Exploralab by the Exploratorium, Book Review

We were sent a free copy of Exploralab to review, but all ideas shared here are our own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Exploralab Book Review

We were thrilled to get an advance copy of Exploralab by The Exploratorium (Weldon Owen, September 2013) to review for our readers. Do you know about the Exploratorium in San Francisco, or have you ever been? In a nutshell, the Exploratorium a wonder-filled interactive science and creativity center with ground-breaking exhibits that set the bar for many science museums around the world. If you’re an educator or homeschooler, the Exploratorium’s Educator pages are full of ideas that are sure to inspire, regardless of where you live.

Related to that, if you’re a fan of the Exploratorium or would love to grab a piece of its magic, this new book, Exploralab: 150+ Ways to Investigate the Amazing Science All Around Youwill transport you to San Francisco’s Pier 15 with its hands-on projects that encourage children explore science in their everyday world. 

So what’s inside?

The book is full of fun, easy-to-read science activities for parents, caregivers, and teachers to share with young children. You’ll be happy to sit down, like we did, and flip through the pages with your child to select activities together. If you have an older child, you might like to gift them a copy to browse through when that “I’m bored” feeling settles in.

The projects are a delight in the way that they break down complex science into bite-size, digestible chunks. Something else about this book that I know a lot of our readers will appreciate is that the materials and tools are generally things you can easily find in your pantry: paper, pencils, glue, scissors, measuring spoons, etc.

Still interested? Let’s take a peek inside…

The Inside Cover

Inside cover Exploralab Review

See that little window on the left? it has a clear envelope that you can open, and then pull out a cool plastic lens that does this…

Exploralab Review Inside Cover

Cool! We’re off to a fun start! The inside of the cover really sets the tone for the rest of the book, as more interactive elements follow.

Exploralab Review Lab 3 closet flaps

Engaging Labs

The book is full of “150+ ways to investigate the amazing science all around you,” that are contained within fourteen “Labs” that encompass topics such as school, nature, the city, and games. For example…

Game Hour Exploralab

Roller Coaster Exploralab

Lab #05: The Street Underneath Your Feet

My five-year old and I flipped through the pages and I asked her to pick a project that looked like fun. You can probably see that she tabbed more than one page. We decided to start with “Lab #05: The Street Underneath Your Feet.” Zoom in and you’ll see that this spread is full of ideas for engaging children in the science of the street. Ideas like using your feet as rulers to measure distance, studying shadows to understand more about how the earth spins, and making rubbings from found textures.

Rubbing Lab Instructions Exploralab review

This last idea is what we dug into.

Exploralab review rubbing directions

I really enjoyed the relief that’s set right into the book! Take a look at the bottom of this next picture and you’ll see what I’m talking about. What a clever idea.

Exploralab how to make rubbings

We ran our crayon right over the page to understand the project before hitting the streets.

Exploralab rubbing in book

Our Experience

We made a simple book from four sheets of paper, stapled three times along the edge, and then took it outside to gather some manmade and natural textures.

Rubbing Water Grate

Leaf rubbing Exploralab Review

The next project my daughter plans to tackles is the Juice-Tasting Challenge, where you change the color of familiar drinks with food coloring and challenge people to guess what they’re drinking. The eyes and tongue send off conflicting flavor messages and we’re excited to see what will happen.

Exploralab Breakfast Lab

If this looks like it could be a good addition to your library, you can find your own copy of Exploralab through Amazon. We’re an affiliate, and your purchase helps keep our Tinker-engine running, so thank you!

Exploralab BookLearn More

Visit the Exploratorium

See our review of another book from the Exploratorium, The Art of Tinkering

I was fortunate to hold my book launch party at Helix, a temporary outpost of The Exploratorium in Los Altos, CA.

The Exploratorium’s Education page has a host of valuable resources for home tinkerers and educators.

You can search part of their site for videos that explore all sorts of science + art phenomena.






The Artful Parent Book: A Review and a Project

Artful Parent Book: Blog TourAs a longtime fan of Jean Van’t Hul’s charming, approachable, and ever-inspiring blog, The Artful Parent, I’m thrilled about the upcoming release of her book, The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity. Not only has Jean been a huge source of inspiration to me and countless others, but we’ve become real-life friends and I have a great deal of respect for the way that she encourages her children to find their inner voice through hands-on learning. And her delightful book does not disappoint.

The book comes out on April 9, 2013, so consider this a sneak peek…and read through to the end for details on how you could win your very own copy.

Artful Parent Book Jean Van't Hul

My two-year old and I spent the morning together and I came to the realization that she rarely gets the opportunity to dive into so many of the projects that her older sister enjoyed. Now that I have two children, my girls and I are frequently on the go, my attention is often divided, and their abilities are so different that I usually follow my older child’s interests while her younger sister tags along…and does a great job at keeping up.

Since Jean’s blog was there for me when my first toddler and I got our creative groove on, I thought we’d see what ideas she had in store for us. When I flipped the book to the very first project, Contact Paper Suncatchers, I knew this was for us.

My older daughter and I one made these contact paper suncatchers and this contact paper collage, and we still had plenty of leftover materials to play with.

Artful Parent Book Jean Van't Hul

To make your own suncatcher, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Colored Tissue Paper
  • Scissors
  • Contact Paper (click the link to find it on Amazon)
  • Flowers, feathers, sequins
  • Masking Tape

By some miracle I woke up early and set out all of the materials before my daughter woke up.  To set this up as we did, tape a piece of contact paper to your table. This will keep the contact paper from moving around. Fill a bowl or tray with pre-cut pieces of colorful tissue paper, and then invite your child to attach the pieces to the contact paper.

My daughter’s first instinct was to glue the pieces down, but once she understood how the contact paper worked, she put the glue aside. At some point she decided to layer her collage and realized that she did, in fact, need the glue to stick these extra papers on. If your child takes the project in a new direction as mine did, do your best to go with the flow.

Artful Parent Book Jean Van't Hul

Oh, one more thing…I was also quite honored that Jean invited me to write a piece for her book — what a delight to see this fun provocation in print!

Artful Parent Book Review Tinkkerlab

The Artful Parent is not only jam-packed with sixty simple and creative projects, but it’s also full of tips on the best art supplies for your art pantry, how to talk with children about art, and how to set up an art space.

If you’d like a copy of the book, if you pre-order now you’ll get almost 40% off the cover price. On top of that, if the Amazon price decreases between your order time and the end of the day of the release date, you’ll receive the lowest price. To enter for a chance to win a copy of Jean’s book (if you buy the book for yourself, your winning book would be a great gift!), leave a comment at the end of this post.

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 11.27.04 PMContest Details: You must have a U.S. address to win. Deadline for entries is Friday, April 22, 2013, 9 pm PST. Winner will be chosen randomly.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a comment! I loved reading all of your inspiring memories and stories. Congratulations to Megan, comment #26! You will be contacted via email regarding your prize.

The Book Blog Tour

Do you want to see more? Follow along on the blog tour…

March 18 – Tinkerlab – activity demonstration + giveaway

March 22 – Handmade Charlotte – blog post

March 26 – Playful Learning – activity demonstration

March 28 – Nurture Store – feature post + giveaway

March 30 – Make and Takes – feature

April 1 – Red Ted Art – book review + giveaway

April 2 – Kids Activity Blog – interview + giveaway

April 3 – Pink and Green Mama – blog post

April 8 – Not Just Cute – blog post

April 9 – Creative with Kids – interview

April 10 – Imagination Tree – book review

A Question for you…

Thinking back to your childhood, what is the earliest piece of art that you remember making?