Art Dice and the Creative Confidence Book

art dice and creative confidence

book creative confidence

Do you have Creative Confidence?

Do you think that some people are just born more creative, or do you believe that we can learn to become more creative? In the newly released creativity and innovation-boosting book, Creative Confidence, authors David and Tom Kelley not only explain that creative super-powers lie within each of us, but they go on to share actionable tools for increasing our abilities to innovate.

Stanford University’s K-12 Lab Network recently invited me to lead a hands-on maker workshop as part of the Creative Confidence book launch party for IDEO founder, David Kelley. If you’re an educator who’s interested in Design Thinking, I promise that you’ll lose hours digging into the d. School’s K-12 Lab and the K-12 wiki.

For the hour that led up to the highly anticipated panel led by David Kelley, we set up a fun creativity-booster with Art Dice in a room just off the main stage.

creative confidence d school

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you may recognize this game as Art Dice. If you’re new-ish to Tinkerlab, here’s the original post.

Art Dice is a fun prompt/tool/game for creating randomly generated art. Every flip of the dice becomes an opportunity to explore art vocabulary, drawing skills, color recognition, and shape identification. With a few changes, these dice could also used to chase away writer’s or artist’s block: Simply roll the dice and draw or write about what pops up. Combine a few dice together and rise to the challenge of combining disparate ideas into a cohesive whole.

art dice setup tinkerlab

Since I needed a few sets of dice, and didn’t have the time to paint six sets of wooden dice (as I did with our original sets), I made paper templates and printed the dice onto heavy card stock. They’re bigger than our original dice, but the scale also makes them playful and visually arresting.

How to Play Art Dice: Round One

The rules: Roll one die. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

We invited our players to roll the line die. The line die includes things like dots, straight lines, zig-zag lines, and a spiral.

With the die rolled, they chose a mark-making tool and had two minutes to interpret the line on their paper. One of the most outstanding parts of this exercise, from an observer’s point of view, is to see the variety of interpretations. 

art dice and creative confidence

Art Dice: Round Two

The rules: Roll two dice. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

For the next round, we rolled the line die and the shape die. Again, participants had two minutes to interpret these images in whatever way they desired.

art dice d school playing

Art Dice: Round Three

The rules: Roll four dice. Interpret what you see with mark-making tool/s in two minutes.

For the last round we invited the players to throw four dice: shape, line, color, and mood. The mood dice included words like curious, excited, and angry. 

From the four tossed dice, players could choose two, three, or four of the dice to work with and create a final composition in two minutes. You can see the variety of interpretations of the prompt in this last photo.

art dice d school group

What we learned

After this quick round of drawing, I asked everyone to share their thoughts on this experience. Here are some of the takeaways:

  1. Creative freedom to experiment: There was no wrong or right way to do this exercise, which offered many participants creative freedom to experiment.
  2. Work did not have to be perfect: The short drawing period (just two minutes) signaled to some participants that their work did not have to be perfect, and gave them leeway to experiment and not feel the need to get it “just right.”
  3. Good for team-building: A few participants suggested that this activity could be a powerful way to open up a team-building event.
  4. Prompts work differently for everyone: Some people felt more creative leeway when they only had one die to work with, while others preferred the challenge of working with multiple dice. This reminded me of how differently our brains work, and how prompts like this are not one-size-fits all.

Art Dice and Creative Confidence

In Creative Confidence, the authors write,

creative confidence quote

I would venture to say that creative prompts like Art Dice encourage mistake-making in a safe environment. The stakes are low, and mistakes hold the capacity to lead to new ideas.

When we talked about how Art Dice could be used as a team-building exercise, I kept thinking about how prompts like art dice have the capacity to break down cultural norms and allow us to experience our own unlimited potential.

One interpretation is not necessarily better than another, and one person’s unique interpretation can inspire another person’s way of thinking.

What do you think? Would you like to have a set of art dice to experiment with?

You can learn more about Creative Confidence or order a copy today.

A Freebie and a Giveaway!

If you’ve read this far, you’re in for a treat. I was gifted an extra copy of Creative Confidence, and I’d like to share it with one of my readers.

In addition, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked about where the Art Dice can be purchased. In response to that, and as a thank you for putting experimentation, tinkering, and hands-on making first, we’d like to offer our loyal readers a free download of our Art Dice, exactly like the ones shared in this post.

These opportunities are only offered to our fabulous newsletter subscribers.

Details will be sent in our next newsletter, so subscribe today and stay tuned for more details! This is a limited time offer, so don’t delay!


Note: This post contains affiliate links, but we only share links to products that we love and/or that we think you’ll find useful.

 

Creativity and Education Interestingness

Creativity and education interestingness from the Tinkerlab blog

Creativity and Education: A Roundup of Interestingness from Tinkerlab

It’s been a while since I’ve done a round-up of creativity and education resources, and since a few pieces of interestingness have crossed my desk this week, I wanted to take a minute to share these great resources with you!

I hope you enjoy them and that they give you some food for thought. And if you’ve spotted any great articles that you think I should know about, please let me know about them in a comment!

Youth Arts Month

Did you know that March is National Youth Art Month? According to the National Art Education Association, “Youth Art Month is an annual observance every March to emphasize the value of art education for all youth and to encourage support for quality school art programs.”

This post on ArtsBlog from Kristen Engebretson of Americans for the Arts has some helpful Youth Arts Month links. For anyone interested in the intersection of the arts and early childhood, later this month (March 18-22), ArtsBlog will host a Blog Salon about early childhood education, and I’ve been invited to chime in with some thoughts on the the value of process over product in the early years. More on that in a couple weeks!

youth art month

How will you celebrate Youth Arts Month? 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Sit down and make some art with your child.
  • Subscribe to School Arts Magazine. If you’re a teacher or homeschooler, this is one of the best magazines on the topic. When I was a teacher, I always looked forward to finding this in my mailbox.
  • If the arts are limited in your child’s school, can you advocate for more? Is there anything you can do to give the arts a bigger presence in your child’s learning?
  • Set up a self-serve creativity zone in your home.
  • Pin the image (above) and help spread the word that it’s Youth Art Month
  • Order a copy of Jean Van’t Hul’s inspiring and soon-to-be released book, The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity
  • Thank you child’s art teacher/s for their hard work and commitment toward making the arts a relevant and meaningful part of your child’s education.
  • Look at real art with your child. Here are some of my favorite tips for facilitating arts-based conversations with children: 5 Easy Steps for talking with Children about Art

 Stephen Round: Resignation Letter

Have you seen this compelling video of Stephen Round submitting his letter of resignation to the Providence, Rhode Island School District? Since he resigned in December, 2012 it’s gone viral and has been viewed over 400,000 times.

Round was a second grade teacher and resigned because he found that his school was so focused on standardized testing as a measure of student achievement that it missed the point of raising children to become lifelong learners, which is at the heart of his teaching philosophy. Stephen’s story isn’t a new one, but his heartfelt letter is worth watching if you care about how teachers can find their own unique and creative voice in a public school system that’s caught under the net of standardized testing.

My oldest child enters kindergarten this Fall and stories like this have me on edge about sending her to public school. If teachers like this are resigning, school boards and parents need to pay close attention.

What do you think?

Big C and little c Creativity

Have you heard of “Big C” and “little c” Creativity?”

There’s a fascinating study on creative and education that’s just emerging from the Learning Research Institute at California State University San Bernardino.

Nurturing the Next Van Gogh? Start With Small Steps

From the article:

“Kaufman and Beghetto suggest teachers should meet unexpectedness with curiosity. Rather than shutting down a potentially creative solution to a problem, explore and evaluate it. What seems like a tangent could actually help other students think about the problem in a different way.

They also note that part of incorporating creativity is helping students to read the situation. There’s a time and a place for a creative solution and kids need to learn when it’s appropriate to take the intellectual risk. They should also learn that there’s a cost to creativity; it takes effort, time, and resources and depending on the problem the most creative solution may not make sense.”

Self-Doubt Kills Creativity

This is an interesting read for any of us grown-ups who consider ourselves creative, but find that self-doubt holds us back from pursuing creative ideas. And it’s also a reminder of how important it is to encourage a child’s creative ideas without judgement.

This article from Psych Central is full of ten actionable strategies for pulling yourself out of a self-doubt funk: 10 Ways to Overcome Creativity’s Number 1 Crusher

From the article:

“Self-doubt can persuade us to stop creating or keep us from sending our work out into the world. It can be so influential that it colors how we see ourselves, ensuring we don’t pick up a pen, paintbrush, camera or other tool for decades.”

 Note: There may be affiliate links in this article, but I only share links to resources that I love and/or think you’ll find useful.

Creative Table on Instagram

creative table on instragram

Do you know about the Creative Table Project on Instagram?

creative table on instragram

If you would like to see more creativity in your child’s life and if you’re interested in joining an inspiring community of creative parents who swap ideas, Creative Table can help!

Last summer I invited my readers to share images of the creative things that are happening on their tables (or patios, backyards, sidewalks, etc.) as eye candy that we can all get inspired by, and then tag the image on Instagram with the hashtag #creativetable.

The project began small, but it’s since grown into a thriving visual database of 750+ creative tables that continues to grow each day! The range of ideas is great, which makes this especially fun and full of surprises: There are projects for babies and kids, science experiments, open-ended art making, seasonal crafts, sensory experiences, and cooking activities…just to name a few.

What makes this so awesome?

Not only is this a rewarding way to document the creative happenings in your home, but having the project in the back of your mind can also help you look for opportunities to build more creativity into your daily rhythm. Plus, the scale of the project now makes it a cool tool for gathering inspiration. I know of one reader who checks in every morning to scroll through images tagged with #creativetable as a way of finding ideas that she can use that day.

You can join!

If this is new to you, or in case you’re not on Instagram, here are some recent highlights from the Creative Table project. If you’re on Instagram and would like to play, we would LOVE to have you. Please read these guidelines first, and then be sure to add the hashtag #creativetable to your image.

A note about the images: Beneath each photo is the name and Instagram handle of the person the image belongs to, and any descriptive text that they added to their photo. I hope that these images inspire you as much as they inspire me!

Creative Table Inspiration from Tinkerlab.com

angaleta @angaleta

#kidsinitiative #busykids #creativetable more #concoctions and #magicpotion

Creative table drawing inspiration from a book

Maya Bisineer @thinkmaya

Scroll art. With the whole family. We are creating an “imaginary garden” inspired by a book by the same name #readeveryday #memetales365

Note: Planting a Rainbow is the book in the image.

Creative Table Project: Paint on paper plates

Ali Wright @athomewithali

You can’t beat a paper plate for craft…….

Painting with string from the Creative Table Project

brittanyclaireandco @brittanyclaireandco

:: string painting fun ::

Playing with Cloud Dough from the Creative Table Project on Tinkerlab

Luiza Holub @luizaholub

Cloud dough! Kept my 17 month old busy(and quiet)for at least an hour! Super sensory great fun #creativetable

Here’s the cloud dough recipe that inspired this activity.

Making homemade Valentines on the Creative Table Project on Tinkerlab

Jen Kossowan @mamapapabubba

Crafty girl.

Cardboard creative table from the Tinkerlab Creative Table Project

Emilie Brehm @emiliebrehm

cardboard + aluminum foil + duct tape = parts for an under-table submarine

Paint your own pottery shop from the Tinkerlab Creative Table Project

Rachelle Doorley @tinkerlab

Paint your own pottery shop. Who knew that my kids would love this so much? #creativetable

Stamping on a cardboard box from the Tinkerlab Creative Table Project

Shana Draugelis @shanachristine

The best thing about Amazon’s subscribe and save program are the huge boxes everything gets delivered in. Instant #creativetable (we added dot markers for now, but this may turn into a week-long project….)

Creative Table Project on InstagramSo, what do you think? Will you join us?

If you’re a participant, you’re welcome to grab this button and add it to your posts or sidebar.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links to products that I adore or that I think you’ll find useful.

 

Organize a Self-Serve Creativity Zone

slime

“The drive to master our environment is a basic human characteristic from the beginning — from birth.”

--Jack P. Shonkoff, Harvard University (From Mind in the Making, Ellen Galinsky. New York: Harper Collins, 2010).

Do you have self-serve spaces in your home that are dedicated to creativity, art, science, and tinkering? Today I’m sharing our creative zone, the space where most of our art and creative explorations take place.

The key to this space is that it’s all self-serve. I jump in and participate, of course, but my kids know where everything is and it’s all accesible to their little hands. And they’re capable of cleaning it up when they’re ready to move on to the next thing.

We live in a small home, and I’m not suggesting that our plan will work for everyone, but the general spirit of it is something that I think we can all stand behind: when children can execute on their own ideas, it builds their confidence and encourages curiosity and a thirst for knowledge.

My objective is to give my children room to take charge of this space in order to test and follow through on their big ideas.

This space has moved all over our house, but for now it’s in our dining room space, just off the kitchen. It’s perfect for us because the light is the best in the house and there’s room for our self-serve art supply furniture. The table and chairs (Pottery Barn) are sturdy, meaning that grown-ups can comfortably sit in them and there’s plenty of natural and artificial light.

In order to execute on their ideas, children need to have access to creative materials, so all of ours are stored on low shelves where my kids can find them (and then, theoretically, put them away). Having a garbage can (Ikea) in the space is also key to keeping it neat. I don’t know why it took me so long to get a waste basket for this area!

Not all of our creative materials are stored here: I keep less-often-used materials like bottles of paint and play dough tools in a closet and the garage. I also introduce new materials when my children seem to tire of what’s in the space — maybe once a week. This week our table is consumed with a big batch of slime! If you’re interested, you can watch our video tutorial on how to make slime here.

There’s a letter writing center on top of one of the book shelves, which includes envelopes, cards, small homemade booklets, string + tape (both in action at the moment), a stapler, art dice, compass, and an address stamper. Next to this is a 3-tiered dessert tray, repurposed to hold collage materials and stamps.

Beneath this shelf is storage for clean recycled materials (including a phone book that just arrived — I can’t believe they still make these!), sketchbooks, a magnifying glass, and this hammering activity.

Next to the shelf is a unit of drawers, and one of them is dedicated to my kids and their creative pursuits. It’s filled with various tapes, extra clear tape (we race through this stuff), scissors, hole punchers, extra scissors (because mine constantly walk away, like socks in the laundry), my card readers, and a few other odds and ends. This drawer is in flux, but for now it’s working for us.

The other day I set out this invitation of pre-cut paper and a bowl of stickers to greet my kids when they woke up. So simple and it took me three minutes to arrange it. When my kids saw the table, their imaginations turned on and they got right to work, dreaming up all sorts of possibilities as they pulled various materials out to help them realize their visions.

More Creative Zone Inspiration

Organize your Art Station

New Creative Studio Corner

Art Supply Organization

Organizing Art Supplies: Day One

Organizing Art Supplies: Day Two

Organizing Art Supplies: Pantry Labels

Art Table in the Living Room

What are your self-serve tips and tricks?

Bonus: 50 Art Materials for Toddlers

50 Art Materials for Toddlers is a fun post that rounds up our favorite supplies for little hands. We asked our readers to share some of their favorites, which are added in the comments. See what you think!

Join the TinkerLab Community

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to sign up for the weekly TinkerLab newsletter. It’sfree and we often send exclusive content and opportunities that are only available to our subscribers.

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

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Sensory Activity: Shredded Paper

brown-bag

If you’re afraid of a mess, I have to warn you up front that this is a messy one.

But it’s not a dirty kind of mess and if you stick with me here, you might become a shredded paper convert like me.

paying bills with kidsIt all started innocently, and rather boring, enough. It was a bill-paying day, and I set the kids up with their own stack of mailing labels stickers, pens, and old checkbooks while I dealt with the heavy stuff.

They were happy enough, but things heated up when we moved on to paper shredding

shredding paper in paper shredder with kids

I had basket full of old bills that were ready for the shredder, and two happy-to-please assistants who took the shredding job very seriously.

Shredders are potentially dangerous, and I would absolutely not let my kids shred on their own, but with careful supervision the act of shredding can build confidence, teaches accuracy and careful attention to details, and it’s just plain fun to make a loud ruckus.

When it’s not in use, I unplug the machine and lock it in a closet. When it’s in use, I run through the rules of good shredder usage with my three and a half year old: Up to 3 sheets at a time. Hold the paper at the top when you feed it in (no fingers near the shredding area). And it’s not for my 18 month old.

While my three year old shreds, her sister hands her stacks of paper. They love it.

Okay, so take a look at that little basket of paper up there and remember how small it appears. And remember that appearances can be deceiving.

My friend and her son came over a couple hours later to play and make some ice cream. While we were talking, my 18 month old dug her hands deep into the neatly packed shredded paper bag, and in moments the room erupted into this happy play scene…

play in shredded paper with kids

And that’s only half of the paper.

They could not have been happier. In fact, just before this moment, the kids were all winding down and ready to go their separate ways. But as soon as that bag emptied out, they found a whole other hour of play inside their little souls.

It was so fun, in fact, that my older daughter chose to keep playing rather than go to her beloved gymnastics class.

play in shredded paper with kidsMy friend is a master at imaginative play with kids, and had them bury themselves in shredded paper, pretend they were dormant volcano monsters, and then erupt without any notice. You can probably imagine the shrieking and laughter that followed.

And we all agreed that this is the perfect toy: free, open-ended, and entertaining for a long spell.

So it was messy, yes, but it was easy enough to sweep up. And rather than cart it off to the recycling bin like I had planned, it all found its way back into the closet and ready for another day of fun.

More Shredded Paper Ideas

Alpha Mom makes a bird’s nest with brown paper bags.

10+ Ideas on what you can do with Shredded Paper (like make animal bedding, papier mache, and mulch) from Bohemian Revolution.

Adorable and seasonal Shredded Paper Seed Starters from Made. These are on my to-do list.

Can you think of a time that your kid/s turned a banal situation into a burst of play? Have you played with shredded paper? Would you try this yourself?

 

Why We Would Be Lost Without Tape

kids play with tape

Are you a “Tape House?”

We love tape in our house, and it gets used for just about everything: taping up wax paper sandwich bags, taping labels to things, taping art table creations together, taping up marble runs, taping up whimsical installations. A roll of clear tape is a fixture on the art table and we have a big box full of colorful paper tape (this tape from Discount School Supply is amazing) that enables my children to realize some of their big ideas. And painter’s tape is irreplaceable for taping up furniture and things that can’t stand up to too much stickiness.

Here’s an example:

We have a basket of diecast vehicles thats almost never taken out, but my one year old wanted to play with airplanes so we got the planes going. I saw this as an opportunity to “paint” some runways on our coffee table with blue painter’s tape.

My older daughter thought this was a great idea, but she had her own thoughts as well. I’m sure that many of you can relate!

First, she requested shorter pieces of tape and blocked my runways off with those vertical lines you see in the photo.

So, I abandoned my runway idea and made some cute little parking spaces.

That was also shot down.

N then blocked my runway with a big “X” so that the plane wouldn’t get away. I didn’t take it personally.

And then I learned the real reason for all this independent thinking!

Apparently a category 5 hurricane was on its way, and the plane was in danger of getting blown away. For extra safety, it was securely taped to the back of a large truck whose windows were also taped shut.

You know, because windows can shatter in a hurricane.

And if that wasn’t enough, the truck + airplane combination was carted off, dropped into a basket, wrapped in a blanket, covered with a pillow, and then sat on…

so that they wouldn’t blow away.

And all this started with a little bit of tape.

Now isn’t that a great way to spend $3?!

I really want to pick up some washi tape like this. Have you used it? Do you have a favorite brand?

What about you? Would you be lost without tape, too?

 

What MaryAnn F. Kohl Can Teach Us About Fostering Literacy Through Art

snowday2

Today I’m excited to be joined by the ever-inspiring children’s art book author, MaryAnn F. Kohl. MaryAnn’s books helped me prepare lessons in my teaching days and have since become dog-eared favorites in my life as a parent. I now own eight of her books and constantly turn to them for ideas. Because MaryAnn is so prolific (full list here, on Amazon), we thought it might be fun to spotlight one of her books as an introduction to her work.

And…it happens to be MaryAnn’s birthday today! Happy Birthday, MaryAnn!


RACHELLE: Welcome, MaryAnn! As you know, I’m a huge fan and your book, First Art for Toddlers and Twos: Open-ended Art Experiences, was the first place I looked for inspiration when my older daughter was old enough to draw. We’ve been having fun trying different activities from your book, Storybook Art. A lot of the books are traditional favorites, while some are new to me. How did you choose the books that are included in this book?

MARYANN: Storybook Art was a joy for me to research and write. Choosing books was at the same time both easy and challenging, because I knew which books would have great art connections for kids, but how to choose 100 or less? As I sorted and chose, I was looking for a wide mix of art styles created by the illustrators, as well as a variety of art experiences for the children. I wanted to be sure I had a good mix of paint, crayon, sculpture, photography, and so on. And of course I had my favorites that I simply could not leave out, like Ezra Jack Keats’ Snowy Day and Leo Lionni’s Fish is Fish. Everyone who knew I was working on the book had a favorite and begged me to include each one! Definitely challenging.  When all was said and done, I arrived at 100 books and their illustrators selected in four categories (the four chapters): Paint, Draw, Cut & Collage, and Craft & Construction. I was pleased with the balance and only had to omit a few of my very favorites, but perhaps another book one day? I spent hours and hours in our public children’s library so I could see the real books up close. One of my favorite parts of writing the book was interviewing illustrators and getting quotes from them about why art is important.

RACHELLE: It’s evident that a lot of time and research went into gathering biographies and details about the illustrators’ artistic processes. How do you hope parents or teachers will use this book?

MARYANN: I offer the details in Storybook Art to parents so they may choose how much their children may be interested in knowing, and how much to share with them. Some children will be fascinated by the quotes and lives of various illustrators, and others will be more interested in just getting on with the art. Parents often introduce a little tidbit of information at one reading, and maybe a few more details at another reading. Whatever is comfortable each parent and child is what works best. I hope that parents will find picture books that their children enjoy, then explore the art project that relates to that book, and then, most important of all, re-read the book again (and again). Parents will find that after their children explore the art projects, they will be more interested and more finely tuned to the details of the illustrations and the story when read a second and third and fourth and however many times.

RACHELLE: How can the process of following up a story with an art project contribute to a child’s language skills? (Sharing some photos of our experience with Watercolor Snow Collage: Ezra Jack Keats).

MARYANN: Picture books rely heavily on their illustrations, their art, if you will. Connecting picture book art with children’s own art connects children to their books. When a child has a personal connection (in this case, through hands-on art experiences) to a book, that book becomes more deeply appreciated, the story more deeply comprehended, the language more readily remembered, the illustrations more finely noticed. So much of learning to read is hearing a story and finding a personal connection. If art is a connection, it’s just one more way for children to become attached to their books in a personal way, with all the benefits that go with it.

A few are:

  • When we surround our children with books, and therefore with words and language, we are giving them meaningful vocabulary they will add to their use and understanding.
  • The conversations we have with out kids about books increase their listening and communication skills.
  • Including body language like facial expressions and clapping or other movements, helps get the words into the children’s bodies, and therefore will be remembered.
  • Children will often retell stories, or make up new stories inspired by their favorite books.
  • We’ve all seen kids who memorize a book word for word, or at the very least know which words are next in the sentence before you read the words … all this long before they can actually read. This is a sign of a budding great reader!
All these are amazing language skills that will launch a child into reading when he is ready.

A little story: I remember at one point in my teaching career, I was talking to my kindergarten class about all the details of forest animals, just talking and talking, and this little boy raised his hand as he threw up his hands in the air with an exasperated look on his face, “….and rain makes applesauce!” He was referring to the chant from the book “Rain Makes Applesauce” that we had read in class, and letting me know I was just going on far too long with far too many details about forest animals. That one made me laugh! Kids will transfer phrases and words from their books into their lives, a connection transfer that makes those brain synapses just snap and sparkle! When this happens, you know that language has taken root in your child’s mind and heart, and will expand his creative thinking as he grows.

RACHELLE: What are your favorite illustrators and activities from the book?

MARYANN: My favorites vary from day to day, and from child to child. Whenever a child is inspired and excited about a project, then I become equally excited, so my favorites change often! There are some projects in Storybook Art that are sure winners for just about every child. For example, most kids really enjoy “Cat & Mouse Prints” that go with Wanda Gag’s classic “Millions of Cats”. They enjoy making “millions of prints”! another one young children love is Robert McCloskey’s “Blueberries for Sal” followed up with “Blue Fingerdots, which is simply making a painting with a finger dipped in blue paint, or better yet, blue dots art made with actual blueberries.

One of the biggest surprises to me was a book that I added at the very end of the writing process because my daughter, Megan, requested it: Dare Wright’s “The Lonely Doll” with the project “Portraiture”. In this activity, children set up toys in various poses and scenes, and then photograph them, just as Ms. Wright did with her doll Edith and Edith’s companion Mr. Bear. Kids tell me this is one of their most favorite projects of all, and it’s fascinating to see the stories they put together through their photographs and scenes. I had no idea until I started doing portraiture with kids of all ages of the depth of creativity and concentration that would unfold. What a joyful discovery!

RACHELLE: I’d love to hear about your writing path. Can you tell us what influenced you to begin writing books and what you’re working on now?

MARYANN: When I was a little girl, my dad owned a bookstore and brought home a Little Golden Book or other storybook for me weekly. My parents read to me every night, and during the day I read and re-red those books, often incorporating the stories into my make-believe and pretend play with my dolls or into my crayon drawings.

When I was a little older, my dad managed a huge printing and book bindery, and I would spend a Saturday morning with him at his “office”. He would send me off to wander the shelves in the warehouse and find any books that interested me to bring home. His bindery did library bindings for every publisher in the USA, so the choices were magnificent! Little House on the Prairie was one of my best discoveries. It was pure luck that I found the series because no one had ever shared these books with me — not my teachers or the town librarian — and I loved the stories. Books were one of my most important activities as a child, along with my crayons and scissors, and my bike. Books remain important to me, and were clearly important in how I raised my children.

I mention this, because growing up with books the way I did made me want to be an author. I always knew I would be one some day. I was in no hurry. I knew it would come about at some point. And here I am, 20 books later, with plans to write fiction for children who love “chapter books”. Right now I’m working on another activity book called “Great Composers for Kids” with my musical theatre writing daughter, Hannah. We’re coming up with some wonderful projects to help kids connect to the classical composers and their lives and music. It’s very exciting!

When my kids started school, I decided to use the time when they were in school to write a book of art activities. I’d noticed that at the time no books existed, so I gathered my favorite “independent art ideas for kids” in a book called “Scribble Cookies”, now called “Scribble Art”. I self-published it with no clear idea of how to really do that, 27 years later, here I am! Scribble Art became an immediate best seller, and it’s still my favorite book of all the ones I have written.

RACHELLE: You shared that your own girls are all grown up and have turned out to be amazing grown-ups. I’m so curious to know what your own home was like when you raised your children. 

MARYANN: My home was not unlike the ways yours looks and what you do with your children, though perhaps mine was not quite as magnificent in scope. I wanted my kids to have an imaginative childhood, so we always had art projects going on in our kitchen, lots of make-believe and storytelling, acting and pretending galore, costumes, dance, and singing. Making up songs was a big part of what we did together — just something that we enjoyed. My two daughters loved“Little House on the Prairie” on television and rarely missed an episode. They loved Broadway musicals like Annie and Fiddler on the Roof and great classic fairy tales to listen to like The Little Mermaid (not Disney) and Snow White and Rose Red. Much of their creative play was based on these stories and shows.


And now, my oldest daughter, Hannah Kohl, is living in New York and working on Broadway as a musical theatre writer and producer. Her first professional children’s musical opens in January at the The Chicago Children’s Theatre based on Brian Selznick’s book, The Houdini Box. (Yes, I’ll be there for opening night!) Selznick is the author of the Caldecott Award winning book, Hugo Cabret, now an amazing beautiful movie called Hugo. I’m sure our love of books and fairy tales, etc. paved the way for her to seek theatre as a career.

My younger daughter, Megan Kohl, does serious theatre performance in Chicago, and to our delight, was recently seen as the K-Mart witch in their national Halloween commercial. The most fun she’s had commercially was taping a travel DVD for Disney Resorts where she walks through the parks giving hints to parents about how best to enjoy the various Disney experiences. You can order the DVDs for free from Disney Resorts. Sing up here: http://www.disneyvacations.com/dv/en_US/VacationPlanningDVD/index   Watch for Megan!

RACHELLE: What books and blogs inspire you?

MARYANN: I follow many amazing blogs, and of course TinkerLab is one of tip top favorites! If I were to list several, they would not surprise anyone because I’m sure your readers follow them too: The Imagination Tree, NurtureStore, Chocolate Muffin Tree, Pink and Green Mama, Crafty Crow, Childhood 101, and The Artful Parent are some of the best that come immediately to mind. I am inspired and amazed at what young mothers are doing with their blogs and their fabulous photographs of kids in action and their wonderful artworks and adorable crafts. I am sure I would have been a mommy blogger if that technology had been available to me when I was raising my kids.As far as books that inspire me, I have shelves full of activity books and love them all for different reasons. I continue to especially enjoy Kim Solga’s“Paint!” and “Draw!”, books filled with open-ended art ideas and great illustrations and photos. I also like the more focused books put out by Chicago Review Press, like “Monet and the Impressionists for Kids”. All the DK books are beautiful! A little series I like for young children in board book format is called “Mini Masters” by Chronicle books. If you look for these, check out “Quiet Time With Cassatt” by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober.

RACHELLE: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

MARYANN: I invite your readers to join my mailing list at www.brightring.com. I’ll send out a short newsletter, the ArtsyKidsNEWS, once a month with a great art activity and other bits of news. Also, I encourage your readers to visit the Barnes and Noble website where 15 national experts have been selected to write articles about various parenting and child related issues from infancy on up. My current articles there are all about art and child development, and perhaps will be of interest. My specific articles are here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/maryann-kohl-importance-of-art/379002442/ My blog might be of interest too, at:  http:www.maryannfkohl.typepad.com/blog/

Lastly, I’d like to remind everyone that art for kids doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive or fabulous every day. If you give kids blank paper and crayons, you have given them the best possible. Did you know kids who draw frequently uninterrupted by adults do better in academic subjects? It’s true! The important thing is to allow kids to create in their own ways. Relax and enjoy art with kids. The benefits are tenfold.

RACHELLE: Thank you for joining me today, MaryAnn! Talking with you is always such a pleasure!

What are your favorite storybooks? How have you been inspired to spin books into art project?

 


GIVEAWAY

MaryAnn has graciously offered to share a copy of Storybook Art with one lucky readerReaders who leave a comment by Monday, January 30, 2012 at 9 pm PST will be entered to win. Winner will be chosen by random number generator. Only open to U.S. addresses. The winner has been selected. Thank you to everyone who entered!!

 

Join the Next Creative Challenge

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One year ago I started this series of Creative Challenges with a toilet paper/loo roll challenge. The series began on a small scale and has grown along with my blog to include a generous sponser [Kiwi Crate] and a host of talented bloggers and non-blogging friends who focus on process-oriented projects with their children or students. The challenges are bi-monthly, and we have some exciting materials to look forward to playing with.

Upcoming Challenges – Mark your Calendar!

  • February 6 – Paper Bags {Next Challenge!}
  • April 2 – Egg Cartons
  • June 4 – Flowers
  • August 6 –  Milk Jugs or Cartons
  • October 1 – Dried Beans or Seeds

How to Join

    • Make: Projects should be child-directed, but grown-ups are welcome to join in the fun if the mood strikes! Use at least one paper bag, along with any other materials of your choice. See the last challenge, Magazines, for inspiration.
    • Share: Come back to Tinkerlab on or after February 6, 2012 and attach a link to your blog or a photo from your experience, along with a description of what you and/or your child/ren did, in the comment section of the challengeIf you have a blog, you can also add your project to the linky party. The challenge opens up on February 6, and will remain open indefinitely
    • Pinterest: After you submit your post or photo/s, we will add you to a Paper Bag Creative Challenge Pinterest Board, where it can serve as inspiration for others.
    • WIN!!: The Pinterest Post with the most “reposts” by 9 pm PST February 29, 2012 (leap year — yay!) will win a $100 VISA gift card and three-month subscription to Kiwi Crate, courtesy of Kiwi Crate (subscription is only available to U.S. participants). Participants are welcome to encourage friends and readers to “repost” their links.
    • Are you a blogger? Let your fans know about the challenge and grab our cute lil’ button to share it on your blog.
Tinkerlab

Inspiration

Are you Ready to Join Me?

  • Start thinking about Paper Bags. Collect them from your market, raid your lunch sacks, and show your kids pictures of upcycled paper bags and see what they’re excited about.
  • February 6 is two and a half weeks from now, which should give us all plenty of time to tinker, play, and then share.
  • Tell your friends about the challenge. Host a creative paper bag play group. Share a link to the challenge on your Facebook wall.
  • Show up on February 6 with your documentation! I can’t wait to see you then!!
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Special thanks to our sponsor:

Five New Year’s Resolutions for a Creative New Year

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Creative New Year's resolutionsResolution Ideas for a Creative New Year

Yesterday I shared last year’s creative new year’s resolutions, and I thought it would be fun (and maybe useful) to share some resolution ideas for making this a more creative year. Without further ado, I give you five resolutions, free for the taking, that will make 2012 a year full of creativity.

1. See Real Art

Do you enjoy visiting museums, but find that you rarely find time to go? Looking at real art not only elevates a mood, but it can boost cognitive growth as well! Here are a few ideas to choose from on how to make this a reality:

  • Make a resolution to visit a different museum each month.
  • Become a member at your local art museum, and milk it for all it’s worth. Go to all the openings (there’s usually music and free food — yay, date night is covered and you can share the experience with your loved one!), take the kids (many museums are kid-friendly and offer activities for little ones), and/or visit once a month, on your own, on a quiet weekend morning.
  • Find a listing of public art in your town or city, make or download a map to carry in your bag or car, and take a year-long art tour of your town. Reference the list often, spend a few moments investigating new parts of town, and look a little more closely at those places that you know well.

2. Keep a Sketchbook

Keeping a sketchbook can mean a lot of things, and you can tailor this to fit your personality and goals. On my artist friend Susie’s suggestion, I enrolled in one of the most inspiring classes of my life, Art as Process with Kata Hull at the SMFA (School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). One of my favorite exercises was creating a double-page spread (DPS) in a sketchbook every single day. All this means is that I would open the sketchbook and fill the two pages that were in front of me with anything that came to mind. No pressure to be amazing. By completely this task every day, I eventually become better at articulating my ideas, ideating, and I had tomes of inspiration to look back on at a later date. It’s been a while since I’ve maintained they rhythm of creating these DPS’s, but I still refer to those sketchbooks when I’m searching for a visual idea.

  • If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you could make one nature drawing every day.
  • If you like to collage, try filling a box with inspiring paper scraps that you keep in a space that you like to create in. Find some good paper glue and fill the sketchbook pages with paper creations.
  • Do you need a deadline-based project to motivate you to create? For a small fee, The Sketchbook Project will put your sketchbook in the Brooklyn Art Library, where anyone can read it.
  • You could also using a specialty journal like One Sketch a Day: A Visual Journal

3. Start a Blog

Did you know that blogging can boost your creativity? It helps me organize my thoughts, motivates me to show up almost daily with new ideas and inspiration, and allows me to reflect on my thinking (case in point!). If blogging speaks to you, why not start today (or January 1!)? After blogging for one year, I’ve met countless people who inspire me to think more creatively and tap into ideas I wouldn’t have otherwise conceived. A lot of growth can happen in one year, and it can all start with one post. The key here is to make every attempt to post often. If you want to become a better writer, a more creative parent, or a stronger blogger, you need to make a daily or weekly commitment to it. I love blogging, and would be happy to offer support and words of encouragement to anyone thinking about this as a resolution.

  • You can sign up for a free WordPress or Blogger account and have your first post up today. I’ve happily used both platforms, and currently write on a self-hosted WordPress platform (something to think about if you plan to get serious about blogging).
  • Make a commitment to at least one post per week, every week.
  • If you don’t already have one, invest in a good camera and learn how to use it. This is what I use.

4. Learn How to “x”

What do you want to get better at? Do you want to improve your drawing/painting/sculpting skills? Your resolution could be to:

  • Master one new art form by year’s end
  • Explore four art disciplines (try collage, sewing, glass blowing, or ceramics)
  • Invite friends over for monthly art-making parties. If this last idea speaks to you, you’ll want to read How to Throw Your Own Craft Night (Etsy). With one year to play and learn, you will be on your way to mastering that skill by next December.

5. Take Mystery Trips

This one is personal, makes my family life more creative, and I love it. My husband is one of the most creative people I know, and I credit his parents (and in turn, their good friend Joan) for bringing this golden nugget into our lives. Every month or so we plan mystery trips for each other in our family, which can turn the usual trip to the park into something more adventurous, or something adventurous into something completely over-the-top. On a recent date night I didn’t tell my husband where we were going, which built suspense and tons of anticipation. My plan wasn’t elaborate, and even included a trip to the diviest bar you can imagine, but the adventure made it one of the funnest nights out we’ve had in a while. Apparently Joan started this with her own children who lacked enthusiasm when it was time to go to the museum/zoo/park. But when she said, “we’re going on a mystery trip tomorrow,” her kids couldn’t wait to find out where they were heading.

  • Because anything can be a mystery trip, it doesn’t require any extra work or preparation.
  • Commit to plan one mystery trip each month, 6 per year, etc.
  • Responsibility for planning these trips can fall on various family members, or take this on as your own personal mission for the year

What do you think? How do you plan on making 2012 a Creative Year?

 

The Great 2011 Purge

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This time last year I was reading Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living (Tsh Oxenreider) and made a New Year Resolution to simplify my life and purge unnecessary objects from my home. Before The Great 2011 Purge, art materials lived in all areas of our home and I spent countless hours looking for things and making room for objects that had no permanent place. Does this sound like your life? If so, I can’t recommend Tsh’s book enough.

Digging past my collections, knick-knacks, and countless art materials was exhausting and I knew that if I streamlined my possessions I could be more productive with my time. So I started poking away at corners of my home every week; a shelf of dishes here, a closet there. And it’s helped! I’ve given away unused applianced, weeded out my least favorite books, and I just donated four garbage sized bags of baby clothes to this incredible charity with the unintended consequence of teaching my children the power of helping those in need. I’ve never stuck with a resolution for an entire year, but this one was so successful that it’s seeped into my way-of-life and it’ll be easy to carry it forward into the new year.

paper snowflake scrapsAnd now, guess what? I’m thinking about my 2012 Resolution.

Working for myself has long appealed to me, and over the past year I’ve developed a stronger entrepreneurial mindset that I’d like to nurture! I’m an artist at heart, with no real sense of money and lacking in organizational skills (obviously) , so my resolution for 2012 is to foster my entrepreneurial side. I’m starting 2012 off by working and blogging with this awesome new startup, developing curriculum for this creative children’s museum, reading this bookand devouring this blog.

I think it’s a good start, but to keep it going for the year, my plan is to read inspirational books and magazines like this, streamline my blog to make it more engaging and accesible (a newsletter and revamped archives are in the works), and remain open to opportunities that are a good fit with my my personal and professional goals. Now that I see it all written in front of me, it seems a bit daunting, but I have to remember that a year is a long time and baby steps will get me there. Just like they did last year.

In light of all this, because I’m a mom-to-my-kids first I have to remember that I can only take on so much. In my search for balance between motherhood and personal ambition I’ve had a few meltdown moments that I hope will shine brightly in my mind’s eye as a warning of what can happen if I bite off more than I can chew. These colorful pictures of a happy snowflake-making afternoon are here to remind me that my primary goal is to hold on to my core beliefs as an arts educator and mom who wants to raise her children to be creative souls and independent thinkers.

Have you had a successful resolution that you could share? Have you started thinking about your 2012 resolution?

Be sure to check back soon for my next post on developing a new year’s resolution that will support creativity.

 

Think Different

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“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.” – Steve Jobs

I never met Steve Jobs, but his life’s work has influenced me in multiple ways, both subtle and overt, and it’s impossible for me to pass up the opportunity to acknowledge my gratitude for his attention to detail, user experience, and life-changing technological inovation. I’m writing this post on my Mac while downloading photos off my iPhone, and I can think of a million ways in which these tools have altered my life’s work and interactions. The phone, for one, has kept my brain occupied in the middle of the night during some of my hardest nights of early motherhood, connected my children with their grandparents who live miles away, enabled me to snap impromptu photos and videos of milestone moments (or not) when I left my real camera at home, helped me find my way to restaurants/baby showers/weddings/mechanics/airports/towing companies (not a favorite experience, but thank goodness for the phone!).

By some error of craziness, I happen to live near Steve Jobs and paid my respect by lighting candles in a touching street-side memorial in front of his home. The memorial grew by morning and it’s more than apparent that his influence reached so many.

One of the main reasons I write this blog is to prompt, suggest, and gently push parents and caregivers toward raising creative children. This isn’t a soapbox, and if you’re here it’s most likely because you also see the importance of creative thinking, but I also want to stress the point that we have to grab the one chance we have to raise children to be their own true selves, to follow their big ideas, to test juxtapositions that may turn into something entirely novel, and to think different. I’m inspired by Steve Jobs’ life — his strong inner compass that directed him to follow his wild ideas despite convention and the allure of an easy road to success.

I found this video from Apple’s Think Different campaign, and it happens to be the only one narrated by Steve Jobs himself. It never aired. And it’s short. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy hearing the voice of what many consider the Thomas Edison of our time.

And I’d love to know: How has Steve Jobs’ influence changed your life?

Four Creative Thinkers to Follow

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Since I started this blog I’ve been following a lot of cultural thinkers through blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, and I’ve come across some incredible leaders who have changed the way that I look at the world. This list is a small sampling of who I’m paying attention to (mainly the result of time limitations…babies can only play by themselves for so long) so I welcome you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and see more of the people that I follow.

I’d also love to know…who do you think should be on this list?

Happy reading!

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Gever Tulley, Tinkering School: http://twitter.com/#!/gever

His Twitter Page: i make stuff – http://gevertulley.comhttp://www.tinkeringschool.com/

Why you should follow him: Tulley is the visionary behind Tinkering School, a place where “children can build anything, and through building, learn anything.” He’s opening a new school this fall in San Francisco called Brightworks, where “students explore an idea from multiple perspectives with the help of real-world experts, tools, and experiences, collaborate on projects driven by their curiosity, and share their findings with the world.” If I could justify the drive, I would be over-the-moon if my kids attended this school. He also wrote a book called Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do). What’s not to like? Tulley explains Tinkering School here in about four minutes.

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Maria Popova, Brain Picker: http://twitter.com/#!/brainpicker

Her Twitter Page: Maria Popova, Brooklyn, NY. Interestingness curator and semi-secret geek obsessed combinatorial creativity. Editor of Brain Pickings. Bylines for @WiredUK @TheAtlantic @DesignObserver http://brainpickings.org

Why you should follow her: Brain Pickings is a well-curated blog of all sorts of interesting ideas from the worlds of design, science, psychology, art, you name it! From her blog (because it’s hard to classify this one): “Brain Pickings is a discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.” You just never know what you’ll find there, but you know it will always be good. Maria also writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and tweets all the gosh darned time. Just look at her profile picture — she’s out there, finding the best of the best for you and me to devour. For example, check out this recent article from The Atlantic:A round-the-world tour of children’s bedrooms. So freakin’ interesting! She also has a popular Facebook page.

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Sir Ken Robinson, Author: http://twitter.com/#!/SirKenRobinson

His Twitter Page: Sir Ken Robinson, Los Angeles, CA. http://www.sirkenrobinson.com

Why you should follow him: Sir Ken comes from the world of arts education, and has grown to become one of the most forward-thinking leaders in the realm of creativity. He wrote Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative and The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, which I’m reading right now. Not only is his writing friendly and approachable, but he’s also a riot to listen to. The word “brilliant” barely begins to describe him, and you’ll want to know what he knows. If you haven’t already heard of Sir Ken Robinson, watch this video and you’re sure to become his newest fan.

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Nina Simon, Museum Director: http://twitter.com/#!/ninaksimon

Her Twitter Page: I design participatory, interactive, slightly strange museum exhibits all over the place. http://www.museumtwo.blogspot.com
Why you should follow her: Nina runs a blog called Museum 2.0, where she talks about participatory museum experiences and making cultural institutions more relevant (and less stodgy) spaces. She wrote a book on the same topic called The Participatory Museum. In a world full of buttoned up museums, Nina’s voice stands out as controversial. She’s been bucking the system as a consultant to museums, and now she’s running her own show as the ED of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. In this recent post, Nina writes about a newly installed Creativity Lounge where visitors can look at art WHILE assembling a jigsaw puzzle. This leaves the artist feeling like her work is compromised, but the museum’s visitors love it. Follow her for big thinking on breaking down traditions that may be holding on for the wrong reasons.

 

Who would you like to see added to this list, and why?