Fabric painting is such a fun activity for young children, and fabric paint is so cheap and easy to use. Kids of any age can turn ordinary things into something special.

All sorts of items can be spiced up with fabric paint and pens, so think outside the square. Shoes, hats, jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts, lampshades, curtains, cushions, umbrellas and even pup-tents can all be given a creative burst. You don’t need to rush out and buy something special to decorate, simply rummage through your closet, linen cupboard or garage, and see what you can find for free.

There are several different brands of fabric paint and pens available, and they are all used in different ways. Some are applied with a brush, some have a squeezy nozzle, some puff up with heat, some glow, and some sparkle. Before you leap head first into decorating, make sure the paint or pens will do what you need them to do, by reading the instructions on the back of the packet. Some require you to wash the fabric first, some need ironing or heat to set, and some simply need plenty of time to dry.

Brush-on paints are usually more cost effective than squeezy bottles, fabric pens or crayons, but in my house the convenience factor wins out every time. Shop around educational toy stores, art supply shops and stationers, to find a brand and style that is right for you.

Once you have your fabric paints and pens on hand, cover your table with newspaper and you and the kids can go to it. Here are some great fabric decorating ideas to get you started.

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Activity Ideas

  • Give your child a dark coloured sheet, and let them use glow-in-the-dark and glitter fabric paint to decorate it with stars and planets. If you are feeling really creative, you can use craft glue to add sequins for extra sparkle. Drape the sheet from your child’s ceiling to create an awesome solar system which shows up at night.
  • Your kids can make Dad or Grandma a cool apron by painting on their favourite foods, or using a fabric pen to write out their favourite recipe. A simple way to decorate aprons is to use big bold letters to write fun slogans like ‘Worlds Best Chef’ or ‘Dad’s Kitchen’. Summer is a great time to make a cheeky BBQ apron for the outdoor chef in your family.
  • Book bags, sports bags, and swimming bags all look the same and it’s easy for your child’s to get muddled up with everyone else’s. Instead of stitching on a label, or using a plain back marker, let your children make their own mark using fabric paints. They can write their name, and add their own funky design.
  • Next time your child has a sleepover, give them and their friends a plain white pillowcase to decorate. Not only will it entertain them for an hour or so, they’ll also have a lasting memory of their night out together.
  • Give your children each a fabric placemat to decorate, so that everyone has their own special place at the table. They may like to make some for friends or extended family who often visit, and a couple with the words ‘special guest’ for unexpected extras.
  • It’s easy to personalise your child’s bedroom with fabric paint, and you can carry your theme through duvet covers, pillow cases, curtains and even lampshades. If you like you can let your child decorate pieces free hand by themselves, or you could work on designs together.A great way to have a little input from both of you, is to make a stencil from one of your child’s drawings. Ask them to draw a simple picture such as a flower, heart, car, or dinosaur, and then transfer the design onto heavy card. Cut out the picture using a craft knife, and then use it as a stencil around the room. Simply hold the card flat onto the fabric, and use a small sponge brush to apply paint in the gaps.
  • Use fabric paints to decorate a beach umbrella with wacky designs, and give your children each a sunhat to decorate as well. Your umbrella will stand out from all the others at the beach, and your children will be able to find your spot easily. If your child happens to wander off, people will be able to match the hat to the umbrella.
  • A plain white tablecloth is a great canvas for friends to write messages on at a birthday party. They don’t need to be specific birthday messages, they could just be nice things about the birthday child, funny jokes, pictures, or quotes. Getting each guest to sign their name provides a fun memory of the occasion in years to come, especially for big birthdays like Sweet 16s or 21sts.
  • Take a fabric pen to sports games or shows where your child may want some autographs. Have the celebrity autograph straight onto the T-shirt your child is wearing, and it will be lasting reminder of how ‘big’ they were when they met their heroes.
  • You could also give your child a special t-shirt to wear on their last day at primary or intermediate school. All their friends could sign the shirt, and they can look back on it in years to come.
  • Plain calico teddy bears can easily be personalised with fabric paint or pens, and make a great gift for a baby. Take a plain bear and some fabric pens to a baby shower, and let everyone add their own messages and decorations.

There really is no limit to what you can decorate with fabric paint, so dig out all your worn out clothes, and create some fun painting activities and games for the kids.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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