5 Fun Home Crafts to Fill Your Downtime

at home crafts

School may no longer be in session, but that doesn’t mean the arts and crafts have to stop! There are DIY photo frames to make, photo collages to assemble and paper bead jewelry to design. To help fill the downtime of teens and tweens, we asked art teachers across the country to share their favorite home craft ideas. So, fire up your creativity and your Canon IVY and PIXMA printers. It's time to get crafty.

Shrink Plastic Frames

When art director Emily Strongin Blickenstaff thinks about summer crafts to do at home, her mind goes straight to shrink plastic crafts. At Camp Alonim in Brandeis, California, her campers go through a lot of shrink plastic for charms, buttons and other trinkets. And Blickenstaff, who also teaches ceramics at Patterson High School in Patterson, California, loves using shrink plastic for DIY photo frames.

Here’s how: Shrink plastic sheets are easy to find in any crafts store (you can also upcycle plastic takeout containers; make sure to look for the #6 in the triangular recycling symbol or it won't shrink). The plastic will become your picture frame, so keep in mind that the design will shrink down to as little as one-third of its original size, and become thicker and more durable when it’s heated. Decorate the plastic sheet with permanent markers, and then trace images onto it or create your own abstract work of art. Punch a hole in the top of it, so that you can hang it or use it as a keychain. Then, bake the plastic using the directions it came with. When it cools, you can customize it with your favorite Canon IVY photos. Hang it in your room or in the car using ribbon or twine, so that others can see what you've created!

Cardboard DIY Photo Frames

You don’t need to buy a new frame every time you want to display your favorite Canon IVY photos. With a little bit of cardboard, you can make your own! Kaitlin Mariutto, an art teacher at IPS George Washington Carver Montessori School #87 in Indianapolis, Indiana, shared this idea for an easy DIY photo frame craft.

Here's how: Find a piece of cardboard or repurpose a box. The size you use will depend upon your vision. Do you want to display many photos or just one? If many, how spread out will they be? Will the frame hang or stand alone? After you make a decision, use a precision knife to cut the frame into your preferred shape. If you want the frame to stand, cut two slots in the bottom side of the frame and insert scrap pieces of cardboard as “feet.” With a hot glue gun, attach mini clothespins in the center and even sides of the frame for easy photo clips, and then personalize the frame with paint, markers, yarn, stickers or anything else that fits your style!

Custom Paper Beads

Wish you had some new accessories to show off to your friends? If you follow these directions by Linda Ruth Paskell, an adjunct professor at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and a teacher at Open Door Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, you can create your own necklace without setting foot in a mall. Making paper beads is a lot easier than it sounds ― all you need is paper (printer paper, magazine pages, wrapping paper, book pages, etc.) and a few tools (scissors, a glue stick, a toothpick, skewer or thin knitting needle, a ruler, a pencil and optional clear or glitter nail polish). You can also print pictures or patterns on plain printer paper for extra customization.

Here's how: Use the ruler to draw thin, acute triangles on the paper; the base should be no more than a half inch, with each side going across the entire sheet with a thin point at the top. The longer the triangle, the thicker the bead; the wider the base, the wider the bead. There should be no right angles in the triangle. Cut each triangle out, discarding any excess paper. Lay the skewer/toothpick/knitting needle along the base of the triangle, rolling the edge of the base around it and creasing it after one rotation. Using the glue stick, place a layer of glue along the rest of the paper triangle. Then, slowly, roll the paper tightly around the stick, ensuring there are no air bubbles. At the end, flatten the point against the roll, gluing it if need be.

Using a little bit of clear nail polish, lightly cover the bead to make it waterproof. Once the bead has dried, remove it from the stick. Repeat the process to make additional beads until you have enough for your project. String them together as a necklace, and share matching ones with friends.

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Read My Mind Photo Game

A sure-fire way to fill time ― and conversation ― is through a game that art instructor Jackie Silver likes to call “Read My Mind.” Silver, who teaches at Painting with a Twist Carrollwood, in Tampa, Florida, creates a game that’s simple and fun for teens and tweens at home.

Here's how: Using your Canon IVY, print 10 mini photos of 10 different subjects. Thoroughly mix the photos and don't show them to anyone. Ask parents, siblings or friends on video chat to try to read your mind. Look at the first photo without letting anyone else see it. Concentrate hard! Then say, for example, "I'm thinking of a kind of flower," or "I'm thinking of a breed of dog," based on your photos. Then, they get to guess, and if they are correct, the photo is revealed. People are amazed at how many they get right! It’s a great conversation starter, and a fun photo project, all in one.

Tactile Art

Art projects can be more exciting when they tap into all five senses. Sarah Kephart, who teaches art at Envision Arts in Wichita, Kansas, specializes in these kinds of projects, called tactile art projects, working with people of all ages who are blind or visually impaired. Recently, she led her students through a photo project that uses homemade paint to add a tactile effect.

Here's how: To do this project, select and print photos that you can send to family and friends to show them how much you care. Then, choose photos from your Canon IVY that you can add on as stickers to embellish the larger photo. Using homemade paint (make paint using an equal ratio of water, flour and salt; mix together until smooth, add food coloring), take a cotton swab or small paint brush and add colorful borders or phrases, like “thank you,” “thinking of you,” etc. The paint will dry raised, adding a tactile dimension for the person receiving the work of art.

Summer means longer days, slower schedules and more time for fun, personal projects. With your Canon IVY and PIXMA printers, and a little inspiration from these inspirational art teachers, you can fill your downtime ― and your room ― with your own unique style and creative genius. When school starts again, you’ll be able to look back at the summer memories and smile.