Toothpick Sculptures

We spend a lot of time in this house painting, drawing and working on 2D art works but I realised a few weeks ago that we rarely attempt 3D structures or sculptures. I'm not sure why - perhaps because I am a painter myself I automatically reach for the materials I am used to. Since this realisation I am challenging myself to provide more creative 3D activities for the children. Inspired by The Artful Parent I thought we could give toothpick sculptures a try. 

These toothpick sculptures are suitable for all ages, create minimal mess, are challenging to build and combine both art and engineering - perfect. 


Materials you will need:



Initially Bear was very interested in the toothpicks - a new material for him to enjoy. He experimented with pushing them into the plasticine in different ways. I showed him how to begin building a basic structure with triangles. Unfortunately he didn't feel too confident trying to build one of his own but he had lots of fun pushing toothpicks into my sculpture and rolling up the plasticine. 


Fig didn't really know what to do with the toothpicks, although she enjoyed exploring their box, tipping them up all over the floor and throwing them around. 


Here is our finished toothpick sculpture (or at least how it was looking when the children lost interest)


Here is a selection of other children's construction sculpture ideas to inspire.

Building edible structures with apples from Fun at Home With Kids

Colourful gumdrop sculptures from Tinkerlab.

Kids toothpick sculptures - a modern craft with Flash Bugs Studio

A brilliant idea for an extension to the sculptures - toothpick sculpture shadow tracing from The Artful Parent

A similar idea but with different materials - Building with sticks and playdough from FireFlies and Mudpies. 

Toothpick sculptures with meltable packaging peanuts from Babble Dabble Do. 

Building with toothpicks and orange peal with Buggy and Buddy. 

Open ended art with styrofoam, toothpicks and golf tees from Fun- a- Day. I love this creative idea. 

A great selection of engineering challenges from Frugal Fun 4 Boys.

Bright pool noodle sculptures with Play Based Learning. 

Simple Shape Collages

In need of a quick activity to occupy the children whilst I was cooking dinner last week, I cut up some coloured card into a selection of small and large shapes and left them out on the table alongside some PVA, paper and, (at Bears request,) the new glitter glue as an invitation for the children to create.

The shapes caught their attention quickly. Fig really enjoyed spreading and dripping the glue around her paper whilst Bear was more interested in the glitter, “Look it is so sparkly Mummy.” This art activity was really easy to set up at the last minute, is suitable for all ages and lots of fun.

Materials you will need:

Coloured Paper
PVA glue
Glitter glue (optional)


Fig thought it was best to try and stick all the shapes down on her paper at once.


Here are their finished simple shape collages

If you are looking for more children’s shape collage ideas here are a few that we have loved recently:

A lovely craft combining texture and maths from The Nurture Store.

For older children starting to write their name, here is a fun shape name collage idea from Splish Splash Splatter.

An inspiring shape flower garden invitation to create from Cutting Tiny Bites. I really love this one.

If your children are ready to cut their own shapes, here is a great Matisse inspired shape collage activity from Pink Stripey Socks.

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Balloon Printing

It was Toddler Bear's birthday last month. Due to being on a tight budget this year we decided to have a simple family tea party at home to celebrate opposed to anything too fancy. We had sandwiches, jelly, party hats, a cake and of course lots and lots of balloons.

Bear found the balloons highly entertaining for a couple of weeks but began to loose interest once they started to shrivel. Instead of chucking them straight into the dustbin I thought it would be nice to create some art with them first.

This balloon printing activity is really simple and really fun. Just remember to put a sheet down if you have nice floors. This activity is definitely about embracing the inevitable mess.

Materials you will need:

A selection of coloured poster paints (non-toxic)
A big sheet of white paper (we used A1 sized)
One or two balloons or more

Step One: Pour out a selection of different coloured paints onto a palette, paper plate or spare piece of paper.

Step Two: Dip the balloons into the paint and press down on the white paper to create a print.

You can experiment with different marks here. Dipping a whole side of the balloon into the paint creates a lovely circular print. You can make small splatter patterns with edges of the balloons. Bear wanted to dip the balloons in all of the different paints at the same time. If your child is older you could use different balloons for different colours giving them more control over the shades on their page.

Step Three: Experiment, play and be creative.

What happens if you swipe the paint across the page with the balloons? What will happen if you bounce the balloons off of the page? Can you make individual printed circles?

Bear loved this activity. It has the perfect combination between messy sensory play, energy, creativity and balloons. He seemed to enjoy pouring out the paint ready to dip the balloons into and making marks on the page. He loved clean up time even more, running round the house, laughing hysterically while I chased after him, panic stricken armed with wet wipes.


Here is the finished piece ready to hang on the wall. If your child/toddler has had fun making a balloon print painting I would love to see their finished creations.


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Bubble Wrap Printing

I feel like I am drowning in packaging right now. The more boxes I unpack the more packing materials I have to dispose of (along side more stuff I need to find a place for, seriously why do I hoard so much? My life is long over due a good declutter!)

The one good thing about having surplus amounts of packaging however is that there is plenty of materials for crafting just lying around. We have cardbored, tape, bubble wrap, tissue paper, newspaper. So much creative possibility generated by moving house.

Bubble wrap printing is a big hit here in our house. It's the right amount of messy, super easy and highly effective. I love the simple circular prints that it makes and Bear seems to enjoy the painting and printing process.



  • Bubble wrap

  • Scissors

  • A selection of non-toxic paints

  • Brushes

  • Paper


Step One: Cut your bubble wrap into small rectangles about the size of your paper. Paint all over the textured side.


If you like you could paint a design onto your bubble wrap.


Step Two: Once you are ready take your paper and press it firmly down on top of the paint.

Here are our finished prints. I love these. There is something incredibly satisfying about pealing the paper back revealing the art underneath.

Once your bubble wrap prints have dried they are ready to go on your wall. Alternatively you could cut the prints into shapes to use as decorations or for use on collages. I love this bubble wrap fish mobile from the imagination tree as an example.  The circular patterns make great texture for animal skin and scales.

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Race Car Wheel Painting

Recently Bear has seemed fairly disinterested in art and craft activities. If I can convince him to sit down and give something a try he usually wonders off within a few minutes. He would rather be building his train tracks or making monster truck jumps. Bear is obsessed with transport. Trains, monster trucks, tractors, cars. If it has wheels he loves it.

I wanted to find an art activity that we could do together that would hopefully hold his interest so I combined painting with his favorite things. Race car wheel painting. It was a big hit! Bear loved it and we spent most of the morning racing our wheels across the paper and dragging paint around. I set the activity up in the tuff tray to try and contain the mess but we still ended up with paint all over the floor, the chair and our clothes. This is messy but definitely so worth it.

You could use any toy vehicle in this activity. Bear wanted to use race cars, instead I suggested a set of cheap emergency vehicles and we pretended that they were super fast race cars instead.  Bear is quite precious about all of his toy cars, they all have names and each day we need to know exactly where each one is or we risk toddler melt down. I didn't want to ruin any of them with the paint. I did see this fun looking DIY Toy car wash activity this morning though. Perhaps next time we do a race car wheel painting we may risk using some of the bigger cars and then giving them a good wash together in our home made car wash afterwards.

So here it is. Our finished race car wheel painting.



  • Toy cars or other wheeled vehicles.

  • A large piece of paper

  • Non-toxic child friendly paints

  • News paper, plastic or a tuff tray to contain the mess


Step One - Take your toy cars and dip or drag them through the paint. Race your cars along the paper leaving paint track marks where ever you drive. That's it. These paintings are so easy and so much fun to make. We were zooming them along the page, parking them, crashing them.

What marks can your child make? What colours can they mix together? Can they make shapes or letters with the tracks?

How did you get on? I would love to see your race car wheel paintings. Tweet them to me @jmpartmama

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Walking In Paint

On Wednesday morning we had plans to wrap up warm and spend the day at the local park. We were disappointed to find when we woke up that the rain was pouring down heavy. Going out didn't really feel that appealing anymore. Stuck in I decided to get out the tuff tray and some paints and get creative instead. Bear had really enjoyed attending a messy play playgroup a few days earlier so I wanted to include a sensory element to the activity. Why not just get walking in paint I thought? Simple, sensory and lots of fun!  I guess I was also feeling particularly brave that morning because I was completely up for embracing the mess and dealing with the clean up afterwards.

I got out the tuff tray and covered it in paper with some paint on the side for Bear to stand in. He was very unsure at first, I think maybe he thought he would get told off for standing in the paint, I am sure, "Don't stand in the paint," is something that has come out of my mouth on a few occasions. Once I convinced him that it was OK and he really could get messy if he wanted to, he loved it. He was squishing his toes in the paint and telling me how it felt and was fascinated with the footprints his paint covered feet were leaving behind. We stomped around the page like dinosaurs then tiptoed like a mouse. We moved quickly across the paper then very very slowly. We even did a bit of dancing.

To my surprise there was actually quite limited mess. Only one foot print on the floor which easily wiped off. I think with messy activities like this it is important to be prepared.  I kept a bowel of water, soap and a towel next to the activity so I could scoop him up when he was done to wash his feet.

Bear had so much fun he was still talking about making footprints at bed time. We will definitely be walking in paint again soon.

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Invitations To Create : March

Inspired by the fabulous "invitation to create" ideas over at The Art Pantry, this month I have been leaving a selection of creative materials out each day for Bear to discover and explore. These have been a big success.

Each morning I have been setting up the tuff tray in a separate room whilst Bear eats his breakfast leaving it there ready for him to show interest in later in the day if he wishes. Depending on his mood his engagement with these art prompts varies. Some times he shows very little interest, picks up a brush, wets the paper then walks away. Occasionally he has refused to interact with the materials altogether preferring instead to play with his monster trucks and planes but on most days the tray has inspired his creativity and held his interest. We have sat together painting, sculpting and building with the materials left out for him. The tray has often occupied him independently enough for me to sit at the table near by and work on my own artistic projects. Embracing the use of these art prompts has definitely had a positive effect on our daily routine and increased our creativity as a family. I really recommend giving them a try.

What is an invitation to create?

An invitation to create is set of artistic materials laid out in a purposeful and intriguing way to act as a prompt to be creative. The idea is to set up your invitation when your child is our of the room so they can discover the materials themselves and be inspired.


Invitations to create we have loved in March - 

Play-dough with straws and pasta shapes for threading.

Cut out paper clothes, glue, mannequin shapes and pipe cleaners.

Feathers, glitter glue and watercolours.

A toilet roll, paper, glue and spaghetti.

Paint, bubble wrap, brushes and a potato masher.

Invitations to create we have been inspired by -  

Painting on textures by Fantastic Fun and Learning. Art meets sensory play.

This invitation to create cupcake factory from Cutting Tiny Bites.

Painting with kitchen utensils by Clare's Little Tots.

Watercolour Apple Prints

Things are all kinds of hectic at our house right now. For those that read my blog regularly you will probably know that we are in the process of buying our first house and relocating from the city to the countryside. It's a big move with so much to do, so much to sort through and pack and quite a heavy emotional toll. There has been delay after delay which has increased the stress. We are so ready to move now and hopefully we will be doing so in about 3 weeks. Fingers crossed!

Due to the relocating I have been sorting through all our stuff attempting to minimise it and then pack it. Wow! If you are anything like me it is shocking just how much useless stuff you stash just in case it might happen to come in handy one day. I have chucked and given away bin bag after bin bag and there still so much to sort through. We are currently increasingly living out of boxes with half our stuff already packed and ready to go. Not fun really. I can't find anything I need ever. It's a nightmare.

Due to half our stuff being packed away and our huge workload I am looking towards minimal equipment activities for the Toddler Bear. Last week he said he wanted to do some painting so I reached for the watercolours not the poster paints to lesson the mess.  There were some apples sat in the fruit bowel in front of us that were beginning to turn for the worst. I thought it would be fun to see if we could make some watercolour apple prints.


  • Apples cut in half

  • A set of watercolour paints

  • A paint Brush

  • Some Water

  • Paper


Step One: Take your halved apples and cover the cut surface with your chosen watercolour paint. Don't be shy with the paint here. The more paint on the apple the better!

Step Two: Put your apple paint side down and press firmly. Lift away the apple to reveal your print.

Step Three: Repeat all over the page to make a pattern

Here are Bear's finished prints. The apple absorbed a lot of the watercolour so the prints came out quite light and delicate looking and the apple shape isn't overly defined. I quite like this, it gives the prints a fresh and airy feel. If you would prefer something bolder and you are not currently living out of boxes you could repeat this process using acrylic or poster paint. You could also try this activity with other fruits and vegetables for interesting shapes and effects.

Give it a try! I would love to see your finished pictures. Tweet them too me @jmpartmama.


What do you think? Which fruit or vegetables do you think would make effective prints?

Pin this activity for later -


Odds and Ends Suncatcher

If you are anything like me your craft box is always full of random odds and ends from previous craft projects and activities. All these leftovers take up space and never get used but you just can't throw them out because you are sure that at some point they will come in handy.

I am trying to keep our clutter to a minimum recently hoping to have a more minimal household when we move house this year. If left up to me I would probably have shelves and shelves of craft materials just waiting for that perfect project but I have committed myself to just having one box for a more clutter free life. If I want to buy something new then it must fit in the box. This means using up all those leftovers.

This easy suncatcher looks great, is ideal for toddlers and gives you an opportunity to use up all those odds and ends that are lying around in your craft box. Perfect.


  • A3 coloured card 

  • Scissors 

  • Transparent sticky back plastic/contact paper 

  • A selection of odds and ends (we used some tissue paper, sequins, confetti, feathers, ribbon , a cut out flower and some flowers from the garden)


Step one: Fold the card in half then cut out a rectangle in the middle to create a frame.

Step two: Roll out and cut the sticky back plastic to size so the plastic fills the rectangle in the middle of your card. Don't forget to leave a little extra so the plastic firmly sticks to the card.


Step three: Stick the plastic neatly down one end of the inner rectangle. Slowly peel off the protective backing sticking the plastic along the edges until it covers the frame. Turn the card over. You now have your sticky surface ready for all the fun to begin.

Step four: Let your toddler stick down different materials onto the plastic.

Bear loved this activity. It kept him occupied for over an hour. He particularly liked the heart confetti which he placed down individually until there was over a hundred hearts on the plastic. By the time we were finished we had a variety of materials in the frame including several feathers, sequins and torn up tissue paper.


Step five: Once your child has finished, neatly stick another piece of sticky back plastic down along the frame to seal in your odds and ends and to stop anything else accidentally attaching itself  to the plastic.


Step Six: Attach to a window that gets plenty of sunshine.

The sun shines through the plastic and bounces off of the odds and ends creating a beautiful summery shimmery effect. Bear seems pleased with his suncatcher, he regularly points out his artwork and I think it makes a pretty addition to our otherwise boring dining room window. What do you think?


Autumn Tree Leaf Paintings

It is October and the autumn has well and truly set in now. I love summer for its array of vibrant bright florals but autumn has a special place in my heart.  I love the shift to warming foods such as pumpkins, squashes, hearty soups and stews. I appreciate the need to drag out the warm clothes, the jumpers and coats to wrap up cosily in when you leave the house. There is something so refreshing about this seasons crisp air and the sound of fallen leaves crunching under your foot as you walk along the pavement.

I always think of spring and summer to be the seasons of intense colour but actually autumn is pretty colourful too. I love the burnt oranges, the reds and the yellows coating the streets and falling from the trees. Autumn is in fact filled with an array of colour.

Bear is also appreciating the change in the seasons. He is excitedly kicking and jumping in the leaves as we walk down the street. We have been talking about the seasons changing, the colours he sees and the items he finds in his path. We have been collecting leaves on our travels to bring home with us for crafts and play.

Here is a simple fallen leaf craft activity we made last week with some of our finds.


  • Non-toxic paint in autumnal colours (Brown, yellow, orange, red, green, white)

  • PVA Glue

  • A selection of leaves

  • Sponges

  • Brushes

  • Coloured Paper

Autumn-Leaves-7-jmpblog (1).jpg

Step One: Paint the shape of your tree trunks on to the paper. Because Bear is only 2 years old I decided to paint the trunks on for us to give him something to build upon. As soon as he came over to the table and saw the tree shapes he was excited, "Mummy make an apple tree."


Step Two: Spread PVA glue over your painting where you wish to stick the leaves.


Step Three: You can now decorate your trees. Stick the fallen leaves to your painting. Sponge on some coloured paint. You could stick other found materials to your painting such as twigs, sticks and feathers if you wish.


Here are our finished autumn leaf tree paintings. Or "apple trees," as Bear keeps calling them. What do you think?

Duplo Printing

Recently when playing with my toddler and his Duplo blocks, building trees, (because I always end up building trees), it occurred to me that the bricks would make interesting items for my son to print with. I thought he would enjoy experimenting with the marks he could make with an item that wasn't his usual brush.

Building blocks come in different sizes, some square, some rectangle, some really thin and long, and depending on the brand of block sometimes they have open holes on top, some are closed, some have 10 holes, others have 2. They are easy for small hands to grip and every child has some lying around somewhere. Perfect printing objects.


Non toxic poster paint

Paint palette (or a piece of paper if you are like me and can't find your palette)

Paper to print onto

A selection of Duplo bricks (or lego, or megablocks or similar)

I set the paints up with a block that was the same colour as the paint (except for purple as we have no white blocks) to sneak a bit of colour recognition in with the art activity (and more so to satisfy some inner urge I had for neatness) but really you could use any blocks with any paints, they all get mixed together anyway if your toddler is anything like mine.


Bear seemed to really enjoy this activity. We sat and experimented with the different shapes he could make on the paper. He squished the paint between his hands. He printed. He scraped. He splattered. Our prints started off neat and by the time he had got bored of the activity he was dragging the paint along the page with the blocks and using the blocks like a paintbrush.


Here are our finished pictures ready to stick on the wall (or fridge) once they are dry. I like the different patterns that the blocks have made alongside the variety in paint thickness and print width.

A successful creative activity and one we will definitely be doing again.