Fall Craft Ideas: Paint Coffee Filter Suncatchers

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

If you’re interested in ways to bring the Fall season to life, today I’m sharing fall craft idea that encourages children to be inventive and think independently.

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Present the Supplies as an Art Invitation

If you follow TinkerLab, you know that I appreciate projects that encourage children to think for themselves and come up with their own unique spin on the materials. Like so many of our projects, I present the supplies to my children as an art invitation. Once the supplies are in front of my kids, they are free to use the materials in any way the please.

So, what will we need?

The supplies for this project are so easy!

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Here’s the set-up…

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Pre-cut coffee filters into leaf shapes. As you can see in the first image in this post, there were a few requests for hearts too. Related to that, this is by no means an exclusive-to-Autumn activity. Cut out hearts, moons, trees, flowers, or even shamrocks. Have fun with this!

Place the cut-out shapes on a tray. We used an art tray, but a cookie sheet with a rim will work equally well. You’ll want the tray because this project can get drippy, and all that liquid will be nicely contained in this walled-off area. I found our art trays at Michaels and spotted something similar over on Amazon (affiliate link).

For two children, you can have them share a bowl of water as I did, or give them each their own water (they would appreciate that, I’m sure!).

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

At ages three and six, my kids had very different approaches to this task.

As you can see from the dot-covered table, my three-year old had a GREAT time exploring dot-making on the table. My older daughter experimented with drawing veins and rainbow effects, and her little sister soon got on board with similar tasks.

It’s always interesting to see how artists influence each other, and I’m 100% okay with copying as it’s a way of learning.

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Kids also like to experiment with different paintbrushes (flat, round, fan, skinny, and fat) to achieve a variety of textures and lines. If you have a collection of paintbrushes, this is a great project to bring them out for.

Drying the Coffee Filters

If your child gets into this project, you will have A LOT of painted coffee filters to contend with. As such, you’ll need to set up a space to dry these gorgeous leaves.

Roll out a large sheet of paper or lay down newspaper, and then place the painted cut-outs on the paper until dry. Because the paper is so thin, they tend to dry incredibly fast!

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Once dry, hang the shapes in a window with a bit of transparent tape. Admire the colors as the sun shines through them.

More Fall Craft Ideas

Make a shimmering Fall Lantern

This easy Sticky Autumn Collage is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers

Preserve your leaves in glycerin with Glycerin Leaves

This is our favorite play dough recipe, with a fall scent: DIY Pumpkin Pie Playdough

Make Leaf Sun Prints as a way to preserve leaf shapes on fabric.

And for a whole slew of Autumn ideas, check out the fun Fall Bucket List

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In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

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Fall Luminary: Make a Lantern

Crayon Shavings :: from Tinkerlab, Creative Experiments for Kids

Today I’m joined by Arts Educator extraordinaire, Amanda Gross, who’s back to show us how to make a Fall Luminary from leaves and melted crayons. Not only are these beautiful, but the processes of collecting leaves, peeling crayons, and melting the wax with an iron are sure to capture a child’s attention.

Make a Lantern!

Luminaries are perfect for brightening a crisp autumn evening, and a crafty way to explore this season when leaves turn brilliant colors, the rosy twilight falls more quickly, and families the world over traditionally give thanks for the harvest.

You might start by reading a book that poetically investigates the unique things of autumn, such as Lois Ehlert’s Leaf Man or Lauren Thompson’s Mouse’s First Fall.

Would your child like to make a colorful fall luminary, choosing materials from outside and around the house?

Step 1:
Wander around outside, and notice how the leaves have turned a multitude of colors and have gotten crunchy. Choose leaves that have fallen off of trees, but are not too dry and can still lay flat.  If leaves are very curly, you may consider pressing them in a heavy book for a few days, before using them.  Bring your collection inside and onto a table.

Step 2:
Find a clean mason jar that will serve as the structure for your luminary.  Measure the mason jar’s circumference with sting, and cut a wax paper strip that is long enough to fit around it.

Step 3:
Gather crayons of your favorite colors.   Lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival are often inspired by butterflies, so any hue goes!   Unwrap the paper covering the crayons, and shave them lengthwise over the wax paper, with a serrated knife or vegetable peeler.  If your child isn’t old enough to wield the knife, s/he could choose the crayon, the location, and how much pigment they’d like you to shave off.

Step 4:
Place leaves over the crayon shavings, and feel free to add more shavings on top.  Explain that the crayon wax will melt, and those little crumbs will become puddles of color.  Experiment with composition, and with layering the leaves and shavings.

Step 5:
Set up your ironing board and turn on the iron (If you are like me, and not the most experienced with this, here’s one of many online ironing tutorials).  On your ironing board, place a flat, thin cloth (the crayon wax will probably bleed through the wax paper a bit, so use scrap fabric and not “good” cloth), then carefully place your wax paper with the leaves and shavings.  Over this, put a blank sheet of wax paper, of around the same size.  Layer on another thin cloth, and smooth out the wrinkles with your fingers.  Spritz the top layer evenly with water from a spray bottle, and now you’re ready to iron.  Flatten out the wrinkles and iron both sides of the wax paper “sandwich.”

Step 6:
After waiting a few minutes for the wax paper to cool, peel away the cloth.  Measure your mason jar again, and cut the wax paper so that it fits around the jar, then tape or tie a ribbon around it to hold the paper in place.

Step 7:
When it gets dark outside, drop a candle into your mason jar, and ignite it with a long lighter.  The brilliant, glowing colors and winding lines of the leaves will surely be a cozy centerpiece for your family to gather around, and is an excellent reminder to be grateful for the season.

Resources

Picture Books About Fall on Goodreads

PreservingLeaves and a Leaf Lantern

Nature’sStained Glass

MeltedCrayon Luminaries

Amanda E. Gross_headshotAmanda designs curricula to guide and inspire children, teens, and adults to appreciate art and to create!  She earned a Master’s of Arts in Teaching from The Rhode Island School of Design and is an instructor at Academy of Art University.  Amanda is also an illustrator, painter, DIY crafter, and permaculture enthusiast. Find out more about Amanda here: Art Curricula WebsiteArt Portfolio WebsiteLinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Fall Crafts: Glycerin Leaves

How to make glycerine Leaves

We’re ga-ga for all the multi-colored maple leaves of the season, and my older daughter, N, is likely to burst into a chorus of “red and yellow leaves” as we drive down the road. I’ve been reading up on how to preserve the leaves so that they’ll last more than a couple days and it turns out that you have a few choices, some of them being : preserve them with a glycerin solution, seal them with hot wax, press them between sheets of contact paper, or melt them between sheets of wax paper.

We had a bottle of glycerin in the cabinet for bubble-making, so I thought we’d try our hands at making glycerin leaves. I have to tell you upfront: the process was fantastic and my kids really got into it. The results, on the other hand, meh. Not so spectacular. More on that soon.

Supplies

  • 1/4 c. glycerin
  • 1/2 c. water
  •  Fall leaves
  • Two pans that can stack inside each other
  • Spoon for mixing

Mix the glycerin and water in your pan. Add leaves.

If you don’t have enough solution to cover the leaves, make another batch. My 4-year old loved taking charge of this step and we ooohed and ahhhed over the leaves as they went into the glycerin bath.

Find another pan that’s a bit small than the first, and place it on top so that all the leaves stay submerged.

Put this aside for three-ish days, or until the leaves are super-supple. At this point, the leaves should have absorbed enough of the glycerin solution to retain their color and texture.

Remove the leaves from the glycerin solution and pat dry on a towel. Your leaves are now ready to display.

For those of you who might be banking on this recipe as a way to preserve your leaves for years to come, I think this is worth the experiment but it may not be foolproof. About two weeks later, our leaves have not turned brown, but they definitely haven’t retained their original color. I decorated a corner of our mantle with them, and they look pretty good, but not spectacular. I found this recipe that added surfectant (found in garden supply stores), and it sounds like that may help the glycerin soak into the leaves.

This minor detail has not affected my kids, however, who have been incorporating the leaves into their projects.

Have you ever made glycerin leaves?

Any tips or thoughts on what may have gone wrong? Or was I expecting too much?

 

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DIY Pumpkin Pie Playdough

fall playdough

Have you ever made your own play dough? Im a fan of store bought dough (it’s so easy!), but making your own is a money saver and we can make TONS of it in minutes. And with the simple addition of a little pumpkin pie spice, our dough smells heavenly…just like pumpkin pie!

"Smells like Fall" Pumpkin Play Dough | TinkerLab.com

 

Inspired by The Artful Parent’s Autumn Arts and Crafts book, The Artful Year: Autumn, we finally pitched our peppermint playdough in favor of a more seasonal scent: Pumpkin Pie!

Pumpkin Pie Playdough Recipe…

I used our favorite play dough recipe, which also happens to be the favorite of my daughter’s awesome preschool class, so I’m not going to get experimental with the dough itself, but we did experiment with the spice combination.

The dough itself takes about 20 minutes to prepare, it cooks on the stove-top, and the most complicated-to-find ingredient it calls for is cream of tartar. If it’s hard for you to find, you can get Cream of Tartar on Amazon.

Yes, you can find 2-minute dough recipes, and I’d encourage you to use them if you’re short on time, but the benefit of this recipe is that it will last for ages. Ages. Scroll down for a PRINTABLE recipe card.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie Play Dough | TinkerLab.com

After we made the dough, I placed it on the counter to cool. Meanwhile, my 2-year old worked away at pinching out a real pie crust.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie Play Dough | TinkerLab.com

When the dough was cool to touch, we squeezed orange liquid watercolors on half of it and then kneaded it in. For this step, be sure to mix on a surface that won’t absorb the watercolors. My 4-year old wanted to make half the dough orange and half of it white.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie Play Dough | TinkerLab.com

Although we had planned to use a jar of pumpkin pie spice in the dough, my 4-year old was curious about using whole spices that we just bought, so we pulled out the coffee grinder and gave it a very loud whirl. Fun! I don’t have a proper nutmeg grinder, but this seemed to do the trick. And the smell of cardamom — I absolutely love it.

We experimented with the spice blend by adding the different spices, first quite cautiously and then rather liberally, and in different combinations. I learned that my 4-year old isn’t too crazy about the smell of cardamom, but loves cinnamon.

5.0 from 5 reviews
DIY Pumpkin Pie Playdough
 
Author:
Prep time:
Making time:
Total time:
 
Playdough is a wonderful material for building fine motor skills, developing imaginations through exploratory play, and supporting early engineering and building skills. This recipe rivals anything store-bought.
Supplies
  • 5 cups water
  • 2½ cups salt
  • 3 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 10 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 5 cups flour
  • Food coloring or liquid watercolors
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice, or a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom
Steps
  1. Mix everything but the food coloring together in a large pot until somewhat smooth. It will be lumpy. Not to worry, the dough will get smoother as it cooks.
  2. Cook the dough over a low heat. Mix frequently. The water will slowly cook out of the mixture and you’ll notice it starts to take on a sticky dough appearance.
  3. Keep mixing until the edges of the dough along the side and bottom of the pan appear dry. Pinch a piece of dough. If it’s not gooey, the dough is ready.
  4. Place the dough on a counter top or large cutting board or cooking tray that can withstand a little food coloring.
  5. Knead the warm dough until it’s smooth and then divide it into the number of colors that you’d like to make. We divided our in half: one orange and the other white.
  6. Flatten the ball, add a little bit of food coloring, and knead it in. Add more food coloring to get the desired shade.
  7. Store the dough in a large Ziplock bag or sealed container. Unused, it’ll keep for months.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie PlayDough | TinkerLab.com

My 2-year old was very happy, however, to shake-shake-shake the pie spices all over her gigantic mound of dough. Can you imagine how yummy our kitchen smelled?

 

Easy "smells great" pumpkin pie play dough | TinkerLab.com

After all this cooking, it was time to bake! At this point, our orange and white/tan doughs marbled into something lovely, and we got busy making small cakes and setting them out to eat on a 3-tier plate server.

Playdough Recipes

Rainbow Play Dough, Tinkerlab

No-cook Cinnamon Playdough, The Imagination Tree

39 Ways to Play with Playdough, The Artful Parent

Downloadable (Free) Playdough Recipe Book, Nurture Store

Fall Activities

50 Simple Halloween Ideas for Kids, TinkerLab

Fall Bucket List, Tinkerlab

40 Autumn Activities for Kids, The Imagination Tree

Make Fall Sunprints, Tinkerlab

Multi-color Leaf Prints, Kleas

Negative Leaf Impressions, Tinkerlab

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In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

Sunprints

DSC_0628

I’m in love with the fall season, and now that I have little ones, it’s somehow more fun to break into the pumpkin-pie-goblin-turkey spirit. We “Boo-ed” our neighbors last night, something I’d recommend to anyone interested in generating some old-fashioned community spirit, and my daughter got a kick out of ringing doorbells and running down the street! Ay-ya-yay.

Yesterday we tore into a new bag of sunprint fabric squares that I’ve been hoarding for just the right time, and I can attest that this project is easy, rewarding, and toddler-approved.  On the creativity side of things, this activity presents good opportunities to explore nature, experiment with composition, and discuss the process of developing photographs (a far-off concept for today’s digitally saturated world). Sunprints are technically cyanotypes, a type of photograph made without a camera. The sunprint fabric is light sensitive and produces a negative image when exposed to sunlight or very intense artificial light.

And now that we’ve entered the highly addictive land-of-sunprints, I can see all kinds of potential for printing small toys, fridge letter magnets, stickers, flowers, and other little knick-knacks. I bought the sunprint fabric from Discount School Supply. They come in packs of 25, which made me think how fun this would be for a school group or a big sunprint quilt.

Start with a batch of leaves. We collected ours on a walk the other day, and I’m proud to report that my 2-year old can recognize a maple leaf! She trumps her urban mama in her nature-knowledge every time.

Get your fall spirit on. Note: ambient candle and pinecones :) Open pack of sunprint fabric, being sure to keep all unused pieces in the dark, dark package.

Place leaves on the fabric and set it out in the bright sun for about 15 minutes.

This is an excellent way to reinforce the value of patience!

Rinse in cool water…

…and voila!

Now that the piece is done, it could be stitched onto a bag, t-shirt, quilt, etc. N decided that she wants hers attached to a bag, and I’ll update you on our progress.

What fall projects or traditions are you working on?

This post was is part of the 30 minute challenge. Check out the Moms’ 30-Minute Blog Challenge for more 1800 second posts.

Sticky Autumn Collage

DSC_0741

California has been hit by a heat wave, so staying inside our hot cave of a house is barely an option. Yesterday was full of swimming, a sprinkler run, a trip to the neighbor’s lemonade stand, and hitting a pinata at another neighbor’s house. So cute! Despite the heat, there’s a lot of fall madness in the air — you can’t miss the mountain of gourds and pumpkins piled up at the markets, leaves are turning colors, and my favorite…spiced pumpkin lattes in the coffee shops. Mmmmm…

So, somewhere between the pumpkins and the lemonade stand, we landed on this fall project that involves spending time outside.

We began by pulling out some clear contact paper. I encouraged my daughter to feel its tackiness, and then we discussed the process of collecting leaves and sticking them to the paper. We found an Easter basket and then took a walk around the neighborhood in search of leaves and other flat-ish treasures. This, by the way, is how we landed on the lemonade stand. It pays to get out of the house!

After collecting (and naming!) the leaves, N stuck them on half a sheet of contact paper.

Hey goofball, where did that come from?

She filled in most of the spaces…good for understanding spatial relationships!

And then we smooshed the other half of the contact paper on top of the leaves. This was followed by two more walks around the neighborhood and two more collages. In our books, this activity was a hit.

When we finally came inside, contact collaging continued with magazine cut-outs, post-its, and googley eyes.

Resources

Identification guide for  kids: New England leaves

Nature Detective Leaf Identification Sheet: UK

Leaf Identification Activities

Why do leaves change color?

More Art Projects for Toddlers

12 Simple Art Projects for Toddlers | TinkerLab.com
For more toddler art projects, you may enjoy the easy-to-set-up activities that use mainly everyday materials in 12 Simple Art Projects for Toddlers.

Is this your first time here?

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TinkerLab Newsletter

In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids