'I Did It on the Computer!' Easy-to-make Crafts Using the Computer
By Diane S. Kendall

Eyes sparkling, Sarah triumphantly hands her Mom a small present as soon as she enters her preschool classroom. "What's this?" exclaims her mother. She quickly unwraps a sachet bag crafted out of a drawing of a flower Sarah made on the computer and printed on fabric that easily went through the classroom inkjet printer. "I did it on the computer!" Sarah confides to her mother.

Surprised to hear about the computer's part in this project? It's easy to think of the computer as just a place to play games; check for email messages or websites with teaching resources; or type out notices, records or worksheets. But if you and your students have access to a computer, an inkjet printer, and any kind of software that can create a drawing, the computer can be so much more. Using the computer can be a wonderful way to create classroom materials and student projects, to make gifts for the adults in children's lives, and even as a means for your class to reach out into the community. Best of all, because of the "finished" look the computer gives every child's project, computer crafts are a great way to build self-esteem and encourage kids to think of the computer as something more than "Entertainment Central."

Printable Media
The key to using the computer for class projects is becoming familiar with all the kinds of media that can go through your printer. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Stickers
Did you know that sticker paper comes in letter size sheets ready to go through your printer to make stickers that you can cut out to be any shape and size? Many of the art programs designed for children have a "sticker" or "rubber stamp" feature with images of animals, people, and holiday doo-dads. Kids can arrange these on a page, print them out, and cut them up to use on paper, envelopes to create their stationery, ornaments, notebooks, picture frames, or anything the children would like to personalize. You can also make stickers with kid's faces on them to help identify personal objects and cubbies for non-readers. For parent's night, make nametags out of the sticker paper and put the children's pictures on them. When parents use the nametag with their child's face, you'll quickly make the connection!

Magnets
There are two methods for creating magnets using your computer. You can print a design out on paper and adhere it to a thin magnetic sheet that comes with adhesive backing, or you can actually print right on magnetic sheets that are especially designed to go through printers. By making your own magnets, you can keep track of whose turn it is to help out with different classroom jobs, devise your own math manipulatives, or create magnets with pictures and corresponding letters, words, or numbers. With just a little more time, you can make your own magnetic boards, too. To do this buy a piece of sheet metal, like the metal used to make air conditioning ducts, at your lumberyard and have it cut to a manageable size. Then cover the corners of the metal with heavy tape or have someone at the lumberyard round the corners for you. After you have finished rounding the corners, wrap the whole sheet in heavy Kraft paper tucking in the ends as you would a present.

Clear Plastic and Self-Cling Decals
Have limited wall space in your classroom? Looking for a colorful, new way to display children's projects? Children's artwork and projects can be printed on clear plastic (the kind you use for the overhead projector, but printer-ready) or on clear, plastic self-cling decals (also printer-ready). The decals can then be hung on windows for a very colorful display. Self-cling decals with artwork also make cheery gifts for parents and even patients at hospitals or nursing homes. A good fire safety project is devising decals for home windows that inform the fire department that there are pets in the house. Make sure to should include the number and types of pets inside the home on each decal.

Iron-on Transfers
Would you like to have everyone in your class dressed in identical shirts for a field trip? Now you can make your own. Iron-on transfers to put through a printer are available at most office supply stores. Children can also make their shirts with a picture they drew, a story they wrote, or a special design indicating their part in a play or production. Actually anything cotton - banners, aprons, totebags, placemats, and even sock tops - can be imprinted using iron-on transfers. Just remember that any writing put on a transfer has to be reversed so it is readable on the fabric. Most word processors have a function to reverse type, although you might have to consult your software manual to find out how.

Printer Ready Fabric
It's now possible to put thin cotton (muslin) and silk through your printer. To facilitate the printing process, the fabric is temporarily attached to a thin but stiff piece of "carrier" paper that can be easily stripped off once the fabric is out of the printer. This fabric is commercially available, or you can make your own by ironing the fabric and adhering freezer paper (available at your supermarket) onto the fabric and cutting it to a letter or legal size format. Being able to print on cloth opens up a whole new world of possibilities! With your help, children can make simple pillows, potholders or sachets featuring their artwork and designs. To make these simple projects, print on the fabric, sew or glue up the sides, and add a little stuffing or potpourri. To complete the project, have the children glue buttons or glitter on the pillow or sachet for a 3-D look. Kid's creations also look great as quilt blocks or try using photos of individual class members printed on muslin and sewn together. If the children are too young to sew, have them lightly glue their fabric design to a tote bag, cap, or other ready made item and cover and seal the edges with fabric paint. The possibilities are endless!

Diane S. Kendall is the editor of Children's Software and a co-author of the upcoming book Technocrafts: Fabric Through the Printer, available from Children's Software Press at www.childsoftpress.com. You can email her at csoft@childsoftpress.com.

Where to Get It

Stickers
Full sheet sticker paper
Avery stock #5165
www.avery.com
800-GO-AVERY

 

Magnets
Full sheet printable magnets
Avery stock # 3270
www.avery.com
800-GO-AVERYFull sheet magnets with adhesive

Mag Tech
212-341-6281

 

Clear Plastic Decals
MicroFormat
www.paper-paper.com
800-333-0549

 

Iron-on Transfers
MicroFormat
www.paper-paper.com
800-333-0549

 

Printable Fabric
Available at most craft or quilting stores.

 

Cotton
June Tailor Direct
800-844-5400

 

Silk
Jacquard Products
www.jacquardproducts.com
800-442-0455

 

For directions on how to make your own fabric ready for the printer, email csoft@childsoftpress.com and ask for printer fabric directions.