It all started with homemade playdough. New mother Rachelle Doorley was determined to foster creativity with her toddler, but hit a wall when she realized she had no clue how to make playdough (seriously, who does?). After searching in vain for an easy recipe on the web, she realized that there was a niche for simple, actionable art projects that parents could do at home with their young children.
Thus was born TinkerLab, a place where parents can find directions, photos and inspiration for nurturing creativity and exploration. And of course, Rachelle’s recipe for the best playdough (it does look pretty awesome).
Tinkerlab taps into a growing interest in creativity
Rachelle launched TinkerLab in Palo Alto in 2010 with the goal of documenting her journey to develop creativity at home, not knowing how much interest she would generate. Four years later, TinkerLab has developed a massive following on social media, with 250,000 fans on Facebook, over 20,000 followers on Instagram and subscribers from all over the world.
Rachelle has also published one book about creating art with children, and recently launched a new online series called “The Creative Table,” which shows parents how to assemble everyday materials to engage kids.
“I think what resonates with people is that I’m trying to figure this out too,” said Rachelle, whose two children are now in elementary school. “Even though I’ve worked as an artist and art educator, when it came time to doing projects with my own girls, I was unsure where to start. As I’ve learned myself, it’s been fun to teach others through TinkerLab.”
“Playful experiments” build interest in science
Local experts add ideas for cooking, improv and more
For her first book, “TinkerLab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors,” Rachelle sprinkled advice from local experts to help parents tackle challenges related to nurturing creativity, such as Dan Klein, an improv teacher who works at the Stanford D School and Bruno Chemel, chef of the only Michelin- star restaurant in Palo Alto.
Encouraging exploration…and mess
While TinkerLab’s photos and text are engaging, Rachelle wants parents to see the mess and failure that sometimes comes with experimentation. “Tinkerlab is not the place to find images of perfect art projects,” Rachelle says. “We are more interested in child-driven exploration- that means allowing kids to make mistakes, get dirty and invent their own outcomes along the way.”
After turning the entire living room of her small house over to art projects for several years, Rachelle is grateful to have a light-filled space at Cubberly Artists Studio where does most of her experimenting and photography. She also invites the community to explore TinkerLab during “ArtMaker Saturdays” several times a year.
Learn more and visit TinkerLab online or in person
- Visit TinkerLab on April 30 from 2-4pm at Cubberly Artist Studio U-7 in Palo Alto for hands-on, fun art projects you can learn to do at home.
- Check out TinkerLab’s website or Instagram page.