Nurturing the creative spark, open ended play, and Kid Made Modern: a Q & A with Todd Oldham


Written by Kara Fleck, Simple Kids editor and Rockin’ Granola mama.

Those of you who are regular readers know that my kids and I are fans of the Kid Made Modern line of art supplies and creative kits from Target.  The watercolor sets, papers, art kits, decorative tapes, and more are regular players in our home craft supplies line-up.

What some of you might not know is that Kid Made Modern was created by American designer Todd Oldham, whom I’ve been a fan of for a long time.

The story of Kid Made Modern begins with the book by the same name, which was written as a response to the loss of art programs in schools.  From there, the project grew to include a line that “celebrates creativity and fun through inspiration and information.”

I recently got to ask Todd Oldham some questions and I’m pleased to share his answers with you today.  I think you’ll really enjoy getting to know this designer and author a bit better and I know that you’ll appreciate his thoughts on open ended play and nurturing the creative spark in our kids.

todd-header-ABVblogPhoto by Target

Q & A with Todd Oldham

Hi, Todd!  We love the Kid Made Modern line at and have been so impressed with how hands on and open ended it is for kids.  It really is simple fun at its most creative and engaging.  Can you tell me a bit about what your inspiration for Kid Made Modern was?

It makes me so happy to hear that you noticed the open ended play in KMM stuff.  It is SO important to all of us at KMM that the interface with what we do should be thrilling, fun and to invite young minds [or any age mind] to personally express themselves in unique ways, not just to follow instructions.  Fixed outcomes are not what we celebrate at KMM.

I love that your book, Kid Made Modern, introduces kids to mid-century artists.  When you were a kid did you have a favorite artist or illustrator?

I loved the illustrations that my dear friend Charley Harper made for my favorite science book, The Golden Book of Biology.  I had them memorized and still am blown away at the way Charley communicated complex ideas in an easy to assimilate non-simplistic way.  I loved him then [even though I did not know his name as a kid] and still do today.

I also loved Edward Gorey, anything spooky still thrills me today.  Halloween is my favorite time of year.

wonderwoman_JillianKMMPhoto by Kara Fleck and

Kid Made Modern invites parents to join in with their kids and experience creating and learning together.  Do you  have a favorite memory or creative project from your own childhood?

I am forever grateful to my parents for facilitating our creativity as kids.  We had a massive craft table that was always out where we all spent our time creating and sharing with each other.  I realized how cool it was of mom and dad to allow us this endlessly chaotic and messy workstation in the middle of our living room without ever trying to tame it.  I learned so much at that table. I know it can be a real eyesore but if you can bear it or find a less obvious place for it, the never-ending craft table is a terrific idea.

BlockPartyBirthdayPhoto by Kara Fleck and

We recently threw a block party using the Kid Made Modern block party kits.  What really impressed me was how each kid used the exact same materials but put their on unique spin on it.  What would be your advice to parents and caregivers looking to bring out that creative spark in their child?

You are saying everything I ever wanted to hear about KMM, so big thanks for that!  Personal expression is so important to support and promote.  We try our best to allow as much of it as possible in all of our KMM products.

To keep the creative spark burning one must nurture it.  Please support your children and young friends in their explorations of materials and techniques, make sure they know that the arts are subjective and the most important aspect of creating art is that you are happy with it, so strive to originality and quality whenever possible.

Help teach good working habits by creating the possibility to do so with good storage, pin up boards and other good ways to take care of your supplies.  Expose them to as much as possible by visiting museums and galleries.

Also, make sure that they know that money has nothing to do with successful creativity and anything can be used to create art.

blockparty_blockstablePhoto by Kara Fleck and

Kid Made Modern is full of beautiful useful projects.  I love that you encourage kids to use real art supplies and also items that might otherwise go right into the recycling.  It is such a fun book, filled with ideas.  Do you have a favorite project from the book?

It is hard to pick a favorite project as I really do love them all and had a great time working on them.  I am partial to the paint chip screen as the supplies are so inexpensive and the effect is like a magic trick.  The printing techniques are all useful.

We just released a new series of books called All Abouts that celebrate and demystify art materials and techniques.  All About Fabric Printing has a lot of odd and fun printing techniques that anyone can do.  The All Abouts will continue coming out through the years.

Thank you so much, Todd, for taking some time to share your thoughts on play and creativity and the Kid Made Modern line with my readers.

Valentines_watercolorGirlsPhoto by Kara Fleck and

More Todd Oldham and Kid Made Modern

The takeaway for me: the never-ending crafts table

I was really excited for the chance to ask Todd Oldham some questions.  So many of his answer resonated with me as a parent and a creative person.  Getting the chance to share this Q & A with all of you is right up there with one of my top moments as a blogger and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Beyond that, there was a takeaway from this experience for me and my family:  the never-ending craft table.  We’re a pretty crafty family, but until very recently our projects were mostly done at the dining table and then cleaned away (sometimes several times a day) so that we could use the table for other purposes.

Todd Oldham’s comments on his childhood and his family’s never-ending craft table inspired me.  So we decided to turn our never-used formal dining room, which has doubled as our library and home office space, into a space where the kids can have their own never-ending craft table.

We purchased a new table for the dining space and the old kitchen table became the kids’ table (which was a $20 yard sale find to begin with so we don’t have to balk at messier projects because it isn’t too precious to us).

It has only been a short time since we made this change, but I can tell you that having this dedicated space, that doesn’t have to be cleared away, and a table that no one has to worry about “ruining” has been a wonderful change!

I’ll share with you our space and how the kids are using it later on down the road, after we’ve lived with it a few more months, but I have to say it has been terrific so far and I’m glad that we chose to do this – to make our home space work for us, despite what tradition or the blueprints might say.

What about your family?  How do you nurture your child’s creative spark?  What are some of your family’s favorite open-ended toys and art supplies?  Does your family have a dedicated crafting space?

Disclosure: This interview was possible through my participation as a Target Inner Circle member. I am not an employee of Target.

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

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  1. Great interview, Kara! I was excited for Target to open in Canada before, now I’m excited times 20! The Kid Made Modern line looks fabulous. As kids we weren’t exposed to art much, and while we have constant crafting in our home now, we haven’t been intentional about sharing the world of art with our kids. Todd’s inspiring!
    Robin from Frugal Family Times´s latest post: Saving Money by Making Do (or, why it’s 8:A~backwards~6 o’clock at our place)

  2. What an inspiring interview. I was not familiar with Todd Oldham or Kids Made Modern and I can’t wait to go and learn all about him. I am also quite intrigued by the idea of the never ending craft table. We use a table in our basement in a similar way but I would love to find a way to make this idea work on our main floor. I think it would get more use…
    Stacey´s latest post: Snow Day

  3. You had me at open-ended play and an never-ending craft table. As a mum, I want that so much for my girls but I realize it requires a lot of them. Thanks for sharing how you made your own craft table in your space. I’ll look forward to hearing how it goes the longer you have it.

    And to echo another comment, I’m excited for Target to come to Canada so I can try out this line. It looks fantastic!!
    Breanne´s latest post: In which I break the silence and announce a new blog

  4. Oh, thank you so much for this wonderful interview! I am a die-hard KMM fan as well. In fact, the forst KMM book is one of my first big influences for starting my art and design for kids blog. I am also blown away by your block party idea! Love love lovelovelove and I will be doing this for my kids.
    Jeanette Nyberg´s latest post: Golden Ratio For Kids

  5. Thanks for sharing thoughts some time to share your thoughts on play and creativity and the Kid…..

  6. Thanks for sharing thoughts some time to share your thoughts on play and creativity and the Kid…..


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  2. […] used our craft table – our old dining room table, a $20 yard sale find that is not precious to me, so therefore I’m […]

  3. […] used our craft table – our old dining room table, a $20 yard sale find that is not precious to me, so therefore I’m […]

  4. […] contains affiliate links. Last winter, thanks to an opportunity as part of the Target Inner Circle, I was able to ask Todd Oldham some questions about kids, creativity, and his own childhood.  It turned out to be an experience that made a […]

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