Tinkering Spaces: Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent

amily Art Studio rom artfulparent.com

Today I’m joined by the inspiring and talented Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent, who I’ve invited to kick off a new series of informative interviews that center on designing kid-friendly creativity spaces, or tinkering spaces. If you’re scratching your head because you can’t figure out where to put your children’s art materials, hatching a plan to turn your laundry room into an art room,  or shifting furniture to make room for a new easel, these interviews are sure to give you food for thought.

RACHELLE: Welcome, Jean! Your blog,The Artful Parent, is a huge reason why I’m blogging today. You’ve inspired many parents like me to begin their own Toddler Art Group, your writing is so friendly that I often feel like I’m chatting with you over a cup of coffee, and now, lucky for us, you’re writing a book! I’ve watched your art studio grow and change along with your children and I’m excited to have you here today to share some insights about setting up a functional home art studio.

JEAN: So glad to be here! I love your blog too, Rachelle, especially your generous approach to experimentation and creativity.

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: Thanks! You have an adorable, functional studio space that I would love to call my own. Can you tell us a little bit about this space and how it got started?

JEAN: We moved to our house when my older daughter, Maia, was almost a year old. I’d been reading books on children’s art and wanted a space to use for art. The house is small, but there is a large laundry room at the back with a cement floor. Perfect for kids art! I painted over the fake wood paneling, gave the cement floor a coat of paint, set up a coffee table to use as a toddler-sized art table, and invited one of Maia’s toddler friends over for an inaugural art experience (feelie goop). Over time we added shelves, more art supplies, different tables, and an art drying wall.

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: If you had to be selective, what are three things that you love the most about the space?

JEAN: Well, I truly don’t think a child needs a fancy art space in order to make art. A table and a few supplies are enough—whether they are in a corner of the living room or just at the dining table between meals. That said, here are three things I especially love about our studio:

  1. The wall of shelves my husband added. There are low shelves where I keep art materials accessible for the girls and also high shelves where I keep art materials that I don’t want them to use without supervision.
  2. The drying wall, which doubles as an art display wall.
  3. My IKEA adjustable tables—a generous gift from my toddler art group mamas! The table top is a wipeable laminate, which is so perfect for art.
Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: You recently posted about updating your creative space to accommodate a five-year and a toddler (and of course, the Toddler Art Group). How did you change the space to welcome children of different ages and various developmental stages?

JEAN: I was mostly just more selective about what materials I kept within reach and what I put higher. Also, I had to think about (and adjust) easel and table heights. Beyond the actual art space, I had to reconsider how and when I let my older daughter do art. The one-on-one kinds of projects we were used to were hard to do with a needy baby/toddler with us, so we started doing more simple projects and saving the more ambitious projects for naptime. I also began setting up a variation of the big sister art project for the toddler. It’s getting easier again to do a wider range of activities and Daphne is joining in more and more.

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: Your children are prolific art-makers! What do you do with their art as they make it and how do you organize and store their completed projects?

JEAN: They certainly are prolific! And I can’t say I always keep up. I try, but the art piles up! I do have a simple storage system that has worked well for me. I use plastic storage boxes labeled with the child’s name and age. We also use artwork for birthday and holiday cards, wrapping paper, and gifts.

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: You’ve written a lot about your favorite art materials, and I’ve discovered my favorite watercolors and paper for young children through you. What five supplies are indispensable to you and your kids at this moment?

JEAN: It’s so hard to keep it to 5!

  1. Liquid watercolors
  2. Washable tempera paint
  3. Paper
  4. Markers
  5. Homemade playdough

Those are the five that get the most consistent use. But how can I leave off contact paper?! Or collage materials? Or tape and glue?! Really, the supplies that are indispensible are whatever the kids are working with right now. How’s that for an answer? 🙂

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: If you were only restricted by your imagination, what would your ideal children’s art space include?

JEAN: I’d have to say that our art space is pretty ideal for us right now. If I were wishing for more, I might add a sink right in the studio for washing hands and brushes. Also, morning sunlight. And a studio elf to keep it clean.

We actually don’t do the majority of our art in the studio, though. A lot of our art making and creative activities happen at the dining table or the nearby kid-sized table. There’s something to be said for having an art space (even if it doubles as an eating space) right in the thick of things and in the midst of family life.

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: You also seem to be an avid sewer, and I know that many of us would love to find more time for our own creative pursuits. Between blogging and writing a book, how do you carve out time for your own projects? And where do you work on them?

JEAN: Ask me again in a few months!

Parenting is my priority time- and energy-wise right now and my own creative pursuits often take a backseat to what I can do with my children. But I have started to think about how I can embrace my own creativity and see what that might mean to me at this point. I’m not even sure. I’m considering trying out an evening art class and possibly a photography class. We’ll see…

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

JEAN: Thank you for inviting me here, Rachelle! I hope we can talk in person someday!

RACHELLE: I hope so too; that would be so much fun. Thank you for joining us today!

Do you have an inspiring Tinkering Space to share?

If you have an art studio, maker space, or tinkering garage that you think our readers would be inspired by, we would love to hear about it! You can fill out this short form and we’ll be in touch.

More Tinkering Spaces

You can check out the rest of the TinkerSpaces in this series here. 

tinkering spaces: jean van't hul of the artful parentYou can learn more about Jean on her inspiring websiteThe Artful Parent and follow her on Facebook.

tinkering spaces: jean van't hul of the artful parent

Jean has graciously offered to share an Artful Parent Calendar with one lucky reader. Around the Year with The Artful Parent: Celebrating the Seasons and Holidays with Arts & Crafts” is no ordinary calendar. This one is chock-full of ideas and inspiration to keep you and your family artful throughout the coming year. Each month features at least one seasonal art or craft activity complete with photos and instructions. By keeping this calendar handy, you’ll have an attractive visual reminder to add a bit more art into your family’s life throughout the year.

Small Art Studio Spaces:

If you’re thinking about setting up your own home art studio, learn how to set one up in minutes:

Home Art Studio for Small Spaces: Be Creative Anywhere.

tinkering spaces: jean van't hul of the artful parent

Giveaway is closed.


  1. I’m a fan of both your sites and found Tinkerlab serindipitously while looking for a kale recipe which lead me to another blog that recommended Tinkerlab. From Tinkerlab I found Artfull Parent. The world is large and small. I think what we started doing with fingerprinting with our daughter since she was little 6 months or so has been enhanced and enriched by the ideas at both your sites. She is now 16 months and starting to learn her colors and have a distinct sense of where she wants to use various medias. It is amazing to watch her development as an artist thanks very much for your inspiration.

    • Thanks for your friendship on both our sites!

  2. Great interview! Ironically I found Tinkerlab through The Artful Parent which is just the opposite of the previous person! The calendar looks fabulous! The kitchen table is usually our place to create art, but it nice to have an art space to keep materials and works in progress!

    • A huge thank you to Jean for sharing me with her fans! I’m so glad we found each other, Melissa! 

  3. I have been working on our art space as baby is very curious about the toddler’s activities.

  4. My son LOVES coloring/painting/chalking/markering at his easel.  When it’s warm, we take it out on the deck with finger paints and he goes crazy.  :)  Great interview- I really like those paper plate projects!  Thanks for the chance!

  5. Great interview, love both sites..we made some watercolor coffee filter snowflakes this morning, so fun <3

    • Thanks, Michelle. Aren’t coffee filters the best for making snowflakes?

  6. I’m a big fan of both Tinkerlab and The Artful Parent. Thank you both for the great interview and giveaway. I’ll tell you that the link to the paper options is a lifesaver for me. lol

    • So helpful, right? I’m a fan of all of Jean’s paper choices.

  7. fun interview! i follow you both so it is fun to see you together 🙂

    • Maria, I was thrilled when Jean agreed to the interview. I’m happy to be in the same “room” as her too!

  8. Thank you!!!  As I said last night…a mesh up between my two favorite playful learning sites is quite exciting.  :D  We bought some liquid watercolors when I read about them on the Artful Parent; they are just as great as she claims!

    • Thanks, Robin! Liquid watercolors are rad, and we must have about 15 bottles on the shelf — they’re useful for so many things!

  9. I love Jean’s blog too.  She has inspired a heck of a lot of art over here at our house.  Thanks for this great interview!  🙂

    • So glad you enjoyed it, Angela. Thanks for the comment.

  10. I’m inspired to carve out a space dedicated to art for my twins. Thank you!

    • That’s what we like to hear, Heidi. I’d love to hear back from you once you get the ball rolling. You won’t regret it!

  11. Great interview!  Thanks for the change to win the calendar! 

  12. I read the Artful Parent and have gotten many good ideas from her blog. This interview and the pictures posted made me realize that we would do crafts so much more often if we had a dedicated space.

    • So true, Ashley. So, do you think you’ll take the plunge?

  13. I have followed Jean’s blog for about a year and have found it extremely useful and inspiring. I recommended it to teachers and parents. I would love a calendar to give to a fellow teacher who seems to have forgotten that art should be process oriented and fun!

    • Sometimes the job of teaching art falls into the wrong hands, but there’s always the possibility of persuading through inspiration. 

  14. Great inspiration! I think I don’t have room to devote to an art space, but I bet if I really looked at all the places I have art supplies stashed, I’d make enough room! Thanks for the post.

    • Yes, you can do it! While I don’t have a room in the house dedicated to art making, there are dedicated stations that house art materials and creating spaces. Our house is really small, so the dining room has essentially been converted into a studio/eating space. It’s often messy, but it works for us.

  15. I love Jean’s blog and try many of her ideas with my 4-year-old. Art is not my daughter’s favorite activity, but when I show her the pictures from the blog and tell her that this other girl is also Maia and working on this project, she gives it a try. Including our 18-month-old boy sure is a challenge.

  16. I have been following Jean’s blog  for a few months and have used many ideas…even tried to get some awareness at my son’s day care ( so far no luck). Their art is 95% done by the child minders 🙁  tinkerlab is a recent discovery for me..so far a good one :-) 

    • It can be hard to convert people who have been taught to teach in a certain way, but it’s great that you haven’t giving up on trying! If you have the time, you could try going in to model a few activities for the teachers, just to give them a bit of inspiration. Or, if you can get other parents on board with your POV, you could also try approaching the school as a collective and asking for more process-oriented work. Say no to turkey hands! Good luck!

  17. I so love Jean’s blog and would really enjoy her calendar.  Thanks, Maureen (jnomaxx at hotmail dot com).

  18. As I was blog hopping, I found Jean’s space on web. I read the top 10 art material for preschoolers and ended up making play dough this morning. I and my daughter had a fabulous time making and playing with it. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • Isn’t homemade play dough the best? We just made some with peppermint oil for the holidays, and it smells divine! Thanks for the comment.

  19. Thanks so much for this!  I’ve been feeling jealous of Jean’s studio for months now, and a little disgruntled that I felt our spare room was better served as a spare bedroom than a studio right now (we have frequent family visits to see our twin girls).  But we do our art in the dining room, and I’ve dedicated an oak cabinet and part of the sideboard to housing art supplies.  Except for the easels in the room, it still looks like a dining room ;)  So I feel better now knowing that Jean’s kids do a lot of their art in the dining room, too! 

    • Yes, dining rooms are the best art spaces! We’re in a similar situation, and as much as I’d love a dedicated studio, the beauty of the dining room is that art making isn’t relegated to some back corner of the house. It’s front and center, and integrated into the comings and goings of the family. I’m glad this interview helped!

  20. Looks like there are some great ideas in that calendar. Thanks for the chance to win. 

  21. I just bought that same IKEA table and stools for my daughter for Christmas.  We are in the process of figuring out how to create an art corner in our house.  My daughter asks everyday tro do an art project, so the calandar would come in very handy:)

    • It sounds like your daughter is going to love her Christmas present! 

  22. We just moved to new house and i decided to make the art space just in the middle of kitchen and also theshelves for creative stuff, cause arts is something she likes to do when i am around. Thanks for a so rare possinility- an international giveaway!

    • Jean told me that she has fans from over 100 countries, so we HAD to do an international giveaway! Isn’t that thoughtful? 

  23. would love the win the calendar, as I am not naturally creatively inclined myself.  I spotted Jean’s blog a couple of weeks ago and started following it, and now am glad to discover yours!

  24. I love Jean’s blog — I get so much inspiration from it.  I also have 2 daughters that are about the same age as Jean’s so I find the projects to be perfect for us.  She has so many great ideas!

  25. I love her blog!  So many great ideas!

  26. Jean’s blog and yours are a well of inspiration for my todlers art time. Since I lack imagination when it comes to art, I really appreciate your sharing with us your ideas. By the way, I follow your blogs since about a year ago, but I had never commented before. Thank you!

    • Wow, Ana, thanks for leaving a comment! You’re welcome to add your 2 cents any time. 

  27. Beautiful Inspiration! I hope to keep following your blog as my daughter grows and delves into the world of art and creativity.

    • So glad you’re here, Natalie 🙂

  28. Great interview!  I love Jean’s blog and have been following it for a few years now.  Her calendar looks like a lot of fun and I’ve been debating buying it for kids to have their own calendar, but I’ll wait and see what happens here first I guess.  Thank you!

  29. i’m hoping to start a toddler art group when my new baby is a bit older!

  30. i loved the interview and i love the blog!  so inspirational- thanks!

  31. Jean is very inspiring and I have been doing some of her projects with my toddler now.  She loves it and it’s great time together.

  32. I love both blogs and have been inspired to do many art projects with my 2-year-old daughter. Your creativity and enthusiasm is wonderful!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Bonnie!

  33. You are both such inspirational women and mamas!  Thank you for sharing your art, your parenting skills, and your process with us all!

    • It’s truly a pleasure, and thank YOU for the lovely feedback 🙂

  34. How inspiring! Thank you for the opportunity to win this lovely calendar!

  35. My own children are all grown up but now I work with babies and children in their own homes. So for me I have to set up small art spaces for the day then pack it all away again into my car. I would love a calendar of ideas to use with the children. Thank you Rachelle and Jean for loving children enough to want to teach and inspire the people who care for them.

    • Hi Lynne, Having been an “art-on-the-cart” teacher, I’m familiar with the challenges you face in setting up and cleaning up everything, without the luxury of letting it sit ’til tomorrow. Thanks for the sweet comment.

  36. What a grea interview! I need a new calendar for my art room, this would be perfect!

  37. What a great post.  You have me thinking of how I can improve my children’s art space.  I would love to win the calendar to keep my 2 and 4 year old children busy and creative.

    • Glad to hear that this inspired you, Maura.

  38. Great interview!  My favorite part of the studio is the floor:)

    • Oh, I love that floor too. It’s so much fun.

    • Oh, I love that floor too. It’s so much fun.

  39. Interesting 🙂 thanks for sharing – I’d love to learn more about your decisions for what you decide to keep (vs what can stay), how you manage “stuff” vs. recycling & purging; also how you handle leaving art out & about in case your kids want to go back & finish them later

    • Great questions, Emma!
      Here are a related post from Jean’s site: https://artfulparent.com/2008/02/organizing-and-storing-maias-art.htmlPersonally, I keep art that represents milestones (first drawing, first person, first painting,etc.) and favorite projects, but a lot of the art that my kids produce is truly about the process and they forget about it almost as soon as they’ve made it. If I’m on the fence about something, I stash it in a drawer to tend to later. After a few week pass, I usually have a clearer sense of whether it should be saved or tossed. My oldest child is 3, and has yet to return to a piece of work to finish it!

      Recycling and purging: When my daughter was really into making recycled sculptures, we had a huge box full of stuff for her to sort through. When it became unmanageable, I asked her to choose a few things and we recycled the rest. Today she spotted a box that our neighbors put out in the trash and asked if we could bring it home, and I love that she has that sensibility to repurpose materials without them overwhelming our home.

  40. I just discovered the Artful Parent and I am in love!

    elissapugh at gmail.com

  41. after following the artfullparent blog for a few months now  there is so much inspiration! And yes i am thinking of doing a kids art group! 
    greetings from the netherlands!!!

  42. I wish I could be organized enough for my kids to bloom as artists!

    • You can do it, Melissa! It really doesn’t take much — just start with a few materials and easy access to them so your kids can create when the mood strikes. 

  43. Thanks so much for the interview and giveaway! We follow Jean’s blog and are blessed to be part of her Toddler Art Group.  My dream is to one day get her into my house to help me better plan and organize the kid (and grown-up) creative spaces in our house!

    • Lucky you, Kari. Maybe Jean has another future career in the works with you as her client 🙂

  44. Great ideas! Love the kids workspace!

  45. I love this blog as well! Lots of wonderful ideas here!

  46. How lovely to read more about Jean and her creative pursuits. I feel like I know her and her blog for ages. I’ve followed The Artful Parent for really long now! Infact, discovered Tinkerlab via Jean’s blog.
    I’m so grateful that this giveaway is international! Love this calendar and had told Jean the day she launched it that it’s on my wishlist! :))

    • I feel like I know her too, Rashmie. She does a great job at opening herself up to her readers. And I’m so glad to know you through her now too!

  47. Thank you so much, Jean, for inspiring me to make art readily available to my two kids.  Our food cabinet has three shelves and now the lower two are for art supplies! 

  48. thank you!-luv the artful parent, so inspiring….even if we don’t actually get to all of her great projects:)!

  49. i love doing art with kids and have used the artful parent for ideas several times. great interview!

  50. Oh how I need inspiration like this!!

  51. thank you! my oldest isn’t as into as I sometimes think I’d like him to be (art, that is)- but I love still giving him the opportunities. Occasionally, he’ll stick with something for more than  30 seconds! That makes it all worth it!

  52. I enjoyed reading this interview so much.  As a stay at home mom of two (3 1/2 year old son and 3 month old daughter) and a firm believer in the virtue of art and creating an artful space, I am inspired to revamp our current dining room-turned play room/art gallery/baby toy room!!!  Recently I strung up all of my son’s artwork from the past three months (Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas inspired work) on a line with paper clips in said room and am delighted every time I walk in there because of the color and festiveness!  I love the idea of shelves for art supplies as well as designating a SPACE for art.  Thank you.  I would love the calendar of art ideas, crossing my finger!

  53. I came across the Artful Parent randomly a few months ago, and it immediately became one of my favourite blogs.

  54. We use our screened in porch during the warm months for our art space. Since it’s currently 20 degrees outside I’m longing for some indoor art space with room to spread out. Maybe this will motivate me to get the basement organzied and set up!!

  55. Great interview and I love the calandar. I could use some inspiration!

  56. I am so glad I found the artful parent!  You have reinspired an old, tired mama on her second go around with kids.  Thank you! 

  57. Thanks for your 5 core art supplies! My new years resolution will be to have at least one new crafty project a week. Thanks so much for all the great ideas. Your blogs are super!

  58. It looks like a great space to be creative in. Thanks for sharing and for the give-away. The calendar sounds great!

  59. Just found your blog & FB page – so excited to get art-y. Moving next week & am eager to reconfigure our art space. Our apt is small so I gotta get creative. Thanks for the ideas – going to move our supplies out of drawers & onto shelves forsure.

  60. I love when two of my favourite blogs come together!  Thanks so much to both you, Jean, and Rachelle…inspiring moms… amazing women.  I admire your creativity and generous spirits.

  61. I stumbled across your blog from the Bambini Creativi link on my facebook page.
    I am Art Education student and am very inspired by your blog so far ~ and look forward to getting lost in it!!!

  62. This was such an encouragment to me and inspired me with great ideas for more creative learning/exploring with my kids. Thanks so much!

  63. too mate for the giveaway, just a message from France to thank Jean for her inspiring blog

  64. Thanks for the wonderful ideas, both Tinkerlab and Artful Parent 🙂

Comments are closed.