DIY Stamp Pads and Stamps


DIY Stamp Pads and Stamps

Hi Kid Lab! Sarah here.

My favorite type of art to make is printmaking so I love making homemade stamps. This month we’re focusing on weather in our Play Labs so I made a set of stamps with weather shapes for all our Kid Lab kids to explore. You can make your own stamps and reusable stamp pads with just a few materials.

I often save the plastic tops from jars or bottles (after getting clean in my dishwasher) because they are great for small hands to pick up and use to stamp. To make the stamp, you can use foam stickers to stick onto the bottle top or you can use hot glue to attach a cut out shape from craft foam or even a slice from a pool noodle! I also love using bubble wrap to make a unique stamp texture. If you raid your recycling bin you will probably find something interesting to try as a stamp! I usually use a low temperature glue gun so that the bubble wrap and other materials don't get too hot as I'm attaching them to the bottle top.


My stamps include a slice of pool noodle, bubble wrap, foam star stickers, and foam scraps my children cut up.

For the stamp pad, you will need a tray, some upholstery foam or a sponge, and a glue gun. The foam can be purchased at a craft store and can be cut into any size. An easy and affordable option is to use a cellulose sponge as your stamp pad since the upholstery foam is often sold in a large roll. Here is a link to the foam and trays I used. I was able to cut my large trays in half to make two stamp pads and then I cut my foam to fit in the tray. Hot glue the foam to the tray and you are ready to add paint! For these stamp pads, I use washable tempera paint so they should not stain the way some stamping ink can. Perfect for messy artists! The first time you add paint to the foam it will take quite a lot and you may want to dampen the sponge or foam to help distribute the paint. A spatula or spoon can be used to press paint all over the pad. Then you are ready to stamp! In between uses I let the stamp pads dry completely and store them in Ziplock bags. Add some more paint and a spray of water to reactivate the stamp pad. Please share any stamps and stamp pads you make with us!

Anatomy of an Ear (FREE, PRINTABLE) Playdough Mat and the Best Homemade Playdough Recipe

We like to use playdough mats in our play labs to spark children’s curiosity and prompt them to build their own three dimensional models. This “Anatomy of an Ear” playdough mat was a big hit in our sound unit, so we’re sharing our FREE download so you can play along at home.


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Using this diagram of an ear, children can create their own model of the ear using different colors of playdough for each part. We’ve figured out the best recipe for homemade playdough and are sharing it with you!

Homemade Play Dough Recipe:
1/2 cup salt
1 cup flour
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. oil
2 tsp. cream of tarter
Food coloring or unsweetened Kool-Aid

Add food coloring or Kool-Aid to the water. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, using a whisk will help remove lumps. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture forms a large ball. Let cool.

You can start your lesson off by asking your children what function their ears serve. Talk to them about the shape of the ear—that it’s a perfect funnel for vibrations and these vibrations are called sound waves. Those vibrations are transmitted to the brain for interpretation and that gives us our sense of hearing.

If you try this at home we’ve love to see your three dimensional creations. Tag us on Instagram @kidlabraleigh or leave a comment below and we’ll be all ears (Ha ha…see what we did there?)

Paper Plate Banjo

Hi Kid Lab! Sarah here.

I'm so excited to be teaching in our amazing new space at Read With Me. Our first theme this month is such an engaging one—SOUND! Rattles and shakable toys are so thrilling for little babies and the fun of sound keeps growing and growing. We will be making some great instruments and learning a bit about the science behind how our ears work this month at our Play Labs. I had a  blast testing out some simple sound makers that you can make with the kids in your life. This paper plate banjo was fast to put together but it has gotten a lot of love in my house from my 3 and 5 year old. If you want to see more from me you can find me on Instagram @drawpaintprint


  • Two sturdy paper plates

  • Three rubber bands

  • One paint stir (these are often free at the hardware store or a few cents per stick)

  • Hot glue gun

  • Scissors

  • Materials to decorate your banjo- crayons, markers, Do A Dot painters, etc.

Step 1: Decorate one paper plate with any materials you have on hand. We used our Do A Dot painters. 

Step 2: Place three rubber bands around the middle of your plate. You should get different pitches from your rubber bands depending on their size. I found cutting a small notch in the edge of the plate for each rubber band helped to hold it in place.

Step 3: An adult can then use a hot glue gun to glue the second plate to the back of the decorated plate. Whenever I use a glue gun around young children I encourage them to help me count slowly to 20 to make sure the hot glue has cooled down. I test it myself before letting little fingers touch areas with glue. You could also use a stapler to staple the two plates together around the rim. I found that with one plate the banjo wasn't sturdy enough so a second plate was necessary for long jam sessions.

Step 4: Glue the paint stir in the middle of the plate as the handle of your banjo.

Step 5: Strum your banjo!

What kinds of sound makers and instruments have you explored with your child? Tag us so we can see your creations!

3 tips for the beginning of school year

Hi guys, Shannon here!

Anyone else feel like September is already flying by?? Summer seems to be officially over (even though it sure doesn’t feel like it), school routines have started and stores are ramping up their holiday decor madness. And whether you’re still feeling a bit teary-eyed because your littlest just had their first day of kindergarten, elated about the change of pace, or gearing up for a year of education at home, I get it. It’s a lot!

I get asked about my favorite resources, supplies and beginning of school year tips a lot, so I thought I’d jot them down here in case it’s helpful for anyone else.

  1. a few special supplies to keep at home

    I know school supplies can really add up. Especially when your daughter insists on the glittery folders rather than the plain ones (just saying... ahem), but there are a few goodies I suggest trying to budget for. Or put them on a birthday or holiday wishlist. My top recs:

    1. Paint sticks. We sell these in the store and they’re uh-mazing. Seriously, I can’t recommend them enough. Great for little hands and for adding quick color to any project. Best of all? It’s dry. They rub on like glue sticks, have a bit of an oily texture but dries to the touch within minutes. brilliant.

    2. Magnetic tablet. An upgrade from a chalkboard, this can grow with your child. I use it with our youngest (21 months) and our 1st grader loves to practice her letters on it. I also love to take it with us when we travel. We’ve liked it so much, we invested in the cursive letter board too.

    3. Visual dictionary. We have this one. This gets used nearly every week, alongside our other favorite- “Nature Anatomy” by Julia Rothman.

    4. Quality play dough. This doesn’t have to be something you buy, you can make a batch at home (try this recipe! ). Having something squishy like dough or putty helps some children relieve stress and re-inforce learned concepts.


2. Keep a special place for tracking your child’s school year

Last year, the grandparents gave us two portfolios that have been game changers for wrangling in all the papers and projects, as well as jotting down little anecdotes we didn’t want to forget. These are a bit fancier than file folders, but just about anything would do. You can find others that are even more elaborate. This one is quite large and holds all the bigger projects. And this one has simple prompts to fill in.

3. Self-portraits

Anyone else a big fan of children’s drawings? It’s so precious to see how a child views themselves, refines their drawing skills and can express creativity all at the same time. Self-portrait projects have become a staple in our house to bookend each school year (and they get tucked into the portfolio above). I highly recommend having your child create one or more self-portraits throughout the year. They’ll almost always be frame-worthy. :)

Your turn! What do you recommend?

Let’s Celebrate: Kid Lab is moving to Downtown Raleigh!

Let’s Celebrate: Kid Lab is moving to Downtown Raleigh!

It’s Kid Lab’s first birthday and we’re on the move! At long last we can tell you our huge news: Kid Lab HQ is now at 111 E Hargett St., in @Read With Me Bookshop. We’re thrilled! We’ll be celebrating the move on Saturday, Aug. 31 from 2-4. Come join us for free cookies, crafts, and Kid Lab prizes plus seriously good back-to-school vibes. See you then!

Number, Letter, and Color Play

Hi Kid Lab, Sarah here. 

Recently my kids have been using a simple bag of large lima beans for all sorts of sensory play that I have been posting on Instagram @drawpaintprint. I thought I would share a few of the ways we have been exploring dried beans because they are such a huge hit with any age child. The very first sensory bin I did with my toddlers involved letting them sit in a large clear plastic bin with some cups and a bag of dried beans. You will know best when your child can safely explore dried beans without trying to eat them! The sound and feel of beans is perfect for little hands to dump, pour, and practice their finger motor skills. But as my children have gotten older we have found even more ways to use dried beans for imaginative play and learning experiences. 

Sharpie markers are perfect to write on the large Lima beans so you can practice number and letter identification. I made a set of upper and lowercase letters to match. My daughter enjoyed finding the pairs of letters and making a few sight words with the letters, starting with her name. My two year old was able to sort sets of letters into two muffin cups. I also made a set of numbers to play with and added some number dots to mimic dice. We love rolling our large dice to build simple equations. My five year old enjoyed coloring some of the beans red with sharpie and I added ladybug details with a black sharpie. These made perfect counters to play with on a green felt leaf. I helped my own mother make a set of ladybug counters for her first grade classroom and I knew I had to make some with my own kids too! Recently, my five year old asked to use the ladybug counters to check her work when I gave her some fill in math equations.

We also tried adding color to the beans by putting a small blob of acrylic paint in a ziplock bag and adding a handful of beans before sealing and then shaking the bag well. Both my children enjoyed shaking the beans in paint and we let them dry on some parchment paper before using them for sorting colors, building patterns, and more counting play. What would you do with dried beans?

My Butterfly Book

Hello Kid Lab community! My name is Sarah and I am a former art teacher who is thrilled to be a part of the Kid Lab team. I have always loved sharing creativity with children and fostering their curiosity. You can find me on Instagram, @drawpaintprint, where I try to document my days that are spent getting messy with my two kids and sneaking in a few moments to make my own art during nap time. Last month's theme was bugs and I was inspired to share a simple printable book. For a science project at home, my two daughters have enjoyed watching the amazing process of caterpillars turning into butterflies. So I made a book to show the life cycle of a butterfly. With just a few folds and one cut, a sheet of copy paper can become a little book perfect for small hands and pockets.  


  1. Print Butterfly Book. I had the best results when I printed the page at 98%.

  2. Fold the paper in half along the cut line.

  3. Fold in half again. The paper is now folded in quarters.

  4. Fold in half a third time. The paper is now folded into eight parts. This will be the size of the finished book.

  5. Unfold the paper to your first fold line so that you can see the cut line. Use scissors to trim along the cut line so that the middle pages of the book are separated.

  6. Refold the book so that the first page is My Butterfly Book and the last page is Made By.

  7. Add color with any drawing tools you like- colored pencils, crayons, markers, etc!

Hope you enjoy this little book and that you get to make some bug observations! We enjoyed using this butterfly kit to watch caterpillars turn into butterflies. Please tag us so we can see your butterfly books! 

DIY Gift Idea: Mother's Day Corsage

Hi guys, Shannon here.

Anyone else feel like some holidays and celebrations just sneak up on you? Every year, it seems like Mother’s Day falls into that category for me and I’m always rushing around to get my Mama flowers, a card or whip up a homemade gift. Even though the very last thing I’d want is my own Mama to feel neglected or forgotten!

This year, we’re hosting a Mother’s Day tea party for the grandmas and since my 5 year old is helping to plan it, we’re getting all “fancy.” (that likely means she’ll wear a princess dress and ask to paint everyone’s nails) So we’re making felt flower corsages for the occasion. These will double as takeaway gifts and I hope they’ll treasure them for years to come.


This is an easy project and one that your child can help with. I recommend it for ages 5+ if they’re helping you cut and assemble. We opted to glue clothespins on the backs so they could be put anywhere, but they could just as easily be attached to a wristband and worn as traditional wrist corsages.


  • Flower corsage template

  • Pen

  • scissors

  • felt material (I recommend soft felt, not the stiff kind, so you can get fluffier flowers)

  • hot glue gun

  • clothespin, or wristband


Step 1: Cut out the template pieces. Trace onto your felt color of choice. For the corsages above, we used 10 petals, 3 leaves and 1 backing.

Step 2: Fold each petal in half, secure with a dab of hot glue.

Step 3: Fold each petal again, secure with a dab of glue.

Step 4: After each petal has been folded, place four on a flat surface as shown above. Add each additional petal on top, using hot glue to secure in place. Continue until the corsage looks full.

Step 5: Secure petals to the backside with glue.

Step 6: Lastly, glue the backing and clothespin (or wristband). Your fancy lady corsage is ready to show off!

Have fun, and Happy Mother’s Day to all you Mamas, Aunties, Nanas, and Fancy Ladies!

Recycled Bug Craft

Happy Earth Week! We hope you’ve had a great holiday and are enjoying the springy weather here in NC. Today we are sharing a great craft to use up some recycled materials and get into this month’s Kid Lab theme - BUGS! These recycled bugs are easy to make and customize to make them uniquely yours.

Materials Needed:

  • Cardboard

  • Paint sticks (or paint)

  • Bottle caps and recycled lids

  • Pipe cleaners

  • Pom poms

  • Scissors

  • Hot glue gun (*always ask an adult for help when using a glue gun!)

How To:

Step 1: Cut out two circles from your cardboard, one larger and one smaller. Also cut out 6 long, thin pieces to be the bug’s legs! Insects have 6 legs.

Step 2: Use your paint sticks (or paint) to paint the cardboard pieces. I made the bug’s body red and the head and legs black. You can make your bug any colors you want!


Step 3: Use your hot glue gun to glue the cardboard pieces together. Glue the smaller circle at the top of the large one and glue three legs on each side. Next, glue your bottle caps and lids to the bug’s body to create spots! We used all blue caps here, but again you can use any color! Choose two bottle caps to be the eyes and glue them to the head.

Step 4: Add details by gluing two pipe cleaners to the top of the head to become antenna! Curl them around your finger or bend them at the top. You can also add some pom poms. We glued on pom poms to create more spots and glued them onto the eye bottle caps to give the eyes a center dot!


We hope you can find some time to enjoy making your own recycled critters at home! What other kinds of bugs can you create with recyclables? See what you can come up with and share them on Instagram with @kidlabraleigh - we’d love to see!

This post is by Emily Limer. To see more kid’s craft ideas follow her on Instagram @makingwithmommy

Anatomy of a Frog (FREE PRINTABLE)

Hi guys, Shannon here. If you haven’t been following along, team member Emily, has been doing a weekly craft challenge called “Craft the Zoo” over on Instagram. Follow #craftthezoo or @makingwithmommy to see all her wonderful creations!

Whenever I can, I like to coincide our playful learning prompts with her weekly theme and this week we’re exploring Rainforest Animals! I’ve always personally been fascinated by poisonous tree frogs. They come in crazy brilliant colors and are often covered in spots. Not to mention, some are as small as your fingernail.


So today, I’m sharing a few more printables for you to play along at home. These can be used for studying regular frogs or poisonous tree frogs, just adapt by your color and pattern choice.

The FREE PRINTABLE includes:

Symmetry drawing

Anatomy of a Frog worksheet

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You can check out more play ideas on Instagram by searching #playthezoo. And if you have any suggestions on resources you'd like to see on here, we’d love to hear from you! Comment below or send us a line at



March Play Lab Recap!

Hi, it’s Grace here! I wanted to share some of what we’ve been up to at Play Lab this month. We’ve had such a great time exploring March’s theme: Human Body. Last weekend’s Play Lab in particular was such a fun testament to Kid Lab flexibility. Sometimes, you plan on exploring the human body indoors- and Saturday morning is a gorgeous, sunny day - so you go outside!

Playing with water beads (red blood cells!) out in the sunshine.

Playing with water beads (red blood cells!) out in the sunshine.

Looking at books and posters on the porch.

Looking at books and posters on the porch.

When the kids lead the way, it’s amazing the new ways they find to learn. We went out to the garden and explored some of the newly blossoming beds and realized that being curious about where our food comes from is a way of discovering ways that the human body is nourished!

We even discovered some carrots!

We even discovered some carrots!

As the weather warms up, I can’t wait to see all the new avenues for curiosity as kids explore our outdoor spaces. We’re so excited to dive into April’s theme and hope y’all will join us!

DIY X-ray machine (FREE PRINTABLE)

Hello everyone! I’m so excited to be back with another at-home craft you can make with your kids to learn all about this month’s theme - the human body! Human body science has always been some of my favorite science to teach. It’s always such a fascinating subject for kids! As O and I were talking about the human body together this month he asked so many questions about bones. That inspired this craft - a DIY x ray machine! Read below to learn to make your own and to get the printable template.

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Materials needed:

  • 1 large piece of cardboard ( a little wider and taller than your child’s torso)

  • Black, white and yellow paint sticks (you could swap these for acrylic paint, too!)

  • Yellow construction paper

  • Black permanent marker

  • Glue

  • X-ray machine template

How To:

Step 1: Using a black paint stick (or paint) paint the entire piece of cardboard black and let it dry. I prefer to use paint sticks on cardboard this large because it helps keep the cardboard from warping as it dries.

Step 2: Print the X-ray machine template. Using this as a guide, draw bones onto the cardboard. Let the white paint stick (or paint) dry and then outline them with yellow.

Step 3: Use your permanent marker to write the names of each bone (found on template) onto construction paper and cut them out. Glue the labels onto the bones.

Step 4: Play! This was a fun craft for us that resulted in a good bit of time spent playing doctor. When we’re finished I think we will hang it in our playroom to keep the conversations about the human body going!

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We’d love to see your x-ray machines!! Share them on Instagram and tag @kidlabraleigh.





We’ve been busy learning all about our complex bodies this month. And if you’ve been here or seen pictures of what we do in the Lab, you’ll see we blend Montessori methods into our playful learning. We’re big fans of Montessori anatomy puzzles - dissecting something, putting it back together and labeling it - helps us understand things. We’re also big fans of DIY projects and felt. But this could also be done on cardboard, heavy cardstock paper or even cut wood.

To start the project, we recommend gathering these materials:

How To:

Step 1: Using the template, trace the parts onto felt

Step 2 (OPTIONAL): write Enamel, Dentin, Pulp, Gum on popsicle sticks and use as labels


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For added fun, we added a coloring page and a cut and paste worksheet to try at home. And if you laminate the coloring page, it could double as a playdough mat (play prompt: add small playdough chunks on the enamel that you need to brush off!). If you give it a try, be sure to tag us @kidlabraleigh so we can see!


Have fun!