July 2, 2012

Summer crafts to make with kids

A summer craft project can be just the ticket for memorable fun at home. Even better if the projects use salvaged, everyday or easily found items; this teaches kids to be resourceful and good stewards of the Earth, and it cuts down on the number of trips to the craft store.

A summer craft project can be just the ticket for memorable fun at home. Even better if the projects use salvaged, everyday or easily found items; this teaches kids to be resourceful and good stewards of the Earth, and it cuts down on the number of trips to the craft store.

These projects are also great for a group of kids to make together because they allow for collaboration, laughter, sharing ideas and mixing materials.

Before you get started, use newspaper to protect the table surfaces. Tape the newsprint together to make a work surface.

Parents should read through the directions first to determine which steps they should help with, especially where scissors and glue guns are involved.

Hanging plaques from salvaged wood

Simple wooden plaques can be whipped up from scrap lumber that would otherwise fill the landfill. Summer often brings home improvement, and with it come wood scraps from fence and yard projects. (Mom and Dad should supervise the gathering of wood to prevent splinters in little fingers.) You can also find scrap wood at local home-improvement stores, which often give it away or sell it cheaply.

Select a lightweight piece of wood. I used the end of a cedar picket that was trimmed, so the wood was easy to hang with a ribbon and hot glue. These plaques look sweet in groups.


•  Wood scraps, about 4 by 6 inches
•  Fine sandpaper
•  Colored craft paint (I used blue-gray.)
•  2 craft paint brushes (any size for base coat and Polycrylic coat)
•  White craft paint
•  One 2- or 3-inch craft paint brush (for white paint)
•  Graphite sketching pencils with good erasers
•  Small quart of Polycrylic Protective Finish by Minwax (clear coat to seal the pencil sketch)
•  Sturdy ribbon
•  Hot glue gun and glue sticks
•  Small shells from a beach vacation or a trip to the craft store


1. Sand the wood pieces to make the surface and corners smooth to the touch.

2. Paint the wood the darker color of paint that you have chosen. Let dry.

3. Paint one loose brushstroke of white paint over the darker color. (This will be the area you sketch on.) It can be a loose stroke and brushed on just one time so that it’s a light coat. (The brushed-on wispy look creates a lovingly worn feel for this project.) Let the white paint dry very well.

4. Now for the fun part. You can sketch anything in the world onto the white surface. Have children’s books around to get ideas. Use the pencil lightly until you feel good about your image. If you want to start over, erase. You can also brush on more white paint to make a clean canvas again. You can also put a name or saying on the plaque. Perfect handwriting, as you can see from the examples, is not needed.

5. Once you have it the way you want, brush on a coat of Polycrylic seal to keep the pencil from rubbing away. Let dry.

6. For hangers, glue the ribbon to the top about a half-inch from the sides. Glue a seashell over the ribbon ends. If you are dealing with a heavier wood, you might prefer to staple a strong ribbon or piece of twine to the back of the plaque using a light-duty staple gun. This should be done by a supervising parent, and it’s only needed for a wood piece heavier than a ribbon would hold.

Pockets of creativity

Everyone has skinned their knees or outgrown a pair of pants, taking them to the point of no return. Instead of tossing them in the trash, cut the pockets out and put them to good use. The pockets can be embellished to make creative gift bags to take to a birthday party or to use as party favors this summer.

They also can be used as small storage bags or purses. Kids can keep lip balm and grooming products, games, and jewelry in these pockets when traveling or going off to camp. These pretty pockets are a way to utilize a pair of jeans, camouflage pants or khakis that are simply not in good enough shape to even donate or pass down.


•  Pair of old jeans or pants (such as camouflage or khaki)
•  Scissors
•  Hot glue gun and glue sticks
•  Embellishments of choice: glitter glue, craft pearls, small fishing bobs, lures with no hooks, small fishing weights, military men, buttons with crests, tortoiseshell buttons, ribbon
•  Safety pins (if using fishing weights)


1. Cut the pockets out of the pants, keeping the cut lines close to the hemmed edge for a smooth finish.

2. Embellish as you please or with the suggested ideas.

Optional: You can glue Velcro onto the flap and pocket so the pocket will close well, if it doesn’t already.

Rosette-embellished pocket:

1. Cut 1/2- to 1-inch strips of fabric in 8-inch lengths from the pant leg.

2. Roll strips from one end to the other to make a rose shape, and drop a dot of glue on the end of the strip to hold the rosette tight.

3. Cut two leaf-shape pieces of pant fabric, and glue them around the rosette. Drizzle or draw clear glitter glue lines on the leaflets to mimic veining.

Pearl-embellished pocket:

Line up pearls on the pocket and glue them down. You can use glitter glue to brighten up the pocket, but the simple pearls against the camouflage fabric turned out really elegant on mine. Less can be more on these because, remember, you will be filling them with neat things.

Fishing-themed pocket:

1. Pull together an assortment of fishing lures, weights and bobs. You can find these at garage sales and thrift stores, but you can also pick them up on the cheap at places like Wal-Mart. Look for lures and elements with absolutely no hooks. If you are using fish lures with coating on them, wash them with a dishwashing liquid and let them dry before using them in this project.

2. Use safety pins to attach fishing weights that have a small loop for twine.

3. Hot-glue on any small fishing bobs or other decorative elements.

Military-inspired pocket:

1. Pull together tortoiseshell and crested buttons, plastic “Army men,” and ribbon in federal blue, tan or gray. The tortoiseshell pattern has the slight look of camouflage and will fit well with this theme.

2. Hot-glue the ribbon onto the face of the pocket to add stripes. Fold the edges before gluing it down so it won’t fray later.

3. Add a few toy figurines and buttons to the pocket’s flap.

Jewelry or treasure box

Kids like to have their own spaces and places to store things that are special to them — or things they collect while they play outside in summer, like rocks, pennies and feathers. To make a hinged box unique, find an old square jewelry box or cigar box. You can also buy a hinged box from the woodcraft section of a hobby or craft store. The surface doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as it’s square and somewhat smooth.


•  Wooden hinged box
•  Fine sandpaper
•  Interior or craft paint in a complementary color to your fabric piece
•  Upholstery-grade vintage needlepoint fabric about a half-inch larger than the top perimeter of the box. (Try craft stores for discounted remnants, or consider using old curtains, clothing or table runners.)
•  Glue gun and glue sticks
•  Ribbon
•  Strands of craft pearls or bead trim that can cover glue lines (An old necklace works, too.)


1. Lightly sand the box’s surface so that it will take the paint well.

2. Give the box two coats of paint and let dry.

3. Hot-glue the material to the top of the box. Use one big dot in the center and then around edges.

4. Cover the fabric edges with ribbon. Grosgrain works well because it’s a tight, strong ribbon. Move carefully around the corners to bend the ribbon, or cut pieces for each side and overlap.

5. Hot-glue a strand of pearls or beads around the edge of the box directly on top of the ribbon. (Note: this step is optional if it makes the box look too feminine.) Paint the inside of the box if it needs it for a nice finish.

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