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DIY stickers for summer kid fun

Now that June is here, it’s time to start planning summer kid fun! When you’re a parent, this may mean trips to Grandma’s, swimming lessons and t-ball. But let’s not forget that the beauty of summer is down-time. A good summer day can include playing in mud, reading a book and practicing shuffling cards. And although it’s good to let children find their own ideas of how to fill time and organize their day, sometimes it helps to have a few fun ideas to get their creative juices flowing. So let me share the story and design of my DIY stickers.

Manilla folder with aquatic stickers and a square bird sticker.

This sticker craft is something that I created out of my own boredom as a child, and I’ve never seen anyone else use this technique. Although there are arguably better and easier ways to create DIY stickers, this method has the advantage of incorporating some fine motor skills, developing a creative eye, and a lesson in patience. I’ll go ahead and share some other great DIY sticker methods as well in case your purpose is strictly stickers and not beating summer boredom.

And let me just say, I’m a great advocate of boredom! It seems like almost everything I’ve learned and all my skill sets were birthed here! So before you plan to overstimulate your children in an effort to avoid this little phrase, “I”m bored,” be sure to check out The Benefits of Boredom from Child Mind Institute.

The Back Story

One summer when I was about ten, I was pouring over some magazines gifted to me that I’d looked at a thousand times. There wasn’t a lot in these magazines that I wanted to keep, but there were a few nice pictures. So I cut them out.

And then I wondered what to do with them. Does anyone remember Trapper Keepers? I thought I could paste these pictures onto the cover and onto some of the notebooks and folders, but I had a little problem to overcome.

This was in the days before glue sticks. My options were Elmer’s school glue or rubber cement. And as much as I enjoyed the smell of rubber cement, I knew mom would prefer that I use the liquid glue. 

And if you’ve ever lived without a glue stick, you understand that using Elmer’s glue on paper usually results in puckers and bubbles with a picture that doesn’t lie flat and smooth.

What I really wanted was a sticker, a lick-and-stick sticker, like an envelope seal. That would lay straight and smooth. And I wondered to myself, how could I make my pictures into stickers?

Well, every good science experiment starts with such a question! And for some reason, I stumbled upon a very simple solution. I merely smeared Elmer’s glue to the back side of my pictures, stuck them onto plastic wrap and waited for them to dry. When my pictures were finished, I could trim away any fringes of dried glue, lick them and stick them wherever I wanted!

The Lick-and-Stick DIY Sticker Method

Book is open to a page with a picture cut from it and lying beside a pair of scissors. Other books are shown beside.

Materials

To make these stickers with your kids, find some small pictures that they can cut out. I used some children’s books and cookbooks I found at a garage sale for 25 cents each. This is a great way to reuse books that are torn or tired. Don’t be afraid to let your kids use scissors because this is a great fine motor skill they should be practicing.

I don’t suggest printing your own pictures because the printer ink won’t hold up to the glue.

And be sure your kids know that this doesn’t mean all books are now candidates for cutting! I recommend this craft for children that are old enough to understand this!

Plastic wrap with drying stickers on it. Stickers are curling up at the edges.

Lay out a surface to hold the DIY stickers as they will dry. I used plastic wrap as a child, but more recently I’ve also tested wax paper and silicone mats. Silicone mats are my favorite option! Wax paper doesn’t work well at all. If you use plastic wrap, the pictures will curl up while they’re drying, but flatten just fine when you lick and stick them. Silicone mats are heavy enough to prevent the curl.

Cut and glued stickers lying on a silicone mat.

Cutting and Pasting

Of course, the first step is to cut out the pictures you like! I suggest small pictures, but my helpers wanted to make a few large stickers as well. Before you cut a book page, be sure to the check the back side to make sure you don’t cut apart an image that you like better. Play around and decide whether you prefer to cut right to the edge of the picture or leave a little white surrounding it.

Next, add a drop of glue to the back of your sticker. Smear the glue thin with your finger. Lift it carefully and place it, glue side down, onto your drying surface. Each of these steps is more fine motor practice.

child's hand holding glue above sticker back.
Child's finger smearing glue on the back of sticker with her finger.

(It doesn’t take a lot of glue, but more than what is pictured here.)

Now you wait patiently for the glue to dry! On plastic wrap you can peek underneath to see how the process is going. Once all the white changes to opaque, your stickers are done. They should be ready within an hour or two.

Savor that moment of satisfaction as you peel the stickers from your drying surface. And don’t forget that joyful gratification that you are now sharing with your kids as you peel dried glue from your fingertips! Every child should experience that, and it doesn’t happen with glue sticks.

If there is any dried glue that extends past the edges of the sticker, you can trim that off now.

a hand drawn picture of a girl made into a sticker.

And one of my helpers created her own drawing and made that a sticker as well!

And then the kids are free to lick and apply the stickers wherever you will allow. 

You can either store unused stickers directly on the drying sheets (particularly if you used plastic wrap) or peel them off and store them in a container or envelope.

Now with a post-pandemic mindset, you may be hesitant to have your child licking paper that other people have touched. Elmer’s glue is non-toxic, and I wouldn’t have reservations having children lick these stickers since most germs die quickly on surfaces. Book Riot suggests the best method is just quarantining your books for 24-48 hours. Or you may just prefer to use a different sticker method.

Print your own stickers with Avery

For more summer kid fun, consider designing printable sticker labels. Avery stickers are widely available for purchase in stores and online. Avery’s website is easy to use and has many design options available. Rather than print at home, you can also choose to design online and order directly from Avery. You can see more about how to use their site in my post Make Your Own Return Address Labels with Avery.com.

Envelopes with two Avery return address label designs

At Avery.com you can also upload your own images which gives you the opportunity to make children’s artwork into stickers. When you choose the option to “Start Designing”, you are given the opportunity to “Create” or “Upload” an image. Simply upload a digital image of saved artwork and you’ll be ready to go. When you choose “Create”, you are given the choice between creating an image from scratch using shapes, text, and images, selecting a stored Avery image, or using one of your previously saved images.

This method would be great for older children who want to play with graphic design! And would be a great way to add some inspirational and motivational words to your life in sticker form. Add these to mirrors, phones, books and notebooks for daily encouragement.

Printer paper

Besides the Avery stickers and labels that are already shaped, plain sticker paper is also available. The backing on these is harder for little fingers to peel away, but it could allow for some freeform designs. This sticker paper is not cheap and so you may want to use it sparingly, with little designs.

DIY Stickers to color

Check out these great images to color from MomJunction!

Black and white circular geometric design partially colored in.

These are free for personal use, and would be great to use as sticker designs that you can color! I had fun testing this idea myself!

I printed these on Avery 2″ round labels.


With all of these design options, I’m sure you will find one to add summer kid fun to your home. Many of these would work great for older children to do with younger siblings as well! The DIY sticker designs can work well for independent or group crafting. When it’s too hot to play outside, I hope you’ll have fun with these ideas for DIY sticker making.

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