We never really had a “theme” for either of our kids’ rooms—mostly because neither of them have ever had their own room. However, after my daughter turned 3 I caught her hammering a push pin into the wall with her toy hammer so she could hang up a photo of a tiger we took at the zoo. I realized that she was starting to want to express herself on her walls—who doesn’t?—but none of the mass-produced wall art at our local stores seemed to catch her attention. So we turned to some far less orthodox, but really fun, ways to decorate her side of the room.
Their Own Art
The tiger picture that started it all…and a heart she made in preschool.
The first time I saw embroidery hoop art pop up on Pinterest or some other artsy site I was browsing instead of making dinner or doing other productive things, I thought, “What a great, cheap idea!” I have a billion scraps of fabric and just as much, if not more, empty space on the walls (coincidentally, I also have a stack of picture frames that “I’ll put up this weekend” shoved in a corner of the apartment somewhere), so I figured the next time I was at the store I’d just grab some embroidery hoops and then, voila, I’d be hip and modern with my super-trendy wall art.
One day I went to the craft store and looked at the embroidery hoops. I don’t remember what store I was in, but it must have been some upscale place because the price of the wooden embroidery hoops suggested they were made out of ancient, ten thousand year old rare trees. It was wood! Why was it so expensive? I picked up a plastic hoop and decided that it, too, must have been made out of ancient, ten thousand year old rare neon blue plastic for the price. Flabbergasted, I returned home and stuffed my fabric back into its bin. I wanted trendy art but not for that price!
I swung by Goodwill a few weeks ago to look for some cheap t-shirts for my kids. Way in the back of the store there was a little shelf marked “Crafts, Sewing, etc.” I hadn’t recalled seeing that before and wandered over. Immediately, wooden circles caught my eye—embroidery hoops! They must have been made out of normal, mortal-realm wood because the price was just as thrifty as I’d hoped. I brought them home, pleased that I would finally have something Pinterest-y in my home.
So I like to sew. I have a cheap plastic sewing machine, and what feels like a 5000 lb vintage cast iron sewing machine, and between the two of them I can usually sew whatever I need to, unless it’s something like a king size quilt, because we don’t have room for a quilting machine in our apartment because dumb things like the stove and refrigerator are in the way. But, sometimes I need to hand sew something a little more delicate, or I’m just way too lazy to clear off the dining table and yank out the sewing machine and all the STUFF that goes along with it. One day, I was repairing a small hole on the seam of a sweater by hand, squinting and remembering that once long ago I wore glasses and whatever happened to them anyway?, when my 2 year old came over and asked what I was doing.
“Sewing up a hole in Mommy’s sweater,” I explained.
She stood up tall and declared in the way of two year olds, “Ok. I sew too.”
Now what? I had some large, dull embroidery needles and some yarn. Sewing/threading boards are all over the place—wooden or plastic boards with large holes in them that kids can practice sewing on—but we didn’t have one. So, I put my sewing aside and declared that it was now time for an art project.
It is spring. Up until recently, we lived in an apartment with a balcony and every March I would begin planting herbs, flowers, and other plants that grew well in pots. We live in a new apartment without a balcony now, and it’s difficult to grow anything indoors without the cats deciding that yes, tiny plants are The Best Thing To Eat, Even Moreso Than Meat. How to help my toddler enjoy flowers from the comfort of our own home? Why, we do an art project, of course.
- Coffee filters
- Spray bottle full of water
- Tape, or other temporary adhesive
- A window
- A child, toddler age preferred but any you have on hand will do
Shadowboxes are nifty bits of art. They are basically picture frames that are deep enough to add trinkets to; like clothing or other things that would generally be too thick to put in a normal picture frame. Many, many people use them to frame sentimental things, such as baby’s going-home clothing or seashells from their honeymoon, etc. Since I can never quite be mainstream, in this tutorial I am dismantling a brand new copy of the game Carcassonne to create a piece of board game wall art, because our walls need art, and I am a bit of a geek. I am doing something similar with children’s board games for my daughter’s room as well. However, you can use the steps below to put almost anything you want into a shadowbox—even baby’s first cloth diaper if you want!
Destroying mint, playable board games for the sake of art. Board game enthusiasts everywhere are crying.
Procure yourself a shadowbox. IKEA has some for cheap, where you load them up from the back like a typical picture frame. Other, more expensive shadowboxes have a hinge on one side so the glass pane in front opens up like a little door. Use whatever you’ve got.