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Family Craft Ideas

with Leah

I'm Leah--wife, mother, editor, writer, photographer, and rickrack apologist. There's craftiness in my DNA, but between the kids and my work and the house and the television and my blogs (http://www.agirlandaboy and, among others), I have to keep my projects quick and easy if I hope to finish them before my boys (born December 2008 and July 2012) graduate from college. You're a working mom and you're busy too, but if you still want to get your craft on, join me here for some fun projects!

Kids Craft: Decorated Pencils, 3 Ways

Categories: mod podge, paint, paper

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Back-to-school means an excuse to buy new office supplies. Or make them. This week I have three easy ways to decorate pencils for all your kids’ back-to-school needs (and maybe your working-mom needs too).


Those are just the painted pencils, so be sure to scroll down for the other techniques.

What you’ll need to make painted pencils:

–uncoated pencils (sometimes referred to as “natural”)
–painter’s tape or masking tape
–paint (acrylic or kids’ washable poster paint)
–fancy-edged scissors (optional)


Jazzing up some plain brown pencils is a cinch. Use strips of masking tape or painter’s tape to block out a pattern on the pencil and then swipe on the color(s) of your choice. I only had wide tape, so to make thin strips I stuck a length of tape to itself (to keep it from sticking to my scissors) and then I cut along it lengthwise to my desired width.


For the ringed pencil (top), I used many small thin strips; for the spiral pencil (middle), I used one long thin strip; and for the jagged pencil (bottom), I used fancy scrapbooking scissors. I stuck the tape to some waxed paper to keep it from stick to the scissors and then I peeled off the paper backing and wrapped the tape around the pencil.



Make sure you press down the tape really well (rolling the pencil on a hard surface helps) to avoid paint leaking under. Don’t forget to cover the eraser end with extra tape to keep it paint-free. (You’ll see I forgot to do that a couple of times. Do as I say, not as I do.)


Acrylic paint works best, but your kid’s washable paint works okay too, especially if you apply multiple coats.


Have fun picking and mixing colors. What kid doesn’t love to personalize everything he owns?







If you want to customize coated pencils (i.e., those that already have glossy paint on the outside), you can use mod podge (perhaps leftover from making coaster tiles?) to cover them with fun paper. I had a new box of red pencils that came with these stupid bar code stickers that left behind a horrible residue, so they were the perfect candidate for some alteration.


What you’ll need:

–pencils (any kind will work)
–mod podge
–foam craft brush
–fun paper (wrapping paper, scrapbook paper, an old map, old sheet music, an old book page, etc.)

Before you get your fingers all sticky, cut out a piece of paper that will fit around your pencil. It helps to have one straight edge so your paper lines up nicely against the metal eraser holder at the bottom end. On the other end, you’ll want the paper to be slightly shorter than the pencil so you don’t have excess hanging off the writing end that will make it hard to sharpen.


Using your foam craft brush, coat your pencil with mod podge, then wrap your paper around the barrel, adding mod podge as you go until everything is stuck down. Use your fingers to work out any bubbles or wrinkles if that sort of thing bothers you. Brush off any excess goo and then set the pencil up to dry somewhere it won’t get stuck. I don’t have any photos of the messy part, but here’s my high-tech drying rack: in the kitchen window with the champagne glasses.


This year for back-to-school I’ve noticed kids bringing gifts for their brand new teachers. If you’ve noticed too, albeit maybe a few days too late, these some custom pencils would be a cool homemade gift to roll in with this week or next.


And last but not least (these might actually be my favorite design of the three), let’s make some pencils featuring literary quotes. Or not-literary, if your kid prefers novelizations of bad movies (I’m looking at you, Smurfs 2).

I scanned some of my kid’s books and printed these quotes with my dusty old inkjet printer. The top one is from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the bottom is from Alice in Wonderland.


You’re going to apply the paper the same as in the previous tutorial but the catch is that if you’re using a print-out from an inkjet printer, you might need to prep the paper to keep the ink from bleeding when you add the mod podge. I’m sure there are several ways to protect the ink, but I read somewhere once that spraying the paper with aerosol hair spray works, and you know what? It does. No smudging.



These are so great, and they’d of course be awesome for any book-lover you know. Do a little research to find the perfect quote from the perfect book and then surprise your special person with a little just-because gift.

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