By: Rebecca Pitts
We go to a ton of birthday parties. A ton. But as an eco-friendly, minimalist type, I loathe purchasing reams of wrapping paper at the drugstore, knowing full well that the paper will end up in the trash post- party. What a waste of money and trees, right?
As part of my ongoing commitment to and interest in upcycling, I’ve discovered that the works of art that return day in and day out from nursery school make the very best wrapping paper. I’ll admit that my daughter is the prolific sort—not one to skip a session at the easel, ever—even if poor Titi, the chinchilla who is doomed to live a life amongst bumbling 3 and 4 year olds with a tight grip, is out of the cage and making her rounds. So yes, it’s very likely that we receive a greater number of works of art than the average family.
If your kiddo is off doing other awesome things at school and rarely returns home with the ubiquitous newsprint painting, why not create your own, at home? We love splaying our newsprint notebooks out in the backyard in the afternoon, and there’s no better way to perk your child’s interest than to dive in and get messy right alongside her.
The process of making your own wrapping paper with your child is a win-win. It’s first and foremost all about the her experience: the act of making. I never rush to have her make something before a party—we paint when we feel like it, and I save a stack of her artwork in the corner of the basement.
But there’s another benefit, too. I of course dutifully order the birthday boy or girl’s gift online, but rarely do I make a big deal about the actual present. Instead I enlist my young designer to choose which painting she’d like to give, what color ribbon she’d like to add, and to of course to hold down the edges of the paper when it’s time to tape. (And, from all the money we save on wrapping paper each year, I can justify the small splurge on high quality, gorgeous ribbon.)
When she walks into the party, she’s holding something that she made (well, at least the part you can see.) And she’s giving that thing she made to a friend she loves. If that’s not what birthdays are all about, I don’t know what is.
What to get:
- newsprint – available on Amazon here
- finger paint – we pick up whatever we find at the drugstore
- ribbon – we like baker’s twine and the tight weave cotton ribbon from Studio Carta
- washi tape in assorted colors
- a toddler, preschooler or access to your inner kid at heart
- tape & scissors
What to do:
Set up outdoors or in a space that can get messy. We like using an easel, but the floor or ground is always an easy alternative for young children. Leave plenty of time to explore the paints with your child—both of my kids started playing around with finger paint as young as 18 months. Finally, after letting the paintings dry, wrap and tie the present with ribbon. Don’t forget to ask your young artist to lend a hand with the scissors and tape.
Rebecca Pitts writes and makes stuff for kids and kids at heart. Visit her online home at rebeccaapitts.com. For more on art making with children, check out how we make shared studio time work as a family and tips for painting with watercolor with your kids.