Why I should buy stock in scotch (tape that is)

There's a great article on by GeekDad Jonathan Liu about the 5 Best Toys of All Time.

While I wholeheartedly agree about the joy of sticks, boxes, twine and above all dirt -- there is a glaring omission from his most excellent article:

Tape. And lots of it. Case in point:

Claire's version of London Bridge. Constructed completely on her own in a quiet hour which I used to whip up a 30 minute Rachael Ray dish (really, don't these always take like 20 minutes longer than they should?).

The bridge hung on until this morning when her bouncing turtle finally shook it from the couch.

So I say hand over a roll of tape to your little one, see where it takes them! It's cheap, easy to clean up and there's probably a half dozen rolls stashed in your junk drawer as you're reading this. 

Messy bedhead hair is of course optional, but I feel it adds to the experience.


Creative Idea for an Art Inspired Present

I'm always on the lookout for unique gifts that encourage creativity and I just had to share this one -- blank pop-up books. Paired with markers and a classic storybook it would make an awesome themed present.
You might recall I blogged about our mutual obsession with pop up books and a few of our favorites a while back. Now that Claire his hit age 4, she is really into storytelling AND still fascinated with the mechanics of pop up books. Her plots may meander a bit, but she's got lots of ideas and I'm looking forward to having a commemorative book or two celebrating her imaginative tales.

The pages look pretty sturdy and I imagine you could paint or decoupage them. My creative gears are churning away!

If you have older children and are looking for something really neat, check out this book. It's not quite as open ended and requires a bit more piecing things together, but in terms of paper mechanics, I think it's a great book!

Will your little ones be unwrapping any creative gifts this year?


Setting Up Our Art Room and a Case of Blue Measles

I've unearthed a few great photos from my old computer:

Modern Parents Messy Kids
I took this shortly after our move to the new house when I let Claire loose with a bunch of paint and paper to keep her occupied while I neatly (ha!) unpacked our belongings. Unbeknownst to me she discovered spatter painting and seemed to have missed the paper but did a remarkable job on her face. 

Childhood 101
I'm so excited to have a room set aside for messy projects just off the kitchen. It's 11 feet by 6 feet and sized just right for a long counter and a storage shelf. There's a large south facing window that lets in great light. I've been scouring blogs for some inspiration on setting up an art space where Claire could work independently and leave enough room for when the two of us worked on a project together.
Art Studio in the Artful Parent's laundry
room, love the batik curtains!

I've always admired the set up in home of The Artful Parent where she hosts a toddler art group in a studio that doubles as her laundry room. There's been a few iterations in the design as her children have grown, so search through her archives for more ideas. I also love the art nook over at Modern Parents Messy Kids, a great (and affordable) set up that would tuck into a small space beautifully.

The other space I've been drooling over is at Childhood 101. The colorful frames and well organized materials...what's not to love? I've got a bunch of frames left over and I might spray paint them in some uniform color and arrange them in a collage (sans glass) for a revolving gallery.

Time, time, time is what I need more of. We're busy cutting down trees that were damaged in a freak October snowstorm and repairing fences. You know, all the usual stuff that keeps a person from the FUN tasks. On the bright side, I'm becoming adept at handing an  axe and my husband has promised a chainsaw lesson. Before you know it I'll be carving up those cute chainsaw bears that my daughter loves at the fair:


The perfect pet for preschoolers...bring back the pet rock!

Knee deep in fall bulbs and covered (COVERED!) in dirt I was patting myself on the back this afternoon for cultivating Claire's imagination with lots of fresh air and freedom and unstructured play. She was constructing this elaborate house for Rocky, her pretend friend. Daddy was busy fixing the greenhouse and donated lots of leftover 2x4 bits and a few soft bits of wild onion grass and leaves made a perfect bed...for a rock. Yes, a rock named Rocky...cue the laugh track.

My self congratulations turned to abrupt giggles when I realized my imaginative daughter was playing with this small boulder, cooing to it even. And yes, I know that's imagining and all but I just couldn't help cracking cracking up at the name and the elaborate house building and the storyline of her pet.

It was almost as funny as Claire and her little girlfriends giving birth to dolls (through their collars mind you) at a recent play date.

I can't help but wonder if the whole pet rock craze back in the day was dreamt up by some busy parent who left their bored children alone one afternoon to come up with their own fun. In that case, I'm patenting sticks, pine-cones and pennies because they keep my tyke endlessly amused.


Nature Table -- Take Two

There's a nice wide foyer in our new house so I was so happy to recreate the nature table we had set up at the old place. I snagged a divided cubby from Freecycle a while back, and Claire played post office with it until I realized it would be perfect for sorting all the goodies she brings in from outside.

9 spots filled with an assortment of special pebbles, a black walnut and a few dead bugs. But check out the top - those are the biggest leaves we've ever found. I'm not sure of the species, they resemble maple leaves and are the size of my head!

Stopping off to empty pockets and rearrange her treasures...just another day in the life of a four year old. Having a dedicated place like this for our little naturalist to showcase her goodies has turned a mess waiting to happen into an evolving display of each season's beauty. We've had everything from wildflowers to colorful leaves to sculptural twigs and I think it's all be just beautiful.

And the fact that I'm NOT finding this stuff stashed in my bookcases and under her bed keeps me happy.

Watercolor Autumn Garland

Is there nothing you CAN'T make beautiful with liquid watercolors? We've used them to dye macaroni, as the color base for bathtub puffy paint and as part of our watercolor and batik on paper experiment but my favorite media to drip the saturated color on has to be coffee filters.

I love watching Claire concentrate with her tongue poking out of pursed lips (so like her father) as she watches the colors run together trying to create the perfect shade of "turk-a-boys." That's turquoise for those of you not schooled in Claire-speak.

We've got a giant tree filled with round colorful leaves and I persuaded Claire to donate a few of her creations for a little autumn garland for the mantle. This is inspired by Rebecca Cooper's St. Patrick's Garland which I've been drooling over for the past few months. I just adored her use of book pages as background and found quite a few to tear apart upon unpacking in our new house (who knew my old computer science texts would be irrelevant just a few short years after college).

Pack of 6 Liquid Watercolors for $12.98

If you're looking for an affordable set of liquid watercolors, check these out, a pack of 6 for about $13 has lasted us well over a year. They're super saturated and can be diluted to make them stretch. I also love the ones from Discount School Supply. 

Happy Painting!