Honest confession time … my garden is a hot mess. I really enjoy growing things and, in this time, we seem to all be having a bit of a homesteader mentality where we want to add to our self-sufficiency. Once upon a time, we had a wonderful garden with peppers, onions, greens like spinach and kale, broccoli, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, and even more. Unfortunately, our drip system has been damaged and the garden was neglected last year with our busy lives. A few weekends ago, I pulled out some weeds and looked to see what volunteer plants our garden was hiding. Our rosemary has evidentially tapped into a water line because it is extremely healthy, the bees are buzzing through our flowering thyme so I expect that to come back, and I found that our green onions had reseeded themselves. I scratched out a spot to plant some basil seeds and I prepped a pot to plant some cilantro and parsley. I’m looking forward to stepping out my back door to pick some fresh herbs while cooking.
We Live in a Desert
Buuuuttt…. our watering system is broken. It is definitely in our plans to have that fixed, but I want to plant NOW. (Impatient, much?) so that means watering cans. I find it therapeutic to walk out among my plants, but laziness rears its head and if water is not readily available, I think I’ll come back and do it later … spoiler, I don’t. I could leave watering cans full of water waiting for me but I do not want to create a breeding ground for mosquitos. Thus the milk jug watering can was born.
Milk Jug Watering Can
Time to clean out one of the many milk jugs we finish each week. (Do my kids not realize they are allowed to drink water? We don’t go through this much milk when they are at school all day.) Poke some holes for the water to come out. Poke some holes to let air come in. Decorate with Sharpies. Fill and enjoy. It is really that simple. (Video tutorial below.)
We found some volunteer strawberry plants popping up in some pretty rough grass. Slowly, we’re cleaning out the bed so that the strawberries can flourish, but they need water. Watch and share our video tutorial on this simple family craft that can empower everyone in the family to take care of their own plot of land.
These bowls are made from recycled materials and are just as satisfying as those childhood pinch pots you made out of clay. They start with a disc of coiled paper before being pressed into shape. Any paper will work. I like my coils to form faster so I use folded pieces of paper. The videos below show the process with calendar pages. Glossy magazine pages are pretty but so is newspaper. You can even save the ads that get mailed to you over the course of the week.
Start with a stack of papers that are the same width (this bowl uses 7″ strips. I’ve also cut each of those in half and used 3.5″ strips with nice results). It does not matter if the pages are the same length. The fold in the video below will give you neater edges than simply folding the paper in half a few times.
We at TinkerSpace hope you are finding strength in your family. As crazy as our world is right now, I find comfort in knowing that I am spending extra one on one time with my children. Showing them it is good to try new things, letting them see it doesn’t always work the first time, and that we can grow from the experience. In many ways, this generation will be better off because of this added time they are getting with their family.
Like so many of you, my children are home working on computers to complete their schoolwork each day. I’m either incredibly mean or the most amazing mom ever (depends on who you ask on what day) but I also have a daily creativity requirement. Somedays we’re drawing, other days we’re learning how to create apps on App Inventor, but most days the kids are creating as they would at TinkerSpace. My daughter (11) had in mind that she wanted to learn how to embroider.
Graphite Transfer Technique
Before we look at embroidery, I want to share a technique that we use at TinkerSpace in so many different activities. You can always purchase transfer paper but at TinkerSpace we like to use what we have on hand. No transfer paper required!
|Step 1: Find the line drawing you wish to transfer. Google image searches are good for this. Use “line drawing” or “silhouette” in the search bar along with whatever you are looking for. Eg. “bunny line drawing.” Print it on regular printer paper.||Step 2: Use a pencil to rub graphite on the backside of the paper. Be sure to cover the area with the drawing completely.|
|Step 3: Place the printout on the material to which you are transferring the image. [Picture up, graphite down on the material]. Trace over the image with a dull pencil. Be careful not to move the image while you are tracing. Hold the paper in place while you peel it back to peek underneath, checking on the transfer. Go over any places that the transfer is light.||Step 4: [Optional] Go over your transferred image with a marker.|
Embroidered Line Drawings
Once you’ve chosen your line drawing and transferred it to your fabric, you’re ready to start embroidering. Note: the blue fabric that I used for my first bunny was too dark to see the graphite very well. This is where the different colors of transfer paper would have come in handy. But, since I didn’t have that, I stacked the fabric over the printout and held them to a window (like using a lightbox) and then traced the bunny onto the fabric with a marker.
Embroidery DOES require specific tools. If you wish to purchase an item or two, here are some convenient links to Amazon products. Even if you don’t have the supplies to do this project, now that you know how to transfer a line drawing check out the gallery of activities below. You’ll have the supplies at home for at least one of them, I’m certain.
- 5-in embroidery hoop (5- inch is nice for a small starter piece but you may wish to get a set in different sizes [6 piece embroidery hoop set — 4-in to 10-in diameters] so that you have options at another time.)
- Embroidery Floss (if you have a child that has ever made friendship bracelets, you probably have some lying around. If you order this set, you will have plenty of embroidery floss in assorted colors that you can learn to make friendship bracelets.)
- Embroidery Needles (You need a needle with a large eye to get the multi-strand embroidery floss through)
- Linen Embroidery Fabric (This is not necessary. Any scrap of light-colored, non-stretchy fabric will work. It needs to be large enough to fit in the hoop securely. If you don’t have fabric lying around right now, raid your donation pile.
- If you like to have a complete set compiled for you, try an Embroidery Starter Set.
How to Embroider
Fortunately for my daughter (and for all of you), I have an amazingly talented sister who has posted a video on her website to get you started in embroidery. The video below is posted with permission from https://www.karensmonsters.com. Her page is full of whimsy and creative ideas. You can purchase her monsters or kits and she also has some wonderful tutorials. I am eager to try her homemade art matchbox activity.
After lunch each day, our family sits down to listen to The Hobbit audiobook for a few chapters. It is so cozy to have something to do with your hands while listening to a great story.
Our favorite types of activities involve learning a technique and then seeing where you can take it. Line drawing embroidery is fantastic for this. Learn a few stitches and techniques, transfer simple line drawings, and see where you can take it. Framed art, decorating doll items, add flair to dishtowels … the ideas go on and on. Of course, if you are 11 and you have a piece of fabric in front of you, it will probably end up as a pillow. Am I right, Moms?
More Ideas for Graphite Transfer
While we have never done embroidery with hoops at TinkerSpace, we have used the graphite transfer technique quite often. Here is a gallery of ideas for using this technique.
Line Drawing with stitched accents: Using the graphite transfer technique, we transferred this bunny outline to cardstock. We poked holes around the eyes and at the mouth/nose before filling the space with marker lines for texture. We then used crochet thread and a tapestry needs to sew in the eyes and mouth. This is a great project for younger hands since the needle does not need to be sharp. The cardstock is stiff enough to hold the tension of the stitches so no embroidery hoop is needed.
Online coloring pages are a great resource for landscapes. For this paper mosaic, we picked out portions of the drawing to transfer onto blue paper then cut pieces of patterned papers to fill in the spaces. This project was one piece of a 3-part project. We copied the same line drawing three times then completed it with paper mosaic, dots of paint, and colored pencil lines.
Black glue and watercolor resist is a favorite at TinkerSpace. We do some version of it for almost every holiday because it is so accessible and yet great depth can be achieved. It’s a good project for preschoolers up through adults. First, add some paint to Elmer’s Glue. We have a bottle of Elmer’s glue with black paint in it that we use to draw broad strokes. For other colors, you can mix a small amount of paint and glue on a plastic tray (we like yogurt container lids). You can spread the glue with a toothpick for detail work or a paintbrush for broader strokes. Once the glue is dry (it dries clear and just the paint shows through), you can use watercolors to complete the painting. Since the glue resists the watercolors, the painted lines stay crisp.
Watercolors are one of our favorite media at TinkerSpace. It is accessible to all from early preschoolers on but can be used with sophistication to create satisfying works of art by older children and adults. Sometimes, as in this project, we don’t even need to pull out the watercolors … Crayola Markers work even better.
Regular printer paper is best for this project! Simply fold your paper in half. Draw a picture on one half. Make sure the bottom of your picture is at the folded edge. Unfold, dampen the paper, and refold to transfer. Once the picture dries, I like to go back over the original drawing to add some crisp detail back in.
Your picture can take up the entire half sheet or you can leave white space. Some ideas of what to draw include cityscapes, bridges, a line of trees, fireworks, and sunsets. Experiment with letting your colors spread on both halves of the paper as well as limiting your water spray to just the uncolored half of the paper. What differences do you notice when you anchor your drawing to the folded edge versus letting it float in the middle of the folded half of the paper? What do you like better?
To start: Fold your paper in half (either direction is fine) and draw a picture.
Once you’ve drawn your scene on half of your white copy paper, it’s time to transfer the reflected image. This video shows the process on the rainbow drawing above.
- Unfold your drawing.
- Refold it, reversing the crease.
- Spray the entire paper (or just the white section of the paper).
- Fold the drawing onto the blank section of the paper.
- Unfold immediately or wait until it dries to unfold.
- Add details back in.
I never have enough patience to wait until the paper dries to unfold it. It doesn’t seem to matter, but maybe it would … as I said, I’ve never done it. I always want the instant gratification of seeing the color transfer. Plus, it would take longer to dry if you left it folded. Once I’ve unfolded it, I move it to a dry section of the table (or kitchen counter). I usually move it a couple of times (again, lack of patience).
I think it would be fun to make this as part of a shoebox diorama. The reflection can be a lake and you could make little 3D models of boats to sail upon it.
Please show us what you make? We miss you all terribly with TinkerSpace being closed. We really want to share in your creativity.
We’re going on a Bear Hunt! Across the country, communities are finding ways to get together while they stay apart. My Facebook feed is full of families saying they are taking their young ones (and some not so young) on Bear Hunts. People are placing stuffed bears in their windows for others to find. I love literature and STEAM connections.
- Make a map of your neighborhood and mark your journey and where you spotted bears.
- Make a map of the path the family takes in the story.
- Walk the same path each day and keep track of the number of bears you find. Make a bar graph. Does it stay the same each day or does the number of bears continue to grow? (Here’s some growth of a “viral” idea we can all get behind.)
- Make some cardboard tube binoculars (instructions below).
- Make a paper bear to put in your window for others to see.
- Make bear thank you cards to leave for your friends with bears to let them know you appreciate their playing along.
Hang on to those empty toilet paper rolls… there is a lot of fantastic making that can occur when supplies are on hand. For these binoculars, Cut a strip of paper (about 3″ wide) and glue it around your tubes. [I love Aleene’s Tacky Glue]. Poke holes on both sides of your binoculars and attache a piece of yarn (or string, or ribbon, or anything else you have in your house). Now you’re ready to go on your Bear Hunt!
Check out that bear!!!!!!
Let’s Make Some Bears!
Now that you’re ready to find some bears, let’s also make some for others to spot as they walk your neighborhood! Choose your favorite and place it in your window. Remember to make it big so it can be seen from the sidewalk.
You’ll notice that the links above are to Valentines posts. It seems to me that what this word needs right now (in addition to more bears) is love.
This Paddington Bear, while probably not big enough to place in your window, is too cute not to share. Just a friendly reminder to save those toilet paper rolls.
Other Ideas for Your Walks
Walks around the neighborhood are great! But when you’ve been down the same streets a few times, you might need something to keep your mind occupied. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind:
- Geocaching — check out what’s available in your neighborhood on geocaching.com
- Chalk Walks — You can decorate your sidewalk for others to see. You can also leave messages of love for your neighbors to see.
- Nature Collecting — pressed flowers, leaf art, acorn crafts … what can you do with the nature in your neighborhood?
- Scavenger Hunts — You can make a list of objects to find or go on a color scavenger hunt. Do you have any paint chips lying around? If not, get out the Crayola crayons and make a grid of colors. Can you find objects (man-made or natural) that match each one?
We’d Love to Hear from You!
How are you getting fresh air? What are you noticing in your neighborhood? We miss talking to you as you come into TinkerSpace. Please share with us here!
As we navigate being “safer at home” many people are turning to baking and crafts as they have more family time. Why not combine the two? Let’s all make some cardboard cakes. Entire cakes, slices of cake, cupcakes … there is no end to your cardboard confection possibilities.
Making the Cake Slice — A Math Lesson
These slices of cake are made from cardboard taped together with masking tape. We chose masking tape since it is paintable (where duct tape is not). You can incorporate a math lesson here as follows: Trace a circle on a piece of cardboard and also on a piece of paper. Cut them both out. Fold the paper circle in half and in half again to find the center. Mark the center on the Cardboard Circle.
At this point, you are done with the paper circle but you may wish to save it to help with the cake decorating portion of the craft.
Diameters, Vertical Angles, Sectors, and Congruent
Now draw two lines across your cardboard circle through the center point — these are diameters. Position these diameters so that they define the size slice of cake you are interested in making. When two lines cross they form 4 angles. The non-adjacent angles are called vertical angles and it is mathematically true that vertical angles are always the same size. Your two lines have divided the circle into 4 pieces — called sectors. The sectors formed from vertical angles are congruent (meaning they are the same shape and size).
Cut along your diameters and you will have two wedges of cardboard to form the top and bottom of your slice.
Or the Quick and Dirty Way
Cut out a cake-like wedge from a piece of cardboard. Then place your wedge on a second piece of cardboard, trace and cut out. If you are only making a single slice, this is definitely the faster way. We won’t force you to do math. If you want to make slices that fit together to form a whole cake, we recommend using the above method.
Making Cardboard Bend
Now for the sides! Here’s a trick to get cardboard to bend smoothly … Notice that a piece of corrugated cardboard has two sides (flat cardboard) and the bumpy center. Cut a strip of cardboard (3 – 4 inches wide) such that when you look at the long edge of the strip (not the 3-inch side) you see corrugation bumps.
Peel off one side of the cardboard, leaving the other side and the corrugation bumps in place. You will see that the piece of cardboard is now flexible and can be attached to the curved surface of your cake slice.
Putting it Together
Tape the edge of your strip to one of your cardboard wedges. Most likely you want the smooth side of the cardboard strip out, but it might be interesting to have the bumps out. That’s the wonderful thing about projects like this … you get the make all the decisions. Use masking tape. Work slowly to keep the tape smooth and unwrinkled. When you’ve made it completely around, trim the edge of your strip and tape it to the beginning. Tape the other wedge of cardboard to the bottom completing your piece of cake cardboard form.
We Want More Cake!
If you want to make an entire cake you could use your full cardboard circle to make the cake. Or make a square cake. You could make 6 – 8 slices and put them together to form a “sliceable” cake — just make sure all slices come from the same size circle and they will fit together, no matter the size you made the slice (More math here, but can you figure out why?). Or maybe you want to make cupcakes. Show us what you’ve made!
Time to Decorate
Now for the decorating! The cake wedges in the picture were painted using craft acrylic paint. [22-4806 Sargent Art Primary Acrylic Paint Set, 4 Ounce, 6-Pack will give you the 3 primary colors plus green, black, and white so you can mix any colors you would like — find as many educational opportunities possible; or Apple Barrel PROMOABI, Assorted Colors 1 (18 pack) for premixed colors — you can still mix your own shades!]. You can also choose to decorate with paper. Use the paper circle you already cut out and use that to cut cardstock (Neenah Creative Collection Specialty Cardstock Starter Kit, 12″ x 12″, 65 lb, 18-Color Assortment, 72 Sheets (46408-02)) or construction paper [SunWorks Construction Paper, 10 Assorted Colors, 9″ x 12″, 50 Sheets] to size.
Once the cake no longer looks like cardboard … there’s cake and frosting … it’s time to add those decorations. What can you find around the house to decorate? Here are some ideas:
- raid those craft sets your kids have been given as gifts
- tissue paper
This is where your kids can really shine. Let them load up their cake with as many decorations as they would like (at least they’re not eating all that sugar!).
How Can You Get Supplies
While TinkerSpace is closed currently, we are putting together supply kits for those that need them. Click on the payment button below and then follow the link to our google form in order to schedule a pick-up time. [Note: please only click for payment if you live locally or just want to support us. We are not offering mail-order at this time.] Your kit will include cardboard wedges and strip, lengths of masking tape, paper for decorating (sorry, paint is not available), and some accessories (random). In the comments section of the google form, you are welcome to request colors and/or particular add-ons.
We love automata here at TinkerSpace. They are such a fun way of exploring mechanisms. This piece of Spring is made on a clothespin so most of the mechanism is already made for you … all it needs is your creativity. The video below shows you all you need to make some new springtime friends. If you don’t have some of the supplies (or you just want to support TinkerSpace in these crazy times), you can purchase the kit for $5 and schedule a time to pick it up from TinkerSpace. [Important: Make sure you are local and can pick up your kit. There is no shipping option available at this time.] Once you have paid, you will be directed to a form to let us know when you would like to pick up your kit.
Safety with Familiarity
When thinking about engineering challenges, it is interesting to watch kids interact with TinkerSpace. The vast majority of repeat visitors start with something they have done before. New visitors often start at the LEGO table. These activities are known, they are comfortable, they are safe. While working on these activities, they are exhibiting the Montessori principle that kids will work on the same thing until they have taken all they can from it. The fact that these activities are so repeatable means that kids keep gaining something from the experience. It is interesting to see the refinements each time they build the “same” thing.
Many kids that enter TinkerSpace come in knowing what they will be working on that day. If they get another idea while they are there, they may change their project but many just file that information away for the next visit. As we’ve been open for over a year now, we are seeing a change in our repeat visitors, many are getting more comfortable with trying new experiences, knowing if their idea doesn’t work right away they can make changes and keep going.
There is no right or wrong way to experience TinkerSpace. There is value in everything the kids accomplish. But I want to give serious kudos to the kids that take on a challenge. TinkerSpace offers standing challenges at nearly every station and our Engineering Challenge Table has a quick challenge that changes weekly. Now, we are seeing the amazing abilities of our kids as they are given more involved challenges in our new TinkerTime — Engineering Focus class.
What do We Mean by Challenge?
Our definition of a challenge is a statement of a result with constraints upon the supplies and handling that allows the kids to experiment until they get the results they want.
Kids can walk into TinkerSpace not knowing what they will be doing … but they know they will rise to the challenge.
Registration is open for TinkerTime — Engineering Focus. Click here for more information.
Halloween is a time of make-believe! Kids of all backgrounds love dressing up and some of us never tire of it. When our kids take part in imaginative play they tend to discover props (and costumes) that they NEED in order to make their play complete. This is the perfect time to bring making into their lives.
A Raccoon Wedding
In our house live many, many stuffed raccoons. One day a few years ago, my daughter decided that two of them needed to get married. She taped together fabric (she had not yet learned to use the sewing machine) to make a wedding dress and suits for both the groom and the bride’s “father”. The audience of other stuffed animals gathered, vows were written, flowers were brought in, and we were asked to attend the wedding (with formal written invitations). In all, it took 3 days of preparation.
I’ll admit, attending a stuffed raccoon wedding is not high on my to-do list for any day, but I supported her and I find so much satisfaction in thinking about all of the non-cognitive skills she developed in this process — self-efficacy (she executed her own ideas), perseverance (the costumes did not stay on perfectly the first time), internal motivation (there was no external force telling her to stay with this or even do it in the first place), and deferred gratification (the time between deciding to pull her parents into watching a wedding and the actual event measured in days, not minutes). She also practiced the design process: start with an idea for a costume, make it, try it on, refine it, and repeat.
Halloween = Costumes
I tell you this story since Halloween has been a traditional time of stuffed animal costume making in our household. Being a maker myself, I have always made at least some components of my children’s Halloween costumes. When the kids were very little and were naturally always in the same room with me, they would be playing in my sewing room while I worked. Their games would always turn into using the discarded fabric scraps to make costumes for their stuffed animal friends. This evolved into sewing lessons over the years. And, of course, other materials are always brought from all over the house (cardboard tubes, anyone?). I am sure this annual experience led to the inception of the raccoon wedding idea.
Bear is ready to explore the galaxy!
This summer, a very special bear in our house received space travel gear. This project was done, in its entirety, by an 8-year-old. The costume pieces have moved into our dress-up bin and when the child dresses up, so does the bear. On occasion, guests of TinkerSpace bring in a doll or stuffed animal because their goal for the day requires their ‘friend’ to try on their design. I am always so impressed by what these kids are able to imagine and accomplish.
Knight Suit, complete with shield, made by TinkerSpace customer.
We want to open up this opportunity to all of our TinkerSpace community!
Whether your children make costumes at home or at TinkerSpace, whether they work alone or with you, share pictures of their stuffed animals (or dolls) dressed in their homemade costumes and we will give away free tickets to TinkerSpace.
Rules and Details
- Free tickets are valid during any open time through January 31, 2020, including our Noon Year’s Eve party on December 31, 2019 from 11:00 – 1:00.
- Winners’ names will be drawn on Friday, November 1, 2019.
- One name will be drawn for every 15 entrants into the contest (with a maximum of 10 winners).
- You are entered in the contest by posting a picture of your child’s creation on Facebook and tagging TinkerSpace (use @exploretinkerspace) or on Instagram (use @tinkerspacekat).
- Your name will be duplicated in the drawing pool for each of the following:
- Share on BOTH Facebook and Instagram.
- Share this blog post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest (earn 4 entries for all 4).
- Click on the Facebook event for this contest and tagging yourself as “going.”
- Find our Facebook and/or Instagram post about this contest and tag 3 friends that might be interested. (2 possible additional entries for both Facebook and Instagram).
- Be sure to comment on this post with all you have done so that we make sure you receive all the entries you deserve!