Fall Luminary: Make a Lantern

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

Make a Lantern!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources

Picture Books About Fall on Goodreads

PreservingLeaves and a Leaf Lantern

Nature’sStained Glass

MeltedCrayon Luminaries

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

DIY Paper Pyramid Lanterns

I have such a heavy heart today, friends, because we lost one of the good ones in this world. My dear friend, Steve, who happens to be one of the funniest, wisest, and most generous people I know lost his long battle with cancer.

I wasn’t planning to post anything today, but the glow of these paper lanterns made me think about Steve’s shining light, and I thought I’d dedicate this post to him and his incredible wife, Jen.

Grab a few battery-operated tea lights, a favorite paper (in this case security envelopes!), scissors, and tape, and you're ready to make these simple DIY lanterns to illuminate a dark winter night.

These were inspired by the Paper Lanterns from Willowday, and if you change up the paper patterns (or maybe make your own), these could become party decorations, Halloween luminaries, or bedroom night lights.

If you you happen to make these lanterns (and why wouldn’t you — they’re rad!), I like to think that the glow might remind you that we’re each filled with enough light to brighten a friend’s darkest hour. Go on — spread some joy today. Life is truly short and we each have the capacity to touch the lives of others.

So let’s get started. Here’s what you’ll need…

How to Make Paper Lanterns

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Hole Puncher
  • Clear Tape
  • Ruler
  • Battery-operated votive candle
Because I drew my triangle free-hand, and you shouldn’t have to go through all that trial and error, here’s an equilateral triangle for your printing delight:
equilateral triangle
If you know me, you know that I like to get my kids involved in hands-on learning, and this is a good way to teach children how to carefully outline shapes, which in turn teaches patience and accuracy.

make a paper lantern

Step 1: Draw an equilateral triangle (or scale and print it) and cut it out.

Make paper lantern

Step 2: Trace it onto a sheet of paper FOUR times.

We drew ours onto a security envelope because we like to upcycle around here. And I’m super crazy about the patterns on these.

how to make paper lanterns

Step 3: Cut the whole shape out.

Step 4: Tape it together and punch holes into the sides if you’d like.

Step 5: Add a battery-powered tea light (not a real candle, please, safety first) and decorate like mad.

how to make paper lanterns

I love you, Steve and Jen. You’ll always be in my thoughts.

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Self-serve Valentines for Kids

I’m working on a project with the San Francisco Children’s Creativity Museum, and one of the ideas we’re playing with is to create a buffet-style selection of materials for children to choose from in our DIY art zone. I’ll share some of our activities with you soon, but in the meantime I thought you might like to see how this strategy has manifested itself in my own home.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner and a love for all-things-holiday in our house, I set up a smorgasbord of hearts, flowers, silk flower petals, shiny wrapping paper, doilies, stickers, and glue. Each clear container is filled with a thoughtfully-selected material as an invitation to make, play, and create. Oh, and invitations can be accepted or ignored. I always try to pay attention to how these things play out because, of course, I want my invitations to be accepted!!

I barely captured any photos of my 3 year old making art because I was busy cutting paper and helping Baby R. But she made a Valentine for her sister and one for me. She draws her “M’s” upside down, so my name is spelled “WOW”… isn’t that great!? N stuffed the Valentines into her light-up Hello Kitty mailbox (the hand-made Valentine box we threw together last week truly couldn’t compete with this one!) and we opened our little parcels of love up at dinner.

All in all it was a success, and I look forward to sharing more of these invitations with you soon.

DO YOU SET UP INVITATIONS TO PLAY AND CREATE? DO YOUR KIDS MAKE SELF SERVE VALENTINES? DO YOU THINK THIS STRATEGY COULD WORK FOR YOU?

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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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!

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?

Make Easy Salt Dough Ornaments: Part 1

Raise your hand if you’ve made or plan to make salt dough ornaments this season! Yep, I see a lot of you out there. It seems we’re not the only ones, but in case you haven’t committed to this yet, I have one piece of advice for you: While the recipe is simple, give yourself some time!

This is a 2-part post. In the first part I’ll share a salt dough recipe with baking instructions and in part two, I’ll share my best tips for painting and decorating salt dough ornaments with kids.

Salt Dough Ornaments | TinkerLab.com

I used this recipe on ParentDish by Anna Ranson, who blogs at The Imagination Tree.

Salt Dough Ornament Recipe

This salt dough recipe is the easier ever with just three ingredients that you probably already have. Double or triple the recipe for more ornaments.

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • up to 1 cup of water.

I mixed the dry ingredients and then added a full cup of water. Gulp. Did you catch that bit about adding up to 1 cup of water? The dough was sooo sticky, so I kept adding equal amounts of salt and flour until the dough held together without sticking to my hands. Okay, back on track…

Salt Dough Ornaments | TinkerLab.com

My 3 year old and I both rolled out some dough and got busy cutting shapes with our favorite cookie cutters. I also gave her a small bowl of flour (you can barely see it at the top of this photo) for her to flour her workspace at will. She loved that, and I can’t believe I haven’t thought of that before. Her ornaments are less than perfect, but she proudly made them herself. Awwwww.

Salt Dough Ornaments | TinkerLab.com

We followed Anna’s suggestion of using a straw to add a hole in each shape that we could later hang a ribbon through. Of course N saw no good reason to stop at one hole per ornament. And why should she?

Salt Dough Ornaments | TinkerLab.com

The next step is to bake them at 100 C for 2-3 hours. OMG — just caught that it was Celsius, and here I was cursing my oven for not going below 170 Fahrenheit. Haha! Now I know why it took, literally, all day to bake these. Okay, so I could have just put my oven at 212 degrees and it wouldn’t have taken forever.

Bake your Salt Dough Ornaments

Bake at 212 F or 100 C for 2-3 hours, or until hard.

Salt Dough Ornaments | TinkerLab.com

After they were dry, N sorted all the ornaments into hearts, trees, snowflakes, and gingerbread men…and then, of course, her little sister stepped in to mix them all up.

Salt Dough Ornaments | TinkerLab.com

Ready for painting. To see how we painted them, click over here for Salt Dough Ornaments: Part 2.

7 Upcycled DIY Paper Flowers

We’re flooded with flowers this time of year, but soon enough we’ll have to make our own flowers to brighten up the dark corners of our wintery homes. These would make great DIY hostess or teacher appreciation gifts. I wandered around some of my favorite sites and found a little sampling of some easy and charming recycled paper flowers — these can all be made with materials that you most likely have around the house.

DIY Paper Flowers

DIY Paper Flowers with Coffee Filter Flowers, TinkerLab

If you do a search for coffee filter flowers, this is the TinkerLab post you’ll land on. These are made with watercolors and chenille stems.

Aunt Peaches Paper Flowers

Coffee Filter Peonies, Aunt Peaches via Design Sponge

These beauties are made with water-based paint, green tape, and ordinary straws.

Flowering Lampshade for a Flamingo, Aunt Peaches

Gorgeous, isn’t it? Take those coffee filter flowers that you learned how to make in the Design Sponge post and attach them to an old lampshade with hot glue.

Paper Napkin Wall Flowers, Dana Made It

Made from Paper Napkins (it looks like the IKEA brand), these are stronger than flowers made from tissue paper. And they’re big enough to make a dramatic statement on a wall. I’d love to try painting these like we did the coffee filters.

Pop-up Magazine Flower, Pink Paper Peppermints

This one is so cool! Cut out a bunch of flowers and then glue them together in a unique way that makes them pop up. It makes me realize that I need to start subscribing to more colorful magazines!

Recycled Paper Flowers, How About Orange

Made from any ol’ paper you have in the house: magazines, books, wrapping paper…They don’t require any glue or tape, and the tutorial even includes a free downloadable PDF with the flower shape.

Cupcake Liner Flowers, Martha Stewart

Would this list even be complete without mentioning Martha Stewart? The picture by itself is a great tutorial.

If you have a favorite recycled paper flower post, please share a link…the more ideas the merrier!