Art Dice and the Creative Confidence Book

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: 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

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

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

“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

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?