From Drawing to T-Shirt {The Artful Parent}

Transfer A Kids Drawing to A T-Shirt -- Makes a Great Gift!

By Jean Van’t Hul

Do you wonder what to do with all of the art that your kids produce? If your children are anything like mine, they draw and paint a lot. I’m often trying to think of ways to use or display their many masterpieces.

The Artful Parent Book by Jean Van't HulSome go on the wall, some get sent to Grandma, some are stored (and some, frankly, end up in the recycle bin).

While I have a whole chapter on displaying, reusing, and storing art in my new book, The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity, I’m still always seeking out or thinking up new ideas. This spring, for my husband’s birthday, my daughters and I created t-shirts for him, using transfers of some of their recent drawings.

These T-shirts make great gifts and my kids were literally beaming with pride when they presented theirs.

Here’s how to make them…


Transfer a Child’s Drawing to a T-Shirt


  • Children’s drawings
  • T-shirt(s)
  • Fabric transfer paper (This is widely available at craft stores, office supply stores, and online. If you have a white or yellow t-shirt, make sure to get the kind that says for light-colored shirts. And ditto for dark-colored shirts. You’ll need the packet that specifies dark colored shirts if you’re working with blue or black…)
  • Ink-jet printer/copier
  • Scissors
  • Iron

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1. Copy your children’s drawing onto the fabric transfer paper following the instructions on the packet.

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2. Cut out the image, rounding corners as you go as much as possible.

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3. Match the drawings up with the T-shirts.

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4. Iron your shirt to remove any wrinkles and then then position the drawings as desired.

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5. Next, follow the packet instructions to iron the drawings onto the shirts. This will vary depending on whether you are transfering onto light shirts or dark shirts. It may even vary from brand to brand so make sure to read the instructions provided.

Here’s what we did:

For light-colored shirt transfers: Turn the transfer paper image side down. Iron the paper to the shirt. Let cool, then peel off the paper backing.

For dark-colored shirt transfers: Peel off the paper backing first and then arrange the image right side up. Cover image with ironing paper provided then iron the image onto the shirt. Let cool then remove the ironing paper.

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Here’s my older daughter, Maia, pulling the paper backing off to reveal her owl drawings.

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And here’s my three-year-old Daphne’s very first person drawing transferred onto an oatmeal-colored shirt after we (um, I) botched the first attempt onto the navy shirt by not reading the instructions properly. Ahem. So learn from my mistakes, folks!

This is not a difficult process at all, but the iron-on instructions are different depending on whether you’re doing the light or dark T-shirt transfers.

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The girls wrapped the shirts with birthday paper and lots (and lots!) of tape and ribbon. They were SO excited to present their Daddy with the shirts they had made with their own drawings.

We’ve since made several more T-shirts using fabric transfers of their drawings. They each made a shirt for themselves. And I’ve heard rumblings that one or two might be in the works for me as a Mother’s Day present…

Jean Van't HulJean Van’t Hul writes about easy and fun arts and crafts ideas at The Artful Parent and has a new book out, The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity, that combines the whys and how-tos of children’s art with 60 all-time favorite activities.

Not A Stick – Story & Creative Activity

Guest Post by Deborah J. Stewart, M. Ed. of Teach Preschool

I have been following No Time for Flash Cards for a very long time now and one thing I know about Allie is that she loves a good quality children’s book. So I thought I would share a fun little book we recently explored in my preschool classroom

The title of the book is “Not a Stick” by Antoinette Portis. The book is very simple to read and the basic idea is to get children’s imaginations going by imagining the stick in the book is anything but a stick!

As a class we have read this book at least three times and now as I read the book, the children shout out what the stick will be next! “It’s a fishing pole!”

After we read the book for the second time, I had the children go outside and gather sticks from our play yard…

As you can see, there is no shortage of sticks in our “play yard!” Once the children had selected a few sticks, we came back inside and each child taped their sticks to their own large sheet of paper…

The children then used crayons and their imaginations to turn the sticks into something that was “not a stick”…

This process was simple for the children and yet challenging too! The children tended to draw random lines around the sticks and talk about what they were making. When the children had finished their drawings, I had each child dictate to me a story about their stick. We started the story with, “It’s not a stick. It’s a….” and the children had to complete the sentence…

Our sticks turned out to be alligators, spiders, circles, swords, and more. A process like this is simple yet promotes great opportunity for story telling and imagination!

Whether you are a parent or a teacher, I would love to invite you to stop by Teach Preschool and see some of the other books and activities I share on my blog that young children will enjoy both at home or in the classroom!

Kid Made – Nature Gifts

Guest Post by Susan Case

There is a growing body of evidence which indicates that direct experiences with nature are essential for a child’s physical and emotional health. Studies have also shown that exposure to nature can increase a child’s resistance to stress, anxiety, and depression as well as build up their immune system. Ask your child if they would like to go on a nature scavenger hunt or go bird watching. Their answer may surprise you.

Become as a child yourself as you rediscover the wonder and mysteries of flowers, ants, worms, birds, or critters in a pond. Take a free walk around the neighborhood meeting friends, relaxing, and building muscles as your child leads you on an adventure of learning and awe. Bring a sack or basket to collect some of the treasures that you discover.

My friend Katie from Mommy with Selective Memory took these photographs of her twenty-two month-old Little Buddy and three-year-old Munchkin Girl on an outdoor adventure.

Little Munchkin and Buddy took a nature walk with mom, gathering some of nature’s beauty.

When they returned home with their sack of treasures, they helped mom make a Salt Dough mixture so they could make a keepsake.

The children enjoyed combining the ingredients and feeling the texture of the salt dough.

Then they pressed their nature objects into the dough.

Mom baked the keepsakes to harden them. Now they can be used as a gift to grandma on Mother’s Day or kept in their special Treasure Box as a reminder of a fun outdoor adventure.

I asked Katie if the nature walk and salt dough recipe was enjoyable for her children. This was her response: “Yes, they had so much fun they wanted to go back outside and collect more stuff! They spent the next 30 minutes happily collecting outside and talking to each other about all the things outdoors. It was really cute.” If you need a laugh, click here to see what Little Buddy collected the next time Katie gave him a sack.

Salt Dough Recipe:

1 cup of salt

1 cup of flour

½ cup water

In a large bowl, combine the salt and flour.
Make a well in the salt/flour mixture and add the water.
Knead until smooth and shape into a ball (can wrap in plastic or store in airtight container for later use).
Press flat and add objects.
Put on baking sheet in oven at 100 degrees C or 200 F for 2-3 hours, or if hot weather, may dry outside for several days in the sun.

Check out these posts that have more ways you can use your nature collections. Pattern Naturally has ideas for children to learn math by using objects found in nature. Also, Why Craft? Why Art? will give you more ideas and reasons why the art process is so important for children to experience.

Susan Case is a retired teacher, now author and blogger. You can visit her at Kindergarten for Teachers and Parents.


Journal Writing ( for pre-writers)

literacy activities for kids Guest Post by Rebekah Patel

One way I build literacy skills with my preschool daughter is to dedicate time to journal writing.  Our journal time is inspired by what I learned when I facilitated Lucy Calkin’s Writing Workshop with my former students.  My daughter is a pre-writer because she writes only a few words and no sentences, but she can develop language skills by composing her thoughts into a writing journal.  Through journal writing, she learns the ideas she  talks about can be put onto paper.

For journal writing, I provide her a journal and colored pencils.  The journal can be handmade or a store bought sketch book.  It is important the pages are unlined because pre-writers will mostly draw in their journal.

We begin journal writing by reviewing what we wrote about the previous day.  Then, I model one simple writing idea in my own journal.  When I first modeled journal writing, I drew a picture and wrote.  I observed that my daughter was very hesitant to write anything in her journal.  Now, I only draw pictures in my journal, and she has become more confident and independent in creating her own ideas in her journal.

Below are some writing ideas that I have used for my daughter, but when you model writing for your child make sure the writing is relevant to your child’s life.



Writing Ideas

  • How To’s – brush teeth, do laundry, bake cookies
  • People and Pets  – Mama, Papa, grandparents, cats
  • Events – parties, trip to library, holidays
  • Their World – rain, home, school, grocery store
  • Likes – food, clothes, places, television shows
  • Feelings – sad, happy, angry
  • Learning – topics of interest such as planets, wild animals, weather, numbers

After I have modeled writing, my daughter begins to write about her idea.  She is free to write about a topic that interests her, and she doesn’t need to write about the same topic I showed her that day.  During this time, she works independently for about five minutes.  She often writes about a new topic, but I do notice she has other typical behaviors displayed during journal time.

 Writing Behaviors

  • writing name over and over
  • letter writing practice
  • scribbles
  • copying Mama’s work
  • a lot of family and pet pictures

Once she has finished writing, she tells me about her writing.  I transcribe her words on the page.  Sometimes she doesn’t want me to write directly on her page, and I will write her ideas on a sticky note.  I stay positive about the work she shows me even if she has spent the entire time scribbling.  I know she doesn’t end up scribbling every day, and there may be some days she has hard time figuring out what she would like to write in her journal.

literacy activities for kids

 Journal writing builds children’s confidence in their writing ideas.  It allows children to learn to stay focused on writing tasks.  As children develop, they will start writing more words in their journals.


Rebekah is a former elementary school teacher who now is a stay at home mom.  In her blog, The Golden Gleam, she shares art, play, and learning ideas to light up kids’ lives.   

Let Them Paint – Fostering Creativity In Young Kids

Guest Post by Debbie Clement

In kindergarten I won a coloring contest and picking up my award made quite an impression on me. I went on to earn a degree in Fine Arts, teach elementary school art, and from there have gone further to create picture books as both author and illustrator. My newest book has received a national award of excellence!!! All of these milestones occurred in my life because I was encouraged to create as a young child. What can you do to encourage creativity in the young people in your life and why should it be a priority?

As our world moves forward at mach-speed, it is ever more imperative that we think creatively, think outside the box, and cultivate our unique set of skills bringing them to every problem. Nurturing the skill of creativity needs to be our highest priority for children, whether we interact with them as parent or teacher. We need to nurture the questioning spirit that is natural in young children, fostering their spirit of inquisitiveness while listening to their schemes and brain storms with genuine interest.

One of the easiest ways to foster a spirit of imagination is to listen to the children in our lives. Listen to their stories. Listen to their questions. Listen to their interests, to their wonderings, to their curiosities. Listen to their inquiries, to their hopes. Listen to their songs and their stories. Children have dreams of being astronauts and archeologists. They dream of distant planets and dinosaur bones, of tree houses and excavations, of foreign lands and make-believe characters. When we listen and offer tools for exploration of these dreams we support the child’s longing for their wider world.

Beyond listening we can offer tools: building blocks and dirt, play-doh, glitter, soap bubbles, paint, tissue paper and glue, buttons, puppets, scarves and blankets, drums and kites. When we offer crayons and paper-mache, cardboard and costumes, wiggly eyes, tubes, construction paper and screws, the whole gamut of pieces and parts that invite open-ended construction with no-wrong-answer combinations, we show our interest in the very process of creating. We can watch close at hand and observe the color combinations, the balance and form emerging from the child’s imagination. From the very first squiggle drawn in shaving cream to the highest towering castle of building blocks, we stand and observe, coax and support, all the while extending creative play by offering our time and attention and therefore valuing its worth.

My favorite suggestion is to value your child’s work by asking questions. What is your favorite part of your painting? Can you tell me where that idea started? Where did you get the inspiration to build this project? Where do you think we could display this drawing? Would you like to perform your story for an audience? Allow even the youngest child to appreciate their own effort by speaking to you about it. Roll up your sleeves, open your heart and ears and let the children paint!


Debbie Clement is an award winning arts educator, performer and children’s book author/ illustrator. A renowned advocate for arts education Debbie spreads this passion through her company Rainbows Within Reach  as well as speaking and performing at conferences, schools, libraries. For more inspiration check out her blog too !