How to Paint Fabric T-shirts for a Child's Party

by Molly Thompson, Demand Media
    Little artists will enjoy creating their own T-shirt design.

    Little artists will enjoy creating their own T-shirt design.

    Don't stress about competing with the neighborhood super-mom over goody bags and activities for your child's party. Instead, let the kids paint their own T-shirts -- this provides an engaging activity for the kids to do during the party and gives each one a personalized souvenir of the party to take home afterward. Sure, it can be messy -- but that puts it high up on the entertainment scale for most preschoolers.

    Items you will need

    • Solid-color kids' T-shirts
    • Quick-drying fabric paint
    • Shallow dishes
    • Clean kitchen sponges
    • Scissors

    Step 1

    Wash the T-shirts in cold water and mild detergent. Dry them at medium temperature until they are completely dry, but do not use fabric softener, since this can affect how fabric paint adheres to the shirts.

    Step 2

    Keep the party room from ending up looking like a Jackson Pollock painting by covering the table or work area where the kids will be painting with a plastic tablecloth or old newspaper. Give each child at the party an old adult T-shirt or art smock to put on to protect her clothing. Want a quick, disposable alternative? Cut a neck hole and armholes in large plastic trash bags and let each kid wear one while painting.

    Step 3

    Pour fabric paint into the dishes, using a separate one for each color. Pour enough to cover the inside bottom of the dish. Unless you want paint everywhere, don't let the kids do this step -- do it yourself!

    Step 4

    Let the kids pick out a simple shape or design and help them cut the sponge into that shape. Or make it easier on yourself by cutting the shapes in advance, maybe to match the party's theme -- fish and starfish for an ocean theme, flowers and crowns for a princess party or trucks and planes to go with a transportation theme, for example. If you missed the arts and crafts gene in your family, buy pre-cut foam or sponge shapes at the local hobby store.

    Step 5

    Give each child a T-shirt and help her spread it out flat on the work surface. Show the kids how to dip the flat side of the sponge in one of the paint colors, then carefully press it onto the shirt to make their designs. Let them do several sponge stamps each to add more color to their shirts. Alternatively, let each party guest put her hand into a paint dish, then press it onto the T-shirt to make hand print designs. You might have to remind the kids more than once to keep their sponge prints and messy hands off your walls and each other, since the temptation to decorate fellow party guests might be a big one at this age.

    Step 6

    Help the kids wash their hands and set the painted T-shirts aside to dry while the kids enjoy the rest of the party.

    Tip

    • Ask a couple neighborhood teens or a few of the party guests' parents to come to the party to help the little ones with this activity.

    Warning

    • Don't allow the kids to stamp or paint their names onto their shirts, since this makes it easier for child predators to identify a child and pretend to know them.

    About the Author

    Molly Thompson has been writing for classified U.S. government presentations and publications since 1980. She holds B.A. degrees in psychology and political science from Wellesley College, as well as an M.A. in Russian area studies from Georgetown University. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis/research company and is also a professional genealogist.

    Photo Credits

    • Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images