9.15gifttaggift-01So….I went to Office Depot to pick up a printing order. Something happened to my order, so I had to wait a bit for them to re-print it. It was all a scheme on their part. Somehow they knew I would wander the store and find a box of shipping tags for $1.94. I picked up the box. Set it down. Picked it up. Set it down. $1.94 for 100 shipping tags. White shipping tags. I don’t ship things. I don’t have a store. But $1.94 for 100 white shipping tags and it wasn’t even my birthday.

I bought the tags.9.15gifttaggift-02I decided I better justify my purchase and make something with some of them. Thus, my diy gift tag gift bag. Does that even make sense? I made a gift for people like me that like white gift tags. And pretty tape. And diy projects that can happen in less than 5 minutes.


  • White shipping tags
  • Pretty washi tape
  • Recipe card (I bought these on sale at Anthro about 3 years ago)
  • 2 -Wide wood craft sticks
  • Muslin gift bag


9.15gifttaggift-04You don’t need much tape for the tags. I included 10 tags in my gift and about 12 inches of 8 different kinds of tape. Just wrap the tape around the wood craft sticks. Washi tape works so well for this. I also included a couple pre-made tags to give an idea of what to do.9.15gifttaggift-05A recipe for a craft just makes more sense coming from me than a recipe for a food item. And I usually craft in my kitchen, so it is still from my kitchen!9.15gifttaggift-07This is what I included in the bag:9.15gifttaggift-089.15gifttaggift-09This was so quick and fun to make. In my head I want to make a ton to mail friends. Reality is – I am terrible at getting anything in the mail. Terrible. Maybe I’ll just have to hand deliver them to friends!

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  • Diana - these are adorable!!

  • kimberly oyler - want to throw one of those in there with my sock? 😉 just kidding, i think i better just come get it.

  • Elise - Super, super cute!!! Your thoughtfulness towards your friends is so encouraging!

  • Kelli - I would love to receive something like this as a small gift. What a great idea. :) I have never bought washi tape before, but I continue to see adorable patterns for it everywhere.

    I stumbled upon your blog not too long ago and have enjoyed browsing it. You are super talented!

  • Maureen - Thank you!!! These are adorable and practical and just the idea we needed for gift bags for an upcoming shower. Yay!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Do you deliver to Arizona?! :)

  • Mrs.T - What a fabulous idea! These would also make wonderful favors for a ladies’ event or even a kids’ party. Thanks for sharing this with all of us!

  • Aubrey - You got 500, not 100! Check the box – score!

  • Emily - That is so cute! I need to do these for me. I am forever wrapping up presents (it’s that time of year, it seems!) and then looking around for gift tags. I’m adding a stop to my errands this morning! Thank you!

  • Salome - You are such an inspirational clever lady! Love your blog.

  • margaret - these are adorable. and the most unfortunate part of the whole thing is that those recipe cards are ADORABLE and i’m sure anthro doesn’t have them anymore.
    sad day. but lovely cute craft!

We create a lot of art around here. Some we keep. Some the kids send as mail. Some gets recycled. Each of my kids have an art journal that is primarily used for nature journaling. However, they also tend to create lots of loose page art – watercolor drawings, sketches, etc. This year I decided to try to keep it all more organized in page protectors in 3-ring binders. Last week, we worked on customizing their binders.

Recently, DecoArt asked if I would like to participate in a promotion of their new Mixed Media line. Most of the bloggers participating are working artists. My passion lies in creating art with my kids, so I was excited for the chance to share a different way to use the products. My kids like functional art – meaning they want to create things they can use and take with them. So, instead of using plastic binders for their art notebooks, we did a mixed media project on cardboard binders.


In art, photography and life we can often get stuck in a rut of doing what is easy and comfortable. Mixed media art combines different materials and approaches to art – this combining of things I knew would come easy for a couple of my kids and would be really difficult for a couple. I wanted to push them all to try something new and allow themselves to ‘mess up’. I could see the struggle already forming for my oldest!

I explained to them what art ‘media’ includes and we talked about how typically we just do one thing – just draw, just paint, just use watercolors, etc. Next, I got out the supplies and began showing them the differences.


The DecoArt Media line is available at JoAnn Fabric stores and at JoAnn.com

9.15mixedmedia-01The fluid acrylics are highly pigmented and thin. We mixed them with a tinting base to thicken them and soften the colors. We also used them without any mixing. I showed the kids how to mix the paint, how to use misters (small spray bottles) and how to add other items like newspaper clippings to their binders. We also discussed how the misters are best used at the very end – this is important to emphasize with kids!9.15mixedmedia-029.15mixedmedia-04Then, I set the kids loose to just start layering and painting. I couldn’t find all our painting aprons…excuse the shirtless boys. Less laundry.9.15mixedmedia-069.15mixedmedia-07I saw this next trick either on the DecoArt blog or DecoArt education page. To get bigger dots of paint than what the sprayer typically makes, take the lid off the sprayer bottle. Next, tap the tube on the lid to make paint drop. This can be a bit messy, but my kids LOVED experimenting with this process.9.15mixedmedia-08The girls really liked the misters. Really liked…as in I had to cut them off before EVERYTHING was covered in white paint mist.9.15mixedmedia-09We used Decoupage to glue the newspapers and magazine cuttings to the binders. Another trick I learned on the DecoArt site is to use the mister bottle tube to ‘draw’. This looked especially good with black paint as a very last step.


I sprayed each binder with a gloss glaze to protect it and help make sure all those magazine and newspaper clippings didn’t tear off them.9.15mixedmedia-17

This guy got into the project the most. He was cutting, gluing, painting, spraying and drawing up a storm. The lack of ‘rules’ and ‘do it this way’ provided a creative oasis for him. His older brother – not so much. It is so interesting to watch how differently my kids respond to different things. I love the way our personalities and gifts are so strong even at the very earliest years of life. You can also see how his love for animals came out in the way he created his binder. Ninja Kitty & Black Belt Beagle.

9.15mixedmedia-14She liked the way the paint would drip each time she picked up her binder.9.15mixedmedia-16


I wish I had ordered 6 binders. It was really hard for me to just step back and let them create in any way they wanted. I was tempted to step in and paint some myself…all the layering and paint mixing was calling my name. I might try a canvas next. What are some of your favorite art projects with kids…ones that push them a little out of their comfort zones?


Dot Products (the binders we used)

“Dot seeks to change the face of poverty for children all over the world. With every school and office supply we sell, we’re paying for a child to attend school for half a day, including uniforms, supplies, and school fees. We’ll send you a picture of the students who benefited from your purchase, and each time you see Dot Products on your desk, you’ll know you’re a part of changing the lives of children around the world.” ~ Dot website


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  • Flower Patch Farmgirl - This is the best thing ever! What a good idea.
    And love those shirtless artists. :)

  • Emily - This is an amazing idea. Thanks for the project inspiration!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Julia and I pull out all of our paper and washi tape and colored pencils… I go in with something so specific in mind, and it comes out okay. She goes in and just plays – and it is always so stunning and hard to believe it wasn’t planned.

  • Meg - What a fun project and great product line!

  • Friday Favorites | Cupcakes and Commentary - […] If we pick up art in the afternoon again next summer, I’m thinking we need some artsy binders. […]

  • Pam - I simply love this. I try hard to get art time scheduled for my children along with our already busy homeschool day. This year my sons are 9th and 7th grade so I love it when I find new ideas that might keep them interested in art a little longer. It’s not something they ask to do so I have to bring the opportunity to them. Thank you for the post.


1st Grade

2nd Grade

4th Grade

6th Grade

It has taken a few weeks, but we are finally getting into a groove around here with school. One of the big challenges for me is how to incorporate a preschooler in the mix. I’ve attempted sensory bins and changing up activities for her each day. Some days I do much better than others. Jessica from Mama May I contacted me at just the perfect time. I was looking for more options for my daughter and she wrote to share with me about her handmade learning toys. We made a good match.

I picked out a few items that I thought my youngest would enjoy…turns out she is going to have to share them more than I thought.

9.9.15MamaMayI-01My plan is to fill this little box with different items. Some suggested items are: rice, uncooked pasta, sand, rocks, beads, lentils, un-popped popcorn.9.9.15MamaMayI-029.9.15MamaMayI-039.9.15MamaMayI-04I also picked out a nature scavenger hunt. She can flip through the wood tags and go exploring for the items. Eventually, she can record them in a journal too. I’ll probably take these on hikes too and incorporate them into our nature journals.9.9.15MamaMayI-069.9.15MamaMayI-08The next set kept her the busiest the longest. It includes several items with matching cards. She can sort, separate and match. This is also going to be a great tool for speech practice! There are also several ideas on the website for other ways to use this set, which is so helpful for me because sometimes my brain feels fried!9.9.15MamaMayI-109.9.15MamaMayI-119.9.15MamaMayI-12

I’ll probably hide these away and only pull out one each day. It will be fun to surprise her and it will buy me a little extra time as I work with the older ones!
For more information or to check out other handmade toys, you can find Mama May I by selecting the links below:
Discount code: UNDERSYCAMORE15 for 15% off (good until 9/25/15)


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  • Phyllis - Lovely photos of a lovely school. You are making me wish I had little ones to teach again. LOL I especially love the nature scavenger hunt.

  • Krystle - Our favorite preschooler learning toy is Counting bears! So much can be done with them :)

  • Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life - I love those wooden nature cards! I’m sure all my kids would enjoy taking those along on hikes.

  • Jamie - I homeschool with a preschooler and 2nd and 3rd graders…I always have an eye out for this type of montessori-ish toy to keep my almost 3 year old busy :) I haven’t ever come across this website! Love the homemade toys- they’re beautiful! I’m thinking of ordering the sensory bin, but the discount code is not working for me…is it maybe not active yet? Thanks!

  • Sarah Pratt - I have been homeschooling for awhile now (my oldest is in 6th grade). I love it. I love being apart of their learning development. With a 6 th grader, a 1st grader, a preschooler and a 7 month old baby this year, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. How do you work your schedule with the older children and still keep the younger one busy? I’m thinking these projects would keep my girl busy for a little while, but do you have any other suggestions?

  • Emily - Oh cool! Thank you for sharing! This is just in time for us, too!

  • AshleyAnn - The discount code is now updated and working. Once again Jamie, thanks for letting us know.

  • Leigh Ann - Those look so neat! Have you heard of the card game Set? It’s a great game for kids and adults, and there are ways to pay it alone or in a group. The idea is to build a set of three cards that match or differ according to the number, shape, color, and pattern of the shapes on the cards. I could see your kids really getting into it. :)

  • Melanie - Very nice and very Montessori. There are thousands of inspiring boards dedicated to Montessori on Pinterest. So many Montessori materials can be made of things that are floating around at home.

  • Seamingly Sarah - Those are beautiful and they are such a good idea!

  • Rebekah - Thanks for sharing another great resource! Mamas helping other mamas :) LOVE IT!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh, this is perfect timing! Another favorite activity of ours is a large plastic shoe bin filled 1/2 way with pinto beans. Then, he drives his matchbox cars and makes “roads”.

  • Heidi - I absolutely love these toys !! I have been looking for something to occupy my pre-schooler. I know he would love the nature cards !!! Thank you so much for sharing this :)

  • Grace W - As a preschool teacher I can think of so many things you could try. (And I bet your other kids would probably love them too!) here are just a few things!…

    I’ve tried most of the sensory media you mentioned and my favorite are rocks and beans. They’re easier for smaller hands to pick up both from the table and the floor, won’t go bad if left out, and aren’t as annoying to walk on (dry rice gets pretty slippery under shoes + a smooth floor). Also, make sure your un-popped popcorn is not buttered- buttered gets yucky fast.

    Water play: get a box (i.e. an under bed storage box) and fill to about one or two inches. Put almost anything (and I do mean anything!) inside for water play! Toys, dishwashing soap, different cups/measuring spoons, water beads (buy them from Michael’s/JoAnns on sale), pipes.

    Basically, once you get a tub and a good amount of any ‘sensory filler’, the sky’s the limit with fun you can have! I add pretty much any manipulative/toy to a sensory tub unless it has a lot of small holes that will get the filler stuck inside/water can’t be drained well. And you can always have your daughter ‘wash’ toys with a small amount of dishsoap and a lot of water! One of my students at the water table for 45 minutes today! And all he had were solo cups, different caps, spoons, scoops, a few small plastic animals, and water!

    If you can get your kids to not eat them, it’s fun to put the little pumpkin candies (like candy corn) into a bin with a lot of dry rice. Endless sensory play and you can turn it into a lesson about growing! Just add a few seeds, yarn for vines, leaves, and pumpkins!