 

Do you want to know more about our creative challenges?

TinkerLab Creative Challenge Cupcake Liners

This is our 12th challenge! Can I get some applause? To see them all, simply scroll to the bottom of this post.

Now I have some big news for you….

If you’ve been following these challenges or have entered them before, I’m adding one really BIG CHANGE this month, and I think you’ll like it.  All of the challenges up to this point have been open to kids only. I love kids, of course, but why should kids have all the fun? So, this next challenge will be open to everyone. Do you have the crafting/experimenting bug? Join me!

TinkerLab Creative Challenge | For Kids and Adults | Cupcake Liners

Will you join the next Creative Challenge?

If you’d like to join one the next challenge, plan to come back during the month of August with a link to your blog post (we’ll have a place here for you to share) or share an image on Instagram (tag it with #tinkerlabchallenge) of you or your kid/s in action.

TinkerLab Creative Challenge Cupcake Liners

Should I join the Creative Challenges? Is this for me?

You might be wondering if this is worth your time. Well, here are some of the reasons to join in…

  1. You or your child will most likely enjoy the process of designing a self-directed project that encourages confidence and critical thinking skills.
  2. You’ll enjoy sharing with all the other Creative Challenge participants. It’s really fun to see how people interpret the same materials in different ways.
  3. If you’re a blogger, you’ll probably enjoy a boost in traffic.

Okay, I’m in! What do I need to do?

  1. Gather your materials
  2. Talk to your child about his or her plan, or hatch your own plan
  3. Run the project
  4. Document it
  5. Share it with us on August 1. There are 2 ways to share: We’ll post a Linky on our site that you can link your blog post up to and/or you can share on Instagram with the hashtag #tinkerlabchallenge

TinkerLab Creative Challenge Cupcake Liners

Got it! Can you give us some ideas to help us get started?

Sure! You could:

Grab a Button

Tinkerlab

 

 

PAST TINKERLAB CREATIVE CHALLENGES

Creative Challenge #11: String

Creative Challenge for Kids | String | TinkerLab.com

Creative Challenge #10: Eggs

TinkerLab's Creative Challenge for Kids | The EGG Challenge

Creative Challenge #9: Egg Cartons

egg carton challenge

Creative Challenge #8: Paper Bags

paper bag museum maps

Creative Challenge #7: Magazines

Creative Challenge #6: Cardboard Box

Creative Challenge #5: Plastic Bottle

Creative Challenge #4: Rubber Bands

Creative Challenge #3: Legos

Creative Challenge #2: Pasta

Creative Challenge #1: Toilet Paper Roll

 

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Summer Break and TinkerLab Updates http://tinkerlab.com/summer-break/ http://tinkerlab.com/summer-break/#respond Sun, 22 Jun 2014 08:57:33 +0000 http://tinkerlab.com/?p=12848 Hi everyone! It’s been an exciting and busy couple weeks for me. My book came out on June 10 with a flurry of activity. For one, we’re in the middle of an incredible blog book tour, which I’d encourage you to check out if you’d like to learn more about TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little […]

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Hi everyone!

It’s been an exciting and busy couple weeks for me. My book came out on June 10 with a flurry of activity. For one, we’re in the middle of an incredible blog book tour, which I’d encourage you to check out if you’d like to learn more about TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors (affiliate link). Are you already reading the book? Maybe you’d like to join Club TinkerLab where we’ll talk about the book and all-things-tinkering.

What else? My publisher, Roost Books, is hosting a fun Pinterest contest. If you’d like a chance at winning TWO copies of the book and a Michael’s gift certificate, hop on over because the deadline is today!

Join the Pin to Win Contest on Tinkerlab.com for a chance to win books and a Michael's Gift Certificate | TinkerLab.com

More news: Our Facebook fan page is hopping’ and we just hit a new milestone of 100K readers! It really has been a busy week!

 

100K Facebook Fans

 

Starting in July, I’ll be kicking off our real-life book tour at Books Inc. in San Francisco. If you’d like to attend a TinkerLab book talk + workshop, I just added a new event to the calendar! Details here.

TinkerLab Book Tour

And finally, my kids are on summer vacation! And my husband is too. And guess what, that means it’s time for me to take a little break as well. Writing and talking up a book is exhausting and I’m ready for some r + r. I’ll still pop in a tiny bit on Instagram and Facebook, and the blog will continue to be a great resource until I come back.

happy summer collage

See you in a few weeks!

Rachelle

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OK Go’s The Writing’s on the Wall and Optical Illusions http://tinkerlab.com/ok-gos-writings-wall-optical-illusions/ http://tinkerlab.com/ok-gos-writings-wall-optical-illusions/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 06:53:14 +0000 http://tinkerlab.com/?p=12838 Have you seen the new OK Go video, The Writing’s On the Wall? Holy Smokes, people — if MC Escher were alive today, this is the sort of thing he would have come up with. All of OK Go’s videos are impossibly imaginative, and they somehow seemed to have trumped their best work. See for […]

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Have you seen the new OK Go video, The Writing’s On the Wall? Holy Smokes, people — if MC Escher were alive today, this is the sort of thing he would have come up with.

OK Go's super amazing music video, The Writing's on the Wall, and the art of Optical Illusions. The post includes some DIY optical illusion activities to try after watching the video  - TinkerLab

All of OK Go’s videos are impossibly imaginative, and they somehow seemed to have trumped their best work. See for yourself…

From what I’ve read, they created this in just one take! Seriously. Of course there were lots of takes that didn’t work out (50 takes preceded this one). This behind-the-scenes Mashable interview with OK Go talks a little bit about that and shares some cool insights on how it all came together:

Of course my heart flutters for geeky art + science madness like this, but I also really like the song. For more, this Rolling Stone article is worth checking out.

One of my favorite things about optical illusions like this is the seamless blend of art and science. Optical illusions wouldn’t exist without the physics of science and the creativity of art. When I watch this video, I also think of the the shadow work of Tim Noble and Sue Webster. This is Colossal reviewed the video and they cite influences such as the large-scale perspective-skewing installations of Bernard Pras, geometric projections of Felice Varini, and the photographic trick-of-the-eye masterpieces by Bela Borsodi. If you like this stuff, you’ll want to check out this links.

Talk about the Video with Kids

Whenever I see cool things like this, I often consider how I could introduce this to my kids. So, here’s a fun project for you: Watch this video with your child and then talk about what you saw. Or, try this with a friend or on your own. Optical illusions are for everyone, after all.

Some guiding questions:

  1. Which of the optical illusions surprised you? Why?
  2. Which illusion did you like the best? Why?
  3. Which illusion is still puzzling you? At this point, you can go back to the video and watch that part to try to figure it out.
  4. What other questions could you ask?

Following this discussion, make some of your own optical illusions. Some ideas follow:

Optical Illusion Activities

  • Check out these classic optical illusions via Optics for Kids, and figure out how they work.
  • Make a fish-in-a-tank optical illusion from Science Sparks
  • Try this fun bending finger trick. The short and fun video shows you how. From Julian’s Magician School, via YouTube
  • Draw your own hand in 3-D using just a pencil, paper, and markers. This video from Handimania is great!
  • Try to set up your own photographic trick-of-the-eye like Bela Borsodi’s (the video on this page is so worth watching — just to see what’s possible)
  • What else could you do? Let us know in a comment!

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Should Food be used in Preschool Sensory Activities? http://tinkerlab.com/food-used-toddler-sensory-activities/ http://tinkerlab.com/food-used-toddler-sensory-activities/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 17:37:10 +0000 http://tinkerlab.com/?p=12778 Every since I dipped my toes into the world of Early Childhood Education, the hotly debated issue of whether or not food should be used in preschool sensory activities has come up multiple times. My background in the arts, where all supplies were fair game for art-making, didn’t prepare me for the variety of opinions that circle […]

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Every since I dipped my toes into the world of Early Childhood Education, the hotly debated issue of whether or not food should be used in preschool sensory activities has come up multiple times. My background in the arts, where all supplies were fair game for art-making, didn’t prepare me for the variety of opinions that circle this topic.

TinkerLab reader, Pam, presented this question on Facebook after I shared a post for making colored rice:

Should food be used in toddler sensory activities?  |  TinkerLab.com

And Pam’s question reminded me of a question from our friend, Lori, just two weeks earlier:

Should food be used in toddler sensory activities?  |  TinkerLab.com

Since this question comes up a lot, I wanted to take a moment to unpack it here and share some of the pros and cons for using food in toddler and preschool sensory activities. Please keep in mind that the word “preschool” can relate to a preschool classroom setting or to the age of a preschool child who is at home. My own answer to this question (shared below) differs according to the context.

I’d love to invite you to share your thoughts on the topic, as it’s quite possible that something will be left out. My goal isn’t to convince you to take a stand in one camp or the other, but to provide you with the tools you might need to make a decision that’s right for your situation.

I pulled together some reader quotes from the aforementioned conversations and invited some blogging friends to chime in on the topic as well.

Let’s go…

Should food be used in preschool sensory activities? | TinkerLab.com

Con: Using food for Play is Insensitive and/or Wasteful

With millions of children in the world living in poverty I think it is ignorant to use food for play. Sticks, crunchy leaves, seed pod, tree slices, bark, dirt, organic sawdust, shells, small stones, sand, ice….. The list of non food, non toxic FREE play alternatives are endless. Mother Nature has provided us with all we need for sensory play. - Lee-Anne

When you fill your sensory table with rice or millet you are being playful with an amount of food that could feed a family for weeks. It teaches children that materials are abundant, and not of any great value, things that aren’t true in most of the world. In my center we use edible materials for babies but we try hard to find ways to value and honor the food that we use.  - Kendra

It is not about confusing play with food you would eat, it is more like using food in play as though it were nothing, when in reality in many countries out there, it is very expensive, heck, 1 play bin could feed a family of four for 2 meals in our own country. We do not realize how much other people struggle and it is seen as wasteful. It was mentioned on my blog how many USA bloggers treat rice and beans and lentils and the like as nothing, but in many other areas those things are expensive. Not just underprivledged struggle either, many Americans that are there for the Armed Services find those things pricey in many areas as well…it is about being informed. - Michelle

Just know your audience. If you’re working with families facing food insecurity, seeing bins or beans or rice “wasted” can seem disrespectful. I use a lot of dried beans and dyed rice in my sensory bins, but I make sure it is ok as far as the population I’m serving first. - Sarah

Best practice means being respectful period, not just the make up of your class for one particular year.  - Mary

In New Zealand we don’t use food ie dried pasta etc for play as its not Tikanga. Cultural principles around the subject. There are many many other natural resources we use to provide tactile play.  -Sarah

Play with food at the table, in the context of eating, is ok, but playing with food for enjoyment sake itself is, in my view, a real first world ignorance. It could feed a family, perhaps even one in your centre, for a day and you disregard that issue with this type of play. Also, stuffing bean bags with dried beans, rice or other such food, is not a good idea either, for the same reasons. Many cultures keep food sacred, separate from all other activities, and with good reason. I highly suggest avoiding food-play in this way. The greatest food play is getting even the youngest of children to help you prepare food- my 2 yr old loves to bake, peel carrots and whisk eggs. Making games of the meal is all part of learning to enjoy food. Hope this helps. Non-toxic toy alternatives are wool, cotton, wood, and flax, not food.  - Tota

Oh my….Food needs to be respected- not played with! Let us try as an early childhood community to raise children on the concept of respecting food, where it comes from and how it is vital for nutrition. - Cathie

It is a child care regulation in my state that food cannot be used in sensory tables nor art projects for the cultural and wasteful reasons others have mentioned.  - Genuine

Pro: Using Food for Play is not Insensitive or Wasteful

It’s funny how being respectful of food with children comes up frequently, yet the biggest challenge facing most of the global population is clean drinking water. We frequently use it for “play” and for washing off surfaces. Children in some areas are deprived of a good part of a school day because they walk hours to get fresh water for their families. In schools here we have “water tables” and “splash pools” full of drinkable water before it gets used.  I have no problem with staples being used for food play with children. Food banks and global donations always contain a surplus of those items. Fruits and vegetables, dairy, and proteins are items to be avoided for food play with children. Anyone who is struggling financially has no problem putting macaroni or rice on the table. It is the other 3 food groups that are challenging. A lot of staple foods are thrown out because they have gone stale or not eaten. Using them for educational purposes is better than discarding them.  - Alan

I prefer to use the food scraps. We have a post on vegetable scrap stamping. If the food is going into the disposal, the trash or the compost, and it presents an opportunity to learn (either by dissecting it, planting it, or doing some art with it), then it is great to use. It also affords an opportunity to have the kids in the kitchen with me while I cook, where we can do an activity together even though I’m getting chores done. - Patricia, Critters and Crayons

As a history educator, I keep in mind that food items often were and are still used in play and art all over. Consider, too, that the bag of rice you buy in your developed world grocery store won’t otherwise be going to someone living in hunger l. Global hunger is less due to a food shortage than to war, lack of infrastructure, and a political failure of will. Rather than take stand on a particular type of material, I focus on being mindful of the effects of our choices and the ways in which we can further social justice.  - Candace, Naturally Educational 

 I used a bunch of old macaroni that was stale for a sensory bin for my toddlers. Seeing as it isn’t cooked, it’s hard to recognize as “food” and I would rather use it in some way than throw it away because it never got eaten. Plus, my 2 year old tends to put everything in his mouth and I would much rather him end up with a stale piece of macaroni than sand or beads. - Christina

I don’t agree that using food in a different way is “wasting”. It’s being used, meaningfully and with great purpose. Are kids wasting finger paint? No they are using it. They are learning with it. It is valuable. I appreciate the need to be sensitive to families both socio economically and culturally but I reject the idea that use is waste.  - Kawai

We enjoy using food for our crafts and sensory play. I do understand that it may be seen as a luxury to be so wasteful with food – but then surely having a huge variety of paper, handfuls of crayons and pens and many many more craft materials could be considered a luxury too? This may be a little black and white for some, but if I can afford to buy a pack of marker pens for $5, then I can also afford $1 for a bag of rice. - George, Craftulate

We use rice in our sensory table because we have yet to find something that feels as wonderful. We’ve been using the same container of rice (we rotate) for two years now. We are not being wasteful with it and have found the benefits to be wonderful. - Melanie

In regards to the food “waste” issue, I would argue that food is not being wasted, just used in an alternative way. Is the food being digested and giving the body nutrients? No. But is playing with food stimulating my child’s nervous system in ways that non-food sensory play can’t? Yes. And in the long run, we’ll be “wasting” much less food because my child will now eat the food we played with, rather than refusing it every time it’s presented on a plate.  - -Jordan, Motherhood and Other Adventures

Should food be used in preschool sensory activities? | TinkerLab.com

Con: Preschool Kids May be Allergic to Sensory Activities

Also a consideration is food allergies or intolerances that may crop up in the classroom. It’s hard to have to make changes to the curriculum year to year to safely accommodate everyone so if you can come up with non food alternatives that may be best.  - Lissa

My daughter had a dairy allergy when she was a preschooler. It was brutal worrying about every potential craft or activity being something that could harm her. I’m grateful she outgrew it, but I remember those anxiety filled days well.   - Melinda

As a parent of children with food intolerances, I dread any food-based activities at school. Especially at preschool with my toddler, who is more likely to jam things into her mouth. In fact, when my oldest was a toddler, she viewed the sensory table as her own personal all-you-can-eat buffet. (This was before I knew how those ingredients affected her.) As a parent, I either have to hope the teacher can exclude my child from any activities involving foods she’s intolerant to if there’s a risk of ingestion, or else I as the parent have to provide enough of a safe alternative for the class to use instead. Which can quickly become an expensive burden! I do see the value of food-play, and it’s a safe way for littler ones to have sensory play without fear of choking. It’s also a great way to raise adventurous eaters, by having them interact with ingredients in multiple ways (taste, touch, smell, etc,) and by using familiar foods in different ways (a lot of kids get stuck in a rut where a food must be served the same way every time!) So as long as the teacher/school is willing to accommodate food allergies and intolerances, then I’m all for food play at school! But if a child is constantly put at risk or must be excluded from an activity, then that class may have to miss out on food activities. -Kendra, Biting the Hand that Feeds You

Pro: It’s fine if Children have no Allergies

As long as there are no food allergy issues, I’d say go for it. Kids will play with food no matter what.  - Teri

I have children that put everything in their mouths. Using food made more sense than anything else because it wasn’t going to be toxic if they ate it. It also wouldn’t leave trace on their hands and was easily replenished. We reuse the food as much as possible. I have a cupboard with jars of various food used in arts and crafts and play that gets brought out again and again. -Cerys, Rainy Day Mum

Pro: It’s Helpful to Children with Sensory Needs

As a mom of a child with Sensory Processing Disorder, yes, food should definitely be used in toddler and preschool sensory activities. Presenting a child with food to play with, instead of eat, is a way to introduce new textures and smells without pressure. The child is allowed to explore at their own pace, and in their own way. My son never was willing to taste pasta until after we explored cooked spaghetti in a sensory play activity. -Jordan, Motherhood and Other Adventures

My son had sensory integration issues and was only 14 lbs at 1 year. He was on a feeding tube and went to OT. At OT, do you know what they did? Play with food!. It actually teaches them to get used to different textures and not have an aversion to new foods. I was born during the Vietnam War and there was mass starvation when the war ended due to collectivization of the farms and bombings. I personally had to get over food hoarding and being a member of the clean plate club. Like everything, moderation is the key. Be respectful and don’t throw the rice around, keep it in the container and try to reuse it afterwards (make bean bags, make maracas, stress balls in balloons, heating pads, I Spy bags, rainsticks, etc.).  - Lucy

Should food be used in preschool sensory activities? | TinkerLab.com

Con: Natural Objects should be left in their Environment

Would like to just throw out there that it seems many who have big concerns about food play are suggesting the alternative is to simply gather items from nature instead, and that idea is grand but should be approached with consideration to the natural world versus ”free for the taking”. If everyone heads outdoors to gather up sticks, twigs, pinecones, seeds, flowers, bark, etc. then you’ve now taken food and shelter from animals who depend on us leaving these things be. Absolutely, there are responsible ways to acquire some natural items within reason; e.g, from your own property, but typically most educational sites and resources do not promote this, they simply put in their lesson plans ”gather up some pinecones and make this glittery craft” or ”swoop up flowers from a nearby field to dissect or learn fractions”, etc. Squirrels and Bees would suggest perhaps growing your own flowers and pick one pinecone vs. a plethora, especially if it so happens to be a weak year of natural food. I know where we live is scarce this year due to rain last year and the bears and wildlife are hungry searching for what they can. As well, some natural found items are federally protected resources that can land you in big trouble for taking. So it really seems that providing any materials to children to play has a plus and a negative aspect to it. Perhaps looking at it altogether differently is an alternative. For example, children digging and growing a small garden themselves gives sensory experience whilst building an appreciation for food, as well as not taking food from wildlife to play with. Picking and Washing the veggies also are hands on sensory experiences. Eating and preserving most whilst using a few in crafts and games much like ancient cultures did. For example, making apple heads or bobbing for apples, creating corn dollies or even corn husk dolls. Or maybe gather natural items at a time of year they are not so crucial to wildlife and then returning them when needed (fall/winter). Another alternate idea from food; either human or animal, is building up a recycling/repurposing inventory. Milk jug tops, empty cartons, squeeze bottles, jars, cans, etc. These can be turned in to fantastic toys and play items.  - Missy Louise

Pro: Food is Natural and Healthy

I used to have a problem with it, but now I think it´s better than buying other toys/playdough etc. We reuse the dried food/homemade playdough over and over. From an environmental view I actually think it´s better than a lot of plastic, battery operated and general toys as they are often made with nasty chemicals, break and may end up in landfill. So I would much prefer to be letting them play with dried foods that will decompose! Kids naturally play with food at the table when they eat and I actually think it´s important to do this so that they can experience the food you are expecting them to put in their mouths. In saying all of this rice, flour and beans are about all we use (easy to store and re-use). At Christmas/easter time the odd potato for stamping. - Felicity

I have to say I lie in the pro-food camp. For me the benefits of using food in preschool activities outweigh the cons. I personally like using food because it is a less expensive alternative to many costly art supplies, because it encourages children to see unique ways to use everyday items, and because it makes for safe, non-toxic play materials. - Ana, Babble Dabble Do

I understand the concern but do you want your children to play or accidentally ingest toxins??? I would much rather use rice or flour than something that would harm their growth, remember this is used as a learning tool and something to keep in mind using toxins what message is that sending? I am all for organic but we must understand there is a down side to this usage also.  - Robin

My girls are 3 and they know not to play with food at meal time. They constantly do food play at school and home…..I would rather them eat a Cheerios than a plastic bead. If they are taught to understand (which they can do at preschool age) it shouldn’t be an issue. - Jessica

You could have food on plates that could be played with then eaten. You could use beans for play then plant them. I’d much prefer kids playing with biodegradable products than something that’s going to end up in the bin like the loom bands everyone has gone mad for. I think in the scheme, of things a bag of rice is fine for play, perhaps playing with food might bring children closer to understanding and appreciating it. I’ve made veggie critters with kids and it’s a wonderful activity.  - Kristy

 If we are not “pro-food” in sensory play, then what are we? Unless you’re only then reaching for natural materials, the alternative is synthetic, manufactured items that cause their own environmental footprint and sense of “disposable” waste. If properly cared for, food sensory items can be reused again and again — the same bag of quick oats, the same batch of homemade playdough.
Food provides unparalleled, multi-sensory engagement and is something that most people reading will have ready access to.
Also, if the concern is having children “play with their food,” I would suggest that allowing this might encourage children to be more adventurous with their food choices. Even painting with spices might encourage a plain-eater to try something a bit spiced up! – Jennifer, Study at Home Mama

Should food be used in preschool sensory activities? | TinkerLab.com

Take the Middle Ground

Gather materials from nature for your sensory bins. Rocks, pebbles, sticks, fresh cut herbs, dried plants, mud, etc! It’s free, teaches about our local environment, and can be returned outdoors or composted. Personally, I use limited amounts of food materials. Winter wheat berries that we then give to a farmer is great in the fall. Talk about wheats life cycle, read “little red hen”, sprout wheat, talk about wheat to flour, bake some bread. All in balance friends. No sense judging one another’s practices!   - April

Really, it’s about the balance and respect for other cultures. I do use food, even as a sensory but in the context of teaching my preschoolers about cooking and nutrition. Giving them the independence to learn how to make something and then do it at home is the best lesson I can teach them. They still get to “play” / “create” with food but in a more appropriate context that they will remember and use.  - Cathryn

I personally aim to think carefully about any materials we use in play. I want my children to have access to a wide range of materials for sensory experiences and creative prompts, and prefer open-ended, natural materials. We try not to use anything which is disposable after only one brief use, we use as many recycled materials as possible, and we try to recycle or compost what we’ve used after we have played. Using this criteria sometimes food is a better choice for us – for example some uncooked pasta which we might use as maths manipulatives, put in a sensory tub, and then paint and use for art, or threading necklaces. We use it many times before composting it to benefit our garden classroom.  - Cathy, NurtureStore

I probably think way too much about this topic. I do agree that for some young children using food is a safe alternative – if they tend to put things in their mouths (my son says I’m the most over-protective mother). Several years ago when teaching art at a preschool in a poor neighborhood it struck me as very sad that many o the children only ate when they got their free breakfasts and lunches at school. I imagined how one of those children would feel seeing pudding used to paint or an apple used to print. I stopped using food in my projects. I’ve since started again, but not in the same ways. I’ll use items I would normally toss (like strawberry tops) or I do a swap- I’ll have my son choose an items to donate to the food pantry box at our grocery store if we are going to use food in an activity. I know that the five blueberries I’m going to use or a printing project won’t cause a world hunger crisis, but it makes me feel better and teaches a good lesson on helping others to do so. I explain it a little better in this post on berry art. - Rikki, Mini Monets and Mommies

Should food be used in preschool sensory activities? | TinkerLab.com

Where does TinkerLab stand?

As I mentioned earlier, my background in the arts prepared me to think abstractly and broadly about what can be used as an art material. When I set up my first art studio, Chris Ofili’s paintings with elephant dung and Damien Hirst’s real shark floating in formaldehyde took the art world by storm, demonstrating just how far artists can push past the use of traditional art supplies. I happily made things with non-art materials like Valentine conversation hearts, resin (which comes from trees), and flowers collected from my garden. Wasn’t this better, and maybe more interesting, I thought, than spending tons of money on store-bought supplies?

Now here’s an interesting fact about store-bought art supplies: Food and natural materials are often in the ingredients. This is something to think about if you have a child with food allergies. For example: Play-doh (flour, salt), Crayola Colored Pencils (soy), Air-dry Clay (corn starch), and Crayola Washable Markers (corn syrup). If we’re to avoid food products in art then we need to consider these less obvious culprits. These ingredients aren’t included in package labels and are essentially hidden from consumers. Since food products are found in store-bought art supplies, I see very little difference in adding food to my own supplies.

Introducing my kids to natural materials is also far more interesting to me that exposing them to toxic materials. As such, we will occasionally use food for play or projects, and I’m more inclined to do so if it’s scraps, expired, or if the play/art supply will last for a long time. We do our best to recycle and return things to the earth. Some of the things we have used and made: flour and oil in cloud dough, rice flour in gluten-free cloud dough, rice in colored rice, flour in the best play dough recipe, wheat berries in our wheat berry sensory table, and sweetened condensed milk in milk paint.

Food for Play in schools: I don’t run a school, but in that context there’s a good chance that I would avoid using food for play due to allergies and a desire to respect the religious and personal perspectives of a diverse audience. When it comes to the school environment, I often look to my colleague, Deborah, at Teach Preschool. See the first article, below.

More thoughts on Food in Play

A Discussion on Food Use in the Early Education Classroom, Teach Preschool

Parents and Teachers Working Together: Should Food Be Used as Learning Materials, Early Childhood News (the discussion in the this article is so rich and will give you a lot of food for thought — no pun intended!)

Play with your food? Or not? My thoughts on Food in Play, Picklebums

Being Thankful for Food, Planet Smarty Pants

Using Food in Preschool, Interaction Imagination

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Layered Rainbow Colored Rice Jars http://tinkerlab.com/layered-rainbow-jar-colored-rice/ http://tinkerlab.com/layered-rainbow-jar-colored-rice/#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 05:49:27 +0000 http://tinkerlab.com/?p=12802 Yesterday I shared a recipe for colored rice, and today I’m sharing a fun and simple creative invitation to make a layered rainbow colored rice jar. Like all things on TinkerLab, this is just a jumping off point and should act more as inspiration than doctrine. Offer your child the materials and then see what […]

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Yesterday I shared a recipe for colored rice, and today I’m sharing a fun and simple creative invitation to make a layered rainbow colored rice jar.

Like all things on TinkerLab, this is just a jumping off point and should act more as inspiration than doctrine. Offer your child the materials and then see what he or she comes up with. You may be surprised by the results!

A Classic Craft: Colored Rice Layer Jar

Supplies: Rainbow Colored Rice Jar

  • Colored Rice – Recipe here
  • Funnel – I made a paper funnel by twirling a half-circle of paper into a funnel shape and then taping the edge shut.
  • Spoon
  • Glass or plastic jar

Preschool Art: Colored Rice Layer Jar Supplies

Rainbow Colored Rice Jar Set-up

I set up all of the materials on the table just as you see in the photo above. My kids were VERY eager to jump in and get started, and began filling the jars before I had a chance to grab an empty-jar version of the invitation. This set-up is super inviting, and MANY jars were filled that day.

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

My kids, ages 3 and 5, figured out without any verbal cues that this was an invitation to fill their jars. They came up with their own color combinations and enjoyed the process so much that they foraged the kitchen for mason jars and anything else that could hold their colored rice.

A Classic Craft: Colored Rice Layer Jar

More Ways to Explore Colored Rice

  • Make it a Gift! Make these as gifts for family members
  • Vary the material: Try this with Colored Salt or Colored Sand, instead of rice.
  • Make a Sensory Tub: Pour all of your rainbow-colored rice into a big sensory tub and invite your child to play with it. Add funnels, bowls, and scoopers for extra entertainment. Add small character toys and pretend they live in the land of rainbows. The wheat berries in this sensory tub could easily be replaced with rice or colored sand.
  • Use the rice like glitter. Offer your child a sheet of paper, white craft glue, and a bowl of rice to sprinkle into the glue.

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