Simple Stencils

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Tree Stencils
Total Time 1 hour Ages preschooler

Children's bedrooms present a unique decorating challenge. On the one hand, kids are brimming with ardent fascinations; on the other, these ardent fascinations can be somewhat fleeting (remember Smurfs?), and you may balk at the idea of decking out an entire room with what may well be the theme of the moment. So how do you acknowledge your kids' passions and express their individuality without breaking the bank or committing to a decade of, say, the Tazmanian Devil? Why, stencils, of course.

What you'll need

  • Manila Folders
  • Paper Plates
  • Plastic Report Covers
  • Scissors
  • paint
Helpful Tip:

Basic shapes make the best stencils. Some themes we like:
Dinosaurs (such as this diplodocus)
The beach: fish, shells, sun, clouds
Insects: dragonflies, butterflies, ladybugs, inchworms
Cars and trucks and things that go


Stenciling allows you to reproduce a beloved image around an entire room on walls, furniture, and accessories plus, it's cheap, quick, and offers thrilling results, even for art-shy novices. Talentwise, the ideas below require, at most, the freehand sketching of a leaf. By and large, they rely on photocopying, tracing, and sheer simplicity. From a star-studded lamp to a wall crawling with snails to an inviting, shady tree, our projects introduce you to a range of ideas and materials that can be easily adapted to suit your own children's tastes and interests. Best of all, when those interests change, you can just start over with a new set of stencils.

How to make it

  1. Keep it cheap. Plastic report covers, manila folders, and masking tape often work as well as more expensive specialty materials, as do acrylic craft paints or latex wall paints.

  2. Keep it simple. Start with a stencil shape that's no more intricate than a cookie cutter. Remember, straight lines are easier to cut than curves.

  3. Keep it dry. Pour some paint on a paper plate, coat your stencil brush (available at craft stores), then blot it on a dry area of the plate. Use a "pouncing" motion to dab paint onto the wall (brushing could cause seepage). Work from the outside of the stencil in.

  4. Keep it clean. Wipe any paint from the underside of the stencil before you reposition it. To ensure good wall contact (and fewer leaks), use masking tape to firmly affix the stencil in place

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