Get ready to spend quality time with your kids this summer with six exciting craft ideas perfect for warm weather. Decorate versatile t-shirts, tank tops, tote bags and caps with your kids of all ages for hours of entertainment and unforgettable memories. They’ll enjoy wearing and using their personalized gear all summer long!
Put Your Painting Clothes On!
Painting t-shirts and tanks can be a fun family affair! Gather some easy-to-find supplies to get started: a solid-colored shirt, cardboard to fit inside the t-shirt, fabric paint or acrylic fabric paint, tube fabric paint, brushes, and stamp shapes. (You can find stamp shapes in lots of different designs, letters, numbers and more to create custom t-shirt artwork.)
Follow these basic steps:
1. Lay your t-shirt on a flat surface. Place the cardboard inside the shirt to protect the other side from absorbing the wet paint.
2. Choose your stamp shapes. Use your brush to apply the acrylic paint to a stamp shape – and then press it onto the shirt with gentle pressure. Repeat this process until you’ve completed your design, using the stamps and colors you like.
3. Heat set your stamp designs to seal them. Once your shirt has dried for about two hours, turn the shirt inside out. Place a cloth or parchment paper over the painted area and iron it on a medium setting. Hold the iron in place for 20 seconds for the best results.
4. Add special accents. You can use tube paint to outline your shapes for a 3-D effect. Try a paint brush to add dots to a ladybug or texture to a cat!
5. Allow your shirt to dry completely. Lay the shirt flat with the cardboard still inside.
Pro tip: If you’re planning to paint a brand-new t-shirt, wash it and dry it to prime it for decoration. Don’t use fabric softener. Once the shirt is painted and dried, turn the shirt inside out and wash in cold water. Tumble dry low or air dry.
Our Top Product Recommendations: Let your kids try on the Fruit of the Loom Youth ICONIC T-Shirt, designed with a classic fit and shaped armholes. This super-soft, 100% cotton tee comes in lots of perfect-for-painting hues, including White, Oatmeal Heather and Athletic Heather. For a unisex tank style, check out the Bella + Canvas Youth Jersey Tank in Neon Blue, Neon Pink, White and more shades.
Puffy Paints for the Win
These fun paints work for any age – and let younger kids get in on the action. It’s easy to add 3-D coolness to your t-shirt with paints in a way you can’t achieve with markers. Puffy paints are easy to use and clean up, so you’ll probably want these supplies in your summer crafts arsenal. Make one, make five – and wear them all summer long!
Our Top Product Recommendations: Let them loose with the modern classic fit Gildan Youth Softstyle T-Shirt, made from 100% cotton. Choose from a rainbow of vibrant colors, including Sapphire, Irish Green and Daisy.
Break Out the Tie-Dye Fun
Is it really summer without a handmade tie-dye t-shirt? Make happy memories with your kids as they try their hand at a summer craft staple we’ve been enjoying for decades. We’ve spelled out the seven basic steps to tie dye a shirt. However, you really can’t go wrong with colorful tie-dyed items. Let your kids’ imaginations run wild! We recommend using a t-shirt or other item that’s 100% cotton for the best, longest-lasting results.
Our Top Product Recommendations: You and your kids will love the unisex, retail-fit Bella + Canvas Youth Jersey T-Shirt, made of super-soft combed and ringspun 100% cotton. This tee is available in a whole rainbow of colors, including White, Gold, Pink, Athletic Heather and more. The budget-friendly Gildan Youth Heavy Cotton T-Shirt is made from 100% USA-grown cotton, and also comes in a great color palette that includes Light Pink, Safety Green and Carolina Blue. Don’t leave out the littles – grab the Bella + Canvas Toddler Jersey Short-Sleeve T-Shirt that also comes in lots of shades, from Yellow to Heather Mauve.
Bleached Tee, Anyone?
This is a unique twist on a bleached tie-dye shirt! You’ll need a colored t-shirt, bleach, a spray bottle, a large piece of cardboard and a plastic tablecloth. Create a bleach solution of 1⁄4 cup bleach and ¼ cup water in the spray bottle. Put your cardboard inside the shirt, and lay it flat on the plastic cloth outside or in a well-ventilated area. Then, spray the bleach all over your shirt front to create your design!
Pro tip: If you want to create a more unique shirt, break out your vinyl and a cutter. You can choose any artwork, from a sun to a cat to a flag. Create multiple vinyl cutouts of the design and place them where you want on the shirt. Then apply bleach to the shirt front. When you remove the vinyl, those designs will retain the original shirt color for a standout look!
After you’ve bleached your shirts, put them in the washer by themselves for a quick wash to remove any remaining bleach. You can tumble-dry on low or air dry them.
Our Top Product Recommendations: Have them try on the Fruit of the Loom Youth HD Cotton T-Shirt in Navy, Purple or Safety Orange. The Hanes Youth Essential-T T-Shirt is another good choice for this bleached tee project in shades like Athletic Teal, Athletic Dark Green and Deep Red. Both t-shirts are made from soft, sustainably sourced USA-grown cotton.
Tote It Here, There & Everywhere
Kids love personalized bags where they can stash their books, drawing supplies and more. Reusable bags are also a great replacement for plastic or disposable bags. Using a canvas tote shows kids how they can keep trash out of landfills and care for the environment.
The easiest way to decorate a tote bag is with durable acrylic paints. All you need to get kids set up to get creative are a rainbow of acrylic paint shades, brushes, a stencil (if needed) and a cardboard or wood insert to place inside the bag while they’re painting. Whether they want to go free hand or use a pre-made stencil, a canvas tote offers two large sides for their artwork, names or statement text. When the paint is dry, they can adhere additional elements like beads, patches, glitter or flowers for a 3-D look.
Looking for a no-mess alternative to paint? Try some heat transfer vinyl from your t-shirt shop stock. For this project, you don’t need to use any special equipment except for the HTV, scissors, parchment paper, and an iron or heat press.
Kids love to experiment with different types of HTV, so choose a good mix of colors or wow-worthy specialty types, like glitter and holographic. Here’s a rundown of HTV options they might like:
Solid Color: This is the most affordable, most available type of HTV, with the widest rainbow palette of options.
Flocked: This HTV has a tactile, fuzzy texture that’s easy to weed. (Weed means removing extra pieces like the inside of the letter “O” after you’ve cut your design.)
Glitter: Whether you want all-over sparkle or a touch of glitter for a special-effects element in your design, you’ll go to glitter, available in a range of colors.
Holographic: Definitely a cousin of glitter HTV, holographic contains color-changing chops that give your design a unique depth and dimension that mimics rhinestones.
Glow-in-the-Dark: These fun heat transfer vinyl sheets look great in the daylight and glow in the dark. They’re great for day-to-night events at the park or beach!
Metallic: Also called “electric” HTV, metallic sheets are shiny and light-reflective for an eye-catching design.
Patterned: Patterned heat transfer vinyl comes in lots of seasonal designs or trademarked characters.
Here are the quick steps to create custom designs on totes.
1. Create your designs! It’s as simple as letting your kids cut out shapes and letters from the HTV to build their designs.
Pro tip: If you want to use your design software to create your kids’ artwork. Mirror it before sending it to your vinyl cutter. Then, remove (or weed) any excess pieces that aren’t part of the final design.
2. Press your tote bag with your iron or heat press. This step removes excess moisture and creates a smooth, wrinkle-free surface for your vinyl.
3. Place your HTV vinyl design or elements on the tote bag where you’d like to adhere it. Remember, the shiny side of the HTV with the clear plastic backing should be face up. Cover your HTV design with a Teflon sheet or parchment paper to protect it from the heat.
4. Apply heat to your HTV design with your heat source. If you’re using a heat press, follow the correct time, temperature and pressure instructions for your heat transfer vinyl.
5. Remove the shiny liner. Follow your HTV directions because some will advise a hot peel or cold peel. A hot peel means you’ll remove the backing right after pressing. A cold peel means that you’ll let the vinyl cool before removing the backing.
Our Top Product Recommendations: The budget-friendly Liberty Bags Nicole Cotton Canvas Tote comes in core colors like Navy, Red, Royal, Hot Pink, Kelly Green and Natural. The Nicole tote measures 14 1/2" W x 15 1/2" H with 22” straps. We also like the 15"W x 16"H OAD Contrasting Handles Tote, which has a Natural 100% cotton body with either Red or Royal straps.
If you’re getting ready to head to the beach, kids will love decorating the 14" x 9" x 5" Liberty Bags Seaside Cotton Canvas Tote, with an open front pocket for essentials. The Seaside tote has a Natural body with stylish contrasting handles and bottom; choose Red/Natural or Royal/Natural.
Paint a Personalized Cap
Protect them from the sun with a custom cap they painted themselves! One of the easiest ways for kids to decorate a baseball cap or visor is with acrylic fabric paint or markers. They can easily decorate the hat with their name or favorite cartoon character.
When the paint is dry, let their creativity run wild by adhering dimensional elements like patches, beads, sequins, pom-poms, fabric flowers and more. A decorated baseball cap is a great way to make a statement wherever you go!
Pro tip: Layered appliques are another option to add to a t-shirt, tote bag or hat. You can make your own out of felt or fabric, or purchase pre-made kits.
Our Top Product Recommendations: One option we like for boys and girls is the Youth Wooly 6-Panel Cap, which comes in Black, Royal and Red, with a Silver undervisor. A spandex sweatband helps the hat retain its shape. You can also browse our selection of visors, snap-back caps and trucker caps.
Shop Threadsy for Affordable Kids’ Gear
With our affordable collection of stylish gear in different colors, fabrics and fits, you can add a lot of personality to your kids’ wardrobe or the pieces you’re decorating to sell. Shop Threadsy’s great selection of youth t-shirts, tank tops, hats and totes. They’re great for decorating with graphic or text-based designs and wearing everywhere. After all, your new apparel and accessories are your kids’ blank canvas for their creativity and self-expression in this year’s hottest trends and colors.