Symmetrical Butterfly Prints

This is such a fun project for toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age kids. The results are always a mystery, the supplies are simple, and it teaches children basic principles of symmetry.

This is so fun! Symmetrical Painting with Kids.

When my 1 year old naps, my three and a half year old non-napper and I like to pull out some of our favorite messy materials that don’t normally surface when baby hot-hands is awake.

The other day my older daughter wanted to paint, and we ended up making symmetrical butterfly paintings.

We like to call these butterfly prints, which may have some bearing on why my daughter made at least thirty of them! And I should say that I was recently asked to lead an activity at her preschool, and THIS is the project that N wants me to bring in. Not that I’m trying to sell anything, but how’s that for an endorsement?

Supplies for Symmetrical Painting

This list contains affiliate links

Washable Tempera Paint. We like Crayola washable paint and Colorations washable tempera paint

Cardstock Paper. This paper from Neenah is a good deal, and the quality is great.

Paintbrushes, optional

Palette, optional

**See our video below for a brush-free technique

The set-up was really simple. I squeezed four colors of tempera paint  on a plate (I always try to limit the palette — fewer choices enable children to focus more on the process and feel less overwhelmed by materials), she picked her four favorite paint brushes (these happen to be from our watercolor sets), and I gave her a stack of white copy paper (the thin stuff). She had an extra sheet of paper to rest the dirty brushes on — her idea!

I suggested, in the most open-ended way possible, that she could paint on one half of the paper or the entire paper — it was up to her — before folding the paper in half. She had her own ideas, as kids often do, and once she made the first print she turned into a printmaking powerhouse. Crank. Crank. Crank.

The fun reveal!

Ta-dah! So cute, she actually said, “WOW,” after the first print opened. Not so much the following prints, but it was clear that she loved the process.

See this project in action:

*We did this again when my older daughter was six! It’s a winner for all ages. This time around we squeezed the paint directly out of the paint tubes.

The experiments included lines, dots, overlapping colors, and even a couple diagonally-folded papers.

Do you remember making these when you were a kid? I loved these, and it’s evident that it’s a timeless wonder. If you have or work with older children, this activity is an excellent way to introduce symmetry. For a few more related ideas, Frugal Family Fun Blog has this idea for teaching symmetry with butterflies (I always enjoy how happy Valerie’s kids are in her photos), and Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas shares two more ways to teach symmetry with butterfies + a handful of book suggestions.

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.

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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

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Kiwi Crate: Hands-on Projects Delivered to Your Home

kiwi crate

Have you heard of Kiwi Crate? I’ve had the pleasure of knowing this smart, forward-thinking start-up since its early days, and I can’t tell you how proud I am to be associated with them.

I’m a DIY-kind-of-gal, but I also recognize that a lot of my readers don’t have the time to make everything from scratch. And that’s where Kiwi Crate comes in. For $19.95/month, Kiwi Crate delivers a set of thematic hands-on projects (ages 3-6) that even I can’t help but swoon over.

When the charming + thoughtfully packaged crate arrived, N was eager to dig in to all of the three projects. At once. And it took everything in me to curb her enthusiasm and slowly work our way through the crate.

The crate I’m sharing today happens to be about color, but the variety of themes will keep you and your kids interested as they vary each month from Dinosaurs to Outer Space (see this beautifully photographed review for a peek at both) to Gardening. Fun!

As someone who once wrote and designed lesson plans for art museums, I’m impressed with how Kiwi Crate has designed their packaging. The instructions are simple, clear, and well-illustrated, and the materials are wrapped up beautifully like a box of gifts. Since N was beyond excited to open the box and wanted to get started right away, I guess that says it all.

Project #1: sun catchers with colorful transparent plastic.

Sun catchers were already a popular activity in our home, but Kiwi Crate took it to another level with pre-cut mat board frames and contact paper, cut-to-size. The set-up was easy, clean up was a snap, and once N was done her sun catchers were ready to display. She enjoyed propping up and admiring her handiwork as we worked on another project.

Project #2: Color-mixing spinners.

The spinners they included are made of wood and far more beautiful than anything I’ve been able to find.  They included pre-cut circular paper discs and a full marker set for her to decorate.

Her spinners, ready to go!

Color mixing at work! This was by far my daughter’s favorite project.

Project #3: Bleeding tissue paper bag

While N’s excitement for the crate could have blown through all the projects in one sitting, I saved this for another day. This sweet little kid-sized cotton tote came as a bonus project. The instructions asked us to soak it in water, lay squares of pre-cut bleeding tissue paper on the bag, and add more water to transfer the ink from the tissues to the bag. We let it dry overnight, and had a nice little tote bag for storing our park snacks in. A couple weeks after making this, I had an event at Kiwi Crate. N ran to get the bag, telling me that I had to carry my wallet and keys in it so they could see how we made it. Awwww. They were impressed.

If you’re looking for an experience-based, process-oriented gift for a child in your life, or thoughtfully curated projects that can save you planning time, Kiwi Crate subscriptions are 3, 6, or 12 months and shipping is free. And I just noticed that if you sign up for a year, you get one month free!

Kiwi Crate also has a Blog and a Facebook page that are both worth following for more good ideas and company updates.

What themes would you like to see in a Kiwi Crate? Could you go for a little Kiwi Crate magic?

Note: I’ve been an advisor to Kiwi Crate since May 2011.

Last Minute Easy Handmade Gifts To Make With Kids

Could you use some ideas for last minute, easy holiday gifts that kids can help make? The following four projects are great gifts for friends, neighbors, grandparents, and even stocking stuffers.

And my 3-year old helped make all of these projects, so they’re also all kid-tested.

holiday gift kids help make

Beaded Ornament Activity KitPipe Cleaner Ornaments for Christmas | TinkerLab

Collect a set of basic supplies (pipe cleaners and beads), and pull together your own craft kits for friends or cousins with young children.

Supplies: Pipe Cleaner Bead Ornaments

This post includes affiliate links

Easy handmade gifts | Make a beaded ornament kit | TinkerLab.com

Make a Sheet of Directions

Directions

  • Choose a pipe cleaner
  • Sting the beads onto the pipe cleaner until it’s roughly 1/3 full of beads
  • Move all the beads to the middle of the pipe cleaner
  • Create a circle of beads
  • Twist the pipe cleaner to secure the top of the circle
  • Make a hook
  • Hang it on your tree

Make it

Easy handmade gifts | Make a beaded ornament kit | TinkerLab.com

I folded a piece of card stock in half, typed (with this typewriter) “Make and Ornament” on one side (you could also stamp, print, draw this on, etc.) stapled up the sides, and attached an example of the activity to the side with a piece of clear tape.

Easy handmade gifts | Make a beaded ornament kit | TinkerLab.com

We filled the envelope with a small baggie of assorted beads (from a few big bags that we sub-divided) and four pipe cleaners that I prepared with a little bead-stopping loop at one end.

Snowflake-Making Kit

Supplies

 

Easy handmade gifts | Make a Snowflake Activity Kit | TinkerLab.com

Easy handmade gifts | Make a Snowflake Activity Kit | TinkerLab.com

Supplies

Tissue Paper Circles or Coffee Filters

I prepared an envelope the same way, with typing, stapling, and filling. This time we placed a short stack of colorful tissue paper circles and a few pre-made snowflakes in the envelope for inspiration. If you don’t have circular tissue paper on hand, a stack of flattened, round coffee filters or squares of upcycled magazines would also do the trick.

Include directions on how to make a snowflake: I love this tutorial for making snowflakes from squares of newspaper squares, from Maya Made.

Homemade Sugar Scrub

Easy handmade gifts | Make your own sugar scrub | TinkerLab.com

This is a nice way to spread some pampering cheer that will shine away rough wintery skin, and they couldn’t be easier to assemble. Here’s what you’ll need:

Supplies

  • Glass Jar with tight-fitting lid
  • Sugar
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Essential Oil in your favorite smell
  • Decorative Fabric or Paper
  • Paper Label
  • String or Rubber Band
  • Small wooden spoon (optional)

Collecting materials was the most time consuming piece of this project. I found the jars and wooden spoons at Daiso, a Japanese dollar store that rocks my world, and the essential oil was from Whole Foods. I used grapeseed oil (Trader Joe’s) because it’s virtually scentless and has a long shelf life, and I included a wooden spoon so that my friends can scoop out their scrub without adding bacteria into the jar. It’s not really necessary, but I think it’s a nice touch.

Easy handmade gifts | Make your own sugar scrub | TinkerLab.com

I wish I was more scientific about this, but I’ll tell you how I made it and hopefully it will make sense. We filled 1/4 of the jar with sugar, added enough grapeseed oil to coat it, and then mixed it well. Then I added sugar to the 1/2 way point, added more oil, and mixed it again. I repeated this until the sugar-oil mixture was about 3/4″ from the top. I added a little more oil so that it floated on top of the sugar, making the whole mixture easy to stir. Once it was nicely blended, I added about 30 drops of grapefruit essential oil.

How much oil should you add? I added the essential oil, smelled it, and then added more until I was happy with the strength of the smell. I thought about using lavender, which I also had, but the grapefruit smelled so refreshing and it complemented the green fabric.

Lastly, I covered it with a circle of fabric (traced with a bowl), secured it with a rubber band (to hold that heavy spoon on tight), and wrapped a gift tag on with some baker’s twine.

Pecan Chocolate Turtles

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Turtle Recipe

These Pecan Chocolate Turtles is so simple, absolutely delicious, and I made them with both my 1-year old and 3-year old. My one year old exercised some fine motor skills by unwrapping the candies, while my 3 year old placed them on the pretzels. It was assembly-line cooking at its finest!

They won’t disappoint you, I promise!

diy gifts with kids

 

Find the recipe here.

More Ideas for Easy Handmade Gifts

Cookie Dough in a Jar, easy for kids to help assemble

Handmade cards that kids can make.

Handmade Valentine Cards with heart-shaped envelope

 

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Microwave Marshmallow Experiment

Have you heard of the microwave marshmallow experiment? It’s really simple and a fun way to explore how the volume of gas expands a marshmallow as it heats up. My kids also enjoy this experiment because it mixes science (+ fun) with a sugary treat.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Microwave Marshmallow Experiment Supplies

  • 4 (or more) Marshmallows
  • Paper Towel or Microwave-safe plate
  • Microwave
  • Paper to jot down observations (I’ll share my 3-year old’s observations in italics below)
For this microwave marshmallow experiment, we’ll microwave three marshmallows for different periods of time, and then  compare what happens to the marshmallows as they heat up, and then cool down again. This is an engaging way to involve children in scientific observation and discovery, it raises lots of questions, and doesn’t require a lot of prep or clean-up. Are you with me?

Step One

Microwave one marshmallow for 10 seconds and remove from the microwave. Compare it to an uncooked marshmallow and describe how it looks. How does it feel?

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | TinkerlabObservation: It’s small, shorter than the other marshmallow, but fatter. It’s gooey.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Step Two

Microwave the second marshmallow for 30 seconds and remove it. How does it compare with an uncooked marshmallow? What happens to it as it cools?

Observation: It’s a little bit larger than the other one. It got dry as it cooled.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Touching the second marshmallow.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Cool, a little hole showed up in the middle after it cooled down a bit.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Step Three

Microwave the third marshmallow for 50 seconds and remove from the microwave. Compare to and uncooked marshmallow right away and after it cools. How are they different? How does this marshmallow feel?

Observation: It’s huge and wrinkly and dry. It’s brown. That means it burned. That means it’s good to eat. Crunchy to eat.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | TinkerlabYou can see all three marshmallows here. We noticed that the 30 second and 50 second marshmallows got hard and crunchy as they cooled, and N decided to taste them for a flavor comparison.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | TinkerlabThe 50 second marshmallow was brown, crunchy, and caramelized. Have you ever tried astronaut ice cream? It had a similar texture.

The science behind the activity is explained clearly over here at The Exploratorium. In essence, the volume of gas in the marshmallow increases when the temperature increases, and then decreases as it cools down. The Exploratorium suggests not microwaving marshmallows for longer than 2 minutes, less you want a dark, stinky, burnt mess on your hands.

This project was inspired by a book we found at the library: Kitchen Science Experiments: How Does Your Mold Garden Grow?

Have you ever microwaved anything and been surprised by the outcome?

 

Science for kids microwave marshmallow experiment copy

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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

TinkerLab Newsletter

 

Clay Menorah for Preschool Children

How to make clay menorahs in preschool | TinkerLab

Today I’m sharing how to make easy clay menorahs that are easy for toddlers and preschool children. These are made with air-dry clay, so no baking is necessary.

air dry clay menorah with kids

This post contains affiliate links.

Supplies – Clay Menorah

  • Air Dry Clay
  • Small bowl of water
  • Clay tools such as popsicle sticks, rolling pins, and cookie cutters
  • Acrylic paints for painting the surface. Liquitex is a solid brand.
  • Mod Podge or acrylic clear coat to seal it with a shiny coating

The Set-up

Cover your work surface with a vinyl tablecloth or work on a non-precious surface that easily wipes clean.

If you’re making a Hanukkiah (it holds nine candles, rather than seven), talk about the story of Chanukah and how the Chanukah menorah has eight candles + 1, the shamash, to represent the miracle that oil burned continuously for eight days.

Invite your child/ren to make menorahs. Encourage creativity and original thinking.

air dry clay menorah with kids

We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our home, so, as some might agree, our children get the best of both worlds! But it can also be a tricky mash-up of cultures, but I guess it makes sense to my kids who know nothing else.

The other day we discovered a new-to-us A-mazing teacher supply store, and came home with a 2.5 pound bucket of Crayola Air Dry Clay to make our very own menorahs. It cost just $5, and I cannot recommend this clay enough.

It feels just like the clay you throw pots on, and my kids were enthralled by the texture. So unlike play dough, and it has the potential to make long-lasting objects.

air dry clay menorah with toddler

We started with a mound of clay, rolled it out with our new rolling pin, scored at a Waldorf school winter festival, and poked a candle into the clay eight times. N placed one of our menorahs on the table as inspiration.

Menorahs hold nine candles, eight for the eight nights of Hanukkah, and a ninth called the shamash (meaning “attendant”) that lights the other candles.

Meanwhile, my 15 month old got into the clay spirit. She’s been copying everything her sister does, and after seeing this magic, I wished I had given her a bigger piece of clay to play with.

air dry clay menorah with kids

To make room for the shamash, we decided to build a little mound by making a ball of clay, scoring both sides of where it would connect with hatch marks, and then pressing the pieces together.

air dry clay menorah with kids

We used a little water and a popsicle stick to smooth out the edges. I read that if there are cracks in this clay it can fall apart once dry, so we were sure to smooth all those cracks right out with water.

air dry clay menorah with kids

And then N decided to use a wooden stick to poke a pattern of holes all over the menorah.

air dry clay menorah with kids

And a hole for the shamash.

air dry clay menorah with kids

My little one was happy to play with a small pot of water and the goopy clay.

Now we have to let the clay dry for 2-3 days before painting it. If you’d like to join us and make an air dry menorah too, you should be able to find Crayola Air Dry Clay at Target, Walmart, Office Depot or on Amazon for $5.99.

So far, I love this product, and I think we’ll make handprint ornaments with it tomorrow!

Seven Ways to Build a Gingerbread House

7 Ways to Make a Gingerbread House | TinkerLab.com

Are you getting ready to make a gingerbread house? This article shares seven different ways to make a gingerbread house. Many of these are kid-friendly, and there are even a couple surprises in this group!

Make a Gingerbread House from a Mold

Note: This post contains affiliate links

Find a mold like this. While most of the work is done for you, you can still say it’s 100% homemade!

7 Ways to Make a Gingerbread House | TinkerLab.com

Graham Cracker Gingerbread House on a Milk Carton

This is the recipe my friend made for our toddler play date last year, and it was perfect for little ones. I know my friend had a hard time collecting milk cartons for all the children in our group, but once you gather the milk cartons, they’re easy to assemble. From Martha Stewart.

Graham Cracker Gingerbread House on a Milk Carton | Tinkerlab

Make a Gingerbread House from Scratch

Mama Smiles shows us how she made her house with a toddler (no small feat!) from scratch!

Seven ways to make a gingerbread house | Tinkerlab

Make a Graham Cracker Gingerbread House

Caked Alaska shows us how to make a beautiful graham cracker gingerbread house (unlike my ramshackle shanty town houses). And this post from Kelley Moore is also lovely.

How to Make a Graham Cracker Gingerbread House | Tinkerlab

Tiny Gingerbread House Perched on the Rim of a Mug

Oh my goodness! These are most definitely not for making with little kids, but what a show stopper! Couldn’t resist sharing these beauties from Not Martha.

Seven ways to make a gingerbread house | Tinkerlab

Gingerbread House from a Kit

Or, take the easier route with a store-bought kit. A Spoonful of Sugar Designs shares their Ikea kit. Lovely. These kits are easy to find in many stores during the holiday season. In case you want the ease of shopping online, this gingerbread house kit is the #1 Best Seller on Amazon (affiliate).

Seven ways to make a gingerbread house | Tinkerlab

Gingerbread Matzo House

Not exactly gingerbread, but we made these jelly bean matzo houses earlier this year and I couldn’t resist sharing, just to show that with some icing and candy, you can turn just about anything into a house.

Matzoh gingerbread house

More Handmade Holiday Projects

How to make Easy Salt Dough Ornaments and part 2: How to Paint Salt Dough Ornaments

Skip the candy-filled advent calendar and make a DIY Activity Advent Calendar

Make a Snowflake Collage

Make a Frozen Wreath

Winter Craft Collage Invitation

Don’t Miss out! Join the TinkerLab Community

If you enjoyed this post, you can get more ideas for raising young inventors and filling your life with creativity by signing up for the weekly TinkerLab newsletter. It’s free and we often send exclusive content and opportunities that are only available to our subscribers.

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

 

Drizzle + Paint Gingerbread Cookies

Mmmm, gingerbread cookies. After making our salt dough ornaments (and having one of our friends try to eat one…yikes!), we thought it was high time to make real, edible cookies. My mother-in-law’s gingerbread recipe is truly the best one I’ve tried, but when I discovered that the Gingerbread Cake and Baking Mix from Trader Joe’s could be adapted to make cookies, and all I had to do was add an egg + butter, I was sold.

We rolled out the dough, selected our favorite cutters, and cut our shapes. If you’ve never made gingerbread cookies, give yourself an hour to chill your dough before you plan to work with it. Even with refrigeration, the dough is pretty sticky and required a fair amount of flour to keep it flexible and off the counter.

I filled a piping bag with royal icing (dry hard icing). My MIL uses more of a buttercream frosting, which is delicious, but I thought we’d have some fun “painting” with the royal icing. Most of the royal icing recipes you’ll find ask you to make it with raw egg whites, but I wasn’t comfortable with that, especially since I’m feeding these sugar bullets to kids! Instead, I used meringue powder. I happened to have some in the pantry, but you can find this at specialty groceries and Michaels craft store (so I’ve heard). And low and behold, it can be found on Amazon.

Recipe for Royal Icing

  • 1/8 cup Meringue Powder
  • 1/4 cup Cold Water
  • 2 cups sifted Confectioners Sugar

Add water to meringue powder and beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar into the mixture and beat until it’s the desired consistency. Add more sugar for stiffer icing.

I fit the disposable piping bag with a small, round #4 tip, gave my daughter a few suggestions on how to hold and squeeze the bag, and let her go to town. We started with white icing, and then I mixed the remaining icing with all natural yellow food coloring on my daughter’s request.

Once the icing firmed up, we moved the cookies to a nice, clean plate where we could admire our handiwork.

And eat some cookies.

Mmmm, I hate to say this, but these gingerbread bites rivaled those from the original recipe.

I picked up three more boxes today. Yum yum.

Next up: Ginger Bread Houses!

What are you baking for the holidays (with or without the kids)?

Feel free to add a picture with your comment!

 

 

How to Make a Holiday Paper Star

How to make a paper star

Today I’m going to share how to make holiday paper stars with your kids.

If you have young children, the first half of the project will be kid-centered as they color and decorate the paper as they like. Once that’s done, adults will assemble the stars.

Okay, are you ready?

how to make a paper star

Supplies – Giant Paper Stars

  • Two pieces of thin paper – we chose large sheets, but small would also work
  • Mark-making tools
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • String

I found an easy, workable tutorial at The Magic Onions for our paper stars.

decorate paper stars

I cut large squares from four sheets of 24″ x 36″ drawing paper. You know, the trick where you fold a triangle in the paper and then snip the excess rectangle off?

I taped that extra rectangle to the table so that my daughter had a place to store her rubber stamps and pens.

Pine cones and snowflakes in a limited palette of red, green, and silver.

Snowflakes, sea stars, and Stars of David. That’s how we roll.

The tutorial over at The Magic Onions is really clear, so I won’t get into the details here, but suffice to say that once you make one, you’ll want to keep cranking them out. They’re so simple!

I used Elmer’s Craft Bond Extra Strength Glue Stick to seal the paper right up. Worked like a charm.

Waiting for it to dry.

I cut a piece of cotton string, about 3′ long, so we could hang it from the ceiling, and taped it about 3″ inside one of the points.

Then I ran a line of Elmer’s School Glue under the string to give it extra support and along the edge of the point. A little clamp helped keep it all together.

hanging paper star diy

Sticking the pieces together. This was a little tricky. I placed the pointy face of one star in a bowl, rested the other star on top of it, and added bits of school glue to hold it in place. I gave it overnight to dry, but school glue seems to dry in under an hour.

hanging holiday paper star diy

There you go! 

Since I already the drawing paper, stamps, and string, the whole thing cost $0.00! But the materials are so low-cost and flexible anyway, that I bet you could do it too with wrapping paper and ribbon after opening gifts on Hanukkah or Christmas. Or make them from all the extra art work your kids bring home from school. Newspaper colored with potato prints. What do you think?