Arts and Crafts, Creative People, Creative Play, Creativity, Toys

Creative People: Sonia Singh and the Tree Change Dolls

I have been so impressed by Sonia Singh’s Tree Change Dolls (see the video below) –

I especially loved the looks on the girl’s faces as they held and played with their dolls. One of the girls said, “They kind of look like they’re the same age as you,” and you could see that in their play. I think that the innocence of childhood is so beautiful and should be protected and nurtured. While I do prepare my children for the world that they live in, I am very careful in the way that I prepare them. I have had a very hard time choosing dolls for them and the girls and I have gone the rounds about which toys I’ll buy. In fact, I fell in love with Fanny, by Hollie Hobbie for that very reason, (see this post on my book review).

Sonia talked about the fact that her intention wasn’t to make a statement about the sexualization of girl’s toys, but as her work has become viral, it has created a debate and I believe that part of that is, as her husband said, “They really look lovely this way.” It’s true. There is a sweetness to the dolls. And, it does reflect a choice that the toy manufacturers are making. Based on at least some of the debate (and many of the mothers out there) it seems that a lot more people would also like to have dolls that are sweet and simple. I do love American Girl Dolls for that reason, but they are quite expensive, and this is a great way to save the expense, create, and teach some valuable lessons all at once.

It’s clear that Sonia’s main purpose was to make a statement about upcycling and reusing (as evidenced in her own words, but also in the name that she chose for the company). I am struck by the message that she has given both about choice and about creativity. Knowing that she can’t become a doll manufacturer on the scale of a toy company, she runs an etsy store and has created some videos encouraging others to create their own dolls. On her tumbler site, she encourages others to create saying,

I encourage others to recycle and upcylce old dolls and toys. Do it yourself, do it with friends, do it with children and others in your family, do it with strangers. There are so many plastic dolls already made that could still be played with and could inspire the creative minds of children with a little attention and creativity.

She also points others to some Do It Yourself videos on how to do a doll “makeunder”. The first is on how to remove the paint and change the face of the dolls –

and then she has one on what to do about missing feet and/or shoes, that one uses chemicals and is not recommended for children, but is interesting to watch –

I am so edified by this! I sometimes forget that I still have a choice and can fix the things that I don’t like in the world. We can change our clothes, toys, media, etc. and create things that are uplifting and wholesome in the world around us. Thank you Sonia for such a brilliant idea and for encouraging others to create as well!

Art, Creative People, Creative Play

Paper Doll Palooza and Interview with Creator Cory Jensen

Sof with paperdolls

When I was in kindergarten, I got the chicken pox and was home on the couch for a week.  (Now, thankfully, my children will never Golflex fashion 1920know that “joy” due to the chicken pox vaccine, but I digress.)  My grandma and mom tried to help cheer me up and pass the time by making homemade paper dolls.  They tried to make the magazines of the day work , but the images were not like those of yesteryear.  When they were young, the girls in the magazines could be cut out and homemade paper dolls created because the pictures and drawings were roughly the same size and it was easy to make them fit together (see the advertisement for goldflex frocks).  Though we couldn’t make it work with the 1980’s magazines, that memory was the catalyst for my fascination with paper dolls.  On my sick bed, I imagined the gorgeous styles, clothes, and scenery and how I would play with them.

Fast forward to the computer age and my own children.  It is so easy to find beautiful paper dolls online that talented artists have created to be shared.  As we were searching, we came across some of the most beautiful images that I have seen.  My daughter went CRAZY!!!

I mean look at these:

Cory Jensen - Aladdin1

Cory Jensen - Aladdin2


An artist named Cory Jensen has a facebook page dedicated to paper dolls that he’s created.  He takes no money for them (as they are fan-based), but I think that it is a wonderful way to build a resume – and I’m sure that with his amazing talents, he will go far!

I contacted Cory in order to write this post and he was so willing to share some information about his creations and talent.  He modestly said that he didn’t have any professional training and wasn’t a professional artist, but I’m sure you’ll agree with me that he is a talented artist nonetheless.

1. How long have you been an artist?

I have been interested in art my whole life and I have been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil! So minus the 2 years where I could only scribble, I would say I’ve been an artist for 20 years!

2. Where did you get your training?

As I said, I have never had any actual training or schooling in art…yet. Although, I would like to attend an art school in the near future. I never even took art classes in high school, which I do regret. I watched all the Disney classics when I was a kid and I was in awe of how the drawings literally came to came to life on the screen! So even without realizing it, from a young age I was studying these movies and learning the basics of art. Obviously, Disney movies have remained a big part of my life and I continue to study them as well as the work of countless artists. So, I wouldn’t say I am self-taught, but taught by hundreds.

3. Do you do “Paper Dolls, by Cory” for a living, or for fun?

As of right now “Paper Dolls by Cory” is something I do for fun. I started making these “retro” style paper dolls several years ago and posting them on my DeviantArt page. People seemed to like them and I liked making them so I started “Paper Dolls by Cory” to reach more people. I would like to make a living of making these paper dolls but because most of the dolls I make are of copyrighted characters I don’t feel comfortable selling them. I would, however, like to create original paper dolls and sell those in the future. But for now, knowing that people enjoy my work is enough for me!

4. Are your paper dolls hand drawn or do you use a program on the computer?

 I start off the dolls by hand drawing very rough pencil sketches which I then scan into my computer. Usually, the first sketch is far from perfect so I scribble several notes on what needs to be adjusted on the computer (i.e. slight pose changes, and proportions.) After I scan them I start using a program called PaintShopPro 9, which is essentially a less expensive Photoshop. I also use a Wacom Bambo Create pen tablet to more easily draw and color on the computer.

5. What other types of artistic work do you do?

 Almost all of the art work I do is done digitally. But I am always sketching ideas in my sketchbook and even on receipt paper from where I work…they don’t like that too much…ha ha I love to draw people! Whether it is a Disney character, someone I know, or just someone I thought of. My goal when I draw a character is to convey an emotion, from the eyes and facial features, to the pose and gestures. I feel like I have done good work if someone looks at a piece of art I’ve done and they feel something.

6. What advice do you have for kids who are interested in becoming artists one day?

Explore the world around you! Find what interests you, draw it, and study it. Draw what you see and how you see it. Make the world your own! I’ve found that another good way to learn about art is to look at other artists’ work. Study their technique, ask questions like “why did they draw that expression?” or “why did they use that color?” Let them inspire you, but find your own artistic voice and style.

7. If someone wanted to purchase a set of your paper dolls, or commission some work, where could they go?

 I don’t yet have paper dolls available for sale, nor am I currently taking commissions, but when I do the information will be available on my Facebook page.

I want to wish Cory the best of luck for his future and thank him for the hours of fun that my daughters had with his creations.  I know that he will go far!

  • Do you ever do paper crafts (or Paper dolls) with your kids?
  • What are your favorites?
  • When I was young, my brother had a set of Cowboy and Indian paper villages.  Any other great ideas for boys?
Art, Creative Play, Money Wise (aka Budgeting)

Motivating Kids to be Creative with Chalk Drawings

This weekend, we had my cousin’s daughter, M, staying with us. I wanted to motivate the children to play outside while the weather was good, and I had some cleaning to do and didn’t want to be constantly interrupted. So, I sent them out to the driveway with sidewalk chalk.

Less than five minutes later, she came inside and informed me that she was bored and didn’t like to draw with chalk.

Arrgh! How could I keep her in the sunshine and not in front of the TV? We’d be watching a movie that night, so I wanted to keep it special, and if she were to come in then, and I were to put her onto the tube so I could clean, the evening movie would be lame. Not to mention the fact that if our guest was allowed inside, the other kids would want to be inside as well.

And so, the quick thinking began…

A contest.

Winner gets a piece of candy – ooooooh!

You may think it’s silly, but I mentioned my contest and she ran out the door and grabbed up the chalk.

Then I added something to sweeten the deal – I would take pictures and put it on my blog!

“I’m going to be famous!” She yelled, and the wheels began to turn in her brain. I got a good hour of creative, hard work out of the kids.

The younger ones drew on the driveway simply because when you’re little, permission to draw on the ground – ROCKS! The older kids did sidewalk art because competition and reward motivates kids.

So, here are the art pieces and as I promised, I am blogging about them.

For most fun drawing – M’s Beautiful Sunset.


For most original piece – J’s Easter egg in a rainbow.


Honorable mentions go to the younger kids that just had a good time (we drew their outlines and they scribbled all over.)


And finally, just because I just think it’s cool – a blob of chalk. But why is it cool? Because they used water and chalk together and came up with some amazing textures!


Most of us need some form of motivation to do something (money, prizes, rewards, etc.) Kids are no different. I got my nephew to do some cleaning the other day, by saying in a really cheerful and excited voice that he could have a banana if he did the work. He did it, though I’m sure he wondered what was so great about a banana.

The wonderful thing about kids is that they are moldable and impressionable. If you can channel those qualities, they will do a lot of work for a very little bit of motivation. It’s all in how you present it.

Creative Play, Parties

Library fun

Several months ago, our local library had a “sleep over” for our children’s stuffed animals. Each kid was allowed to leave one overnight and the next morning they had a breakfast and slideshow so that the children could see the crazy antics that the stuffed animals got into.


It was delightful! The stuffed animals popped popcorn, read books, got into the bathroom and played around in the toilet paper, worked on the computers, etc. but the librarians did movement by movement shots, so (for example) you saw one bear poke its head out (of the bin that the were stored in) and in the next shot, another animal was pushing the first out and trying to get out itself.

The children were fabulously entertained and it was a great way to see other members of he community and let the kids enjoy the library.

Thanks, Riverside Library!

Ballet, Book Reviews, Creative Play

Book Review: The Patch

My six year old daughter chose this book from her school library last week (probably because of the pink tutu, so I say, “well done illustrator Mitch Vane”).

The Patch, by Justina Chen Headley, is an adorable story about Becca, who has a lazy eye and needs a patch and glasses to correct her vision.  She is a balletrina who is mortified with the patch, until her brother lets her borrow his favorite pirate costume and she becomes Becca, the ballerina pirate.  

She and her school friends spend most of the story playing pretend so that the situation (differences in Elementary School) is diffused.  It is such an adorable look into the power of imagination.  The illustrations are vibrantly made water colors, giving tremendous appeal to the visual element of the book.

The Patch is an adorable read, full of opportunities for discussion for you and your children.

Creative Play, Creativity, Parties

Pirate Party – ARRRR!!

We had an Indian Summer last fall in Utah.  My cousin, Jana decided to take advantage of the warm weather and she threw a pirate party.  First of all, there is no one craftier, than Jana.  She can turn nothing into something beautiful and I am in awe of her talents.

Jana, Pirate Party Queen Extraordinaire

I received this in my inbox –


The Invitation

We dressed up the girls (as much as I could) –

The Pink Pirate Brigade


There were Pirate games, a treasure hunt, and a marshmallow fight.  The kids had a blast –

The flag

Jana has a knack!  Her site is Creations from the Kitchen Table.

Treasure Map

(Look at the detail on that hand-drawn map!)

A casualty in the Great Marshmallow War.

The kids were crazy, and Jana’s husband, Rob was such a great sport as the kids “attacked” him.

The location of the treasure was magical!

I just love it when you can get under a tree with hanging branches.

The treasure chest

The treasure chest was made out of a box of Kirkland Signature Baby wipes  – it was fantastic.  Check out the look on the boy’s face – he is mesmerized!

Hip, hip, hooray!

It was wonderful!  Creative, fun, and there was no “underlying” reason for it (birthday, etc.).  Here’s to Jana for making the kid’s day bright, just for fun!

Creative Play, Creativity, Holidays

And an Orange Peel on a Christmas Tree (sung to the tune of 12 days of Christmas)

Last week we went to dinner at the *Moseman’s house, (*name changed to protect the innocent, and not so innocent :)).  After a great dinner, we were sitting around eating “cutie” oranges (the kind that are so easy to peel).  The kids (five of them ages 6-18) were peeling their oranges in really elaborate designs.  Later, I saw that the peel was on the Christmas tree, and I laughed about it, until I noticed that there were a lot of peels on the Christmas tree.

When I pressed the issue, I was told that the girls of the family decorated the tree in orange peels this year.  I love it!  I love that the kids are allowed to do their wacky ideas in that house.  The thing that’s really amazing about this family is that the father and grandfather build airplanes.  Not model airplanes, but real two passenger airplanes in the barn in their backyard.

Yeah, as in “See ya later Ma, I’m  just going to go out and build an airplane with Dad, be back for dinner!”

We had the dinner with the Mosman Grandparents and the grand matriarch, let’s call her Maggie, asked me to look at a book that her daughter had written and illustrated.  The design of the children’s book took my breath away, and even more shocking was the fact that this daughter had written it when she was a teenager.

The house was full of inventions, design, and creativity.  I asked Maggie how she taught her children to be so creative, and she said that it was because she and her husband were creative.  But I need to add that these people were not just the “idea” type of  people, but the “doing” people as well.  The couple possessed the twin virtues of vision and work ethic – and the kids followed suit.

I told Maggie a little about my oldest daughter (who calls herself an artist).  Maggie told me that in order to encourage her, I should go to the store, buy some mats, and frame her work.

A couple of days later, my daughter drew a picture for me and wrapped it up as a present.  I took Maggie’s advice, and bought a frame.  When I showed the frame to “J”, she looked like her five-year-old heart would burst with joy and gave me a gigantic hug.

When I asked the Orange Peel father (Maggie’s son) about writing this post and how often the girls decorate for holidays, he said that they are fanatic about it, “doing up the home” with wonderful wacky children mayhem for every holiday.  I asked if he was OK with it, and he said, “you think I could stop them?”

I guess orange peels on the tree serve a grand purpose after all, your kids just  might end up being  the next Wright Brothers!

Cooking, Creative Play


Last weekend, we had the pleasure of dining at Alexander’s.  You haven’t heard of it yet?  It’s this great new place – it’ll be all the rage!

A dear friend of mine is fabulous at inspiring and allowing her children to be creative.  Her son Alexander made up a menu one day, (he’s interested in being a chef) and she took it a step further and let him have a “restaurant” for family and friends.

The Menu

The menu was hard to read, but it’s separated into Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Anytime snacks.  It also includes serving times, the items available and the prices.

I loved the idea so much, that I called to make a reservation, and Alexander himself called to confirm our plans. 🙂

The special of the evening

When we showed up, he and his siblings greeted us, showed us to our table and served up a wonderful meal.  We were also treated to beautiful music and her oldest son even played on their piano (well, it was a player piano, but he sure fooled me with his acting skills).

Being shown to our table - note the menu in his hand.

My friend Cydnee had the boys do almost everything, from menus to serving to tallying up the bill.  They even gave us coupons for our meal – which was a steal to begin with.


I am amazed at her ability to foster creativity.  She threw an Indiana Jones themed birthday party for her son and Alexander decorated the house with paper  snakes and made up a party game, complete with a golden paper head ala the first movie.

Another thing that I loved was the outdoor oven that Alexander made.  When I asked if he had cooked anything on it, she said that he had melted cheese and chocolate.  Move over Easy Bake Oven, there’s a new contender!

Homemade oven

So, here’s to Cydnee and family –  well done!  I am amazed at your talents to nurture your children’s natural abilities.  Thank you for a lovely evening.

Art, Creative Play

When to follow and when to fly free!

The other day, I was working with a teen group and they were putting together pages for a family history type of memory book.  The leader of the group had meticulously created some really lovely pages, and then provided the materials to make each page to exact precision.

One of the teenagers, 16 years, asked if she could make the pages however she wanted to instead of following the prescribed design.  Now, normally, I would say, “Sure, create!”  But in this case, when the leader had gone to so much trouble, I told the girl that she needed to follow the pattern.  It may not be creative but she could learn some new designs and techniques as well as showing appreciation to one who had gone to so much trouble.

However, there are times when we need to allow our kids the freedom of creativity, especially when they are younger (birth to early grade school ages)!  I read an opinion piece yesterday by Erin Stewart about this, and I quote  a section of it to illustrate my point.

“While attending my daughter’s weekly art class, I noticed the mom next to me getting increasingly frustrated. Her 18-month-old daughter was apparently not smearing the paint just right or placing the foam stickers where she wanted, because this mom kept uttering statements such as, “I’ve had it with this project,” and “No that’s not right. I am so over this.”

Watching this mom lose it over finger paints made me sad for her daughter, who was too scared to do her own art project. I’m no mother of the year, but in this instance I felt glad that my own daughter’s painting was just how it should be — a complete mess.

I hadn’t meddled in her finger painting skills or guided her foam sticker placement. Her painting looked like the work of a 3-year-old. It was messy, creative and unrecognizable as anything.”

The full peice can be found here.

Guess what – at early ages, children just won’t “do it right”.  They need to explore and practice.

For example, my two year old and I were walking home from taking my 5 year old to school.  She wanted to push the stroller for a while.  Now THAT takes time and patience –  waiting for a two year old to push a stroller… and stop to look at the flower… ants… tree… get the stroller straight, etc, etc.

The point is, that there are times when we need to practice, times when we need to explore, and times when we need to learn.  The trick is to have patience with ourselves and with others when they are in a different stage than we are.

Creative Play

Tips for Kid’s Rooms

Two girls in a bunk bed // "20 Creative Tips for Kids' Rooms" // Photo: James Baigrie

Just came across an site called 20 Creative Tips for Kid’s Rooms.  I’m not sure how long it will be up because it is on MSN life style.  It has some fun ideas for making creative space.