Decorations for children's rooms shouldn't be too serious. Unlike us, they're still rapidly going through learning and expanding periods in their lives, and their various new interests are coming fast and furious, so it's difficult to tie them to one style, colour or pastime. Sure, if a child loves purple, try some purple drapes or a purple-striped feature wall. Or if their passion is robots, invest in a framed poster or a new set of bedding to celebrate that, but don't — as my in-laws did — wallpaper his room in racecar-themed paper he'll have to live with until he's 18.
A darling of the crafting world for several years now, washi tape is a simple, cheerful way to do something new in a child's room without investing a lot of time or money. With Spring Break on the horizon, and a few snowy weekends still to come before spring hits — you and your kids probably have spare time on your hands.
Washi tape is available in an unending array of inspiring colours and patterns — at turns, simple, sweet or quirky. “Wa shi” translates simply to “Japanese paper,” and the paper is made into tape with the addition of low-tack adhesive backing. Authentic washi tape is made with the bark from a handful of Japanese trees and is usually more expensive. Varieties made from other papers are readily available these days, usually with a lower price tag. Like masking tape, it can be removed and even reused without wrecking your paint job.
Lay out $20 or $30 at the craft store, and you'll have enough washi tape for several projects — with leftovers for rainy day kids' crafting, DIY birthday cards and more. I bought supplies for my projects at The Paper Place in Toronto, but washi is easy to find these days; try DeSerres, Michaels or Etsy. On top of several rolls of washi tape (including some from Japanese maker mt, the granddaddy of washi tape), I found a Masking Sticker Set by Wrapables, which came with 27 sheets of colourful, easy-to-use paper tape in strips and polka-dots.
My next decision? What to do with the washi. “Hang” an irreverent taped-to-the-wall picture gallery? A few playful neon stripes highlighting the architecture in the girls' rooms? A full-fledged wall mural? The Internet offers an endless supply of inspiration. Here are some of my favourites:
A basic gallery wall is perhaps the easiest starting point. Freeform galleries can be as loose as you want, though I usually like to use the principles H&H suggests for galleries of framed artwork: hang items a consistent distance apart, keep each work in line with at least one other one, and lay out your gallery on the floor and perfect it before mounting it on the wall. A grid of same-sized pics has graphic presence, while another fun take on the gallery involves creating a large “frame” with washi tape, and then mounting snapshots and images inside that, as you would on a bulletin board.
Get your feet wet for more creative applications with a starter project like a simple flower or tree — or a name tag.
Beyond simply decorative, projects like these let busy youngsters interact with the designs you — or they! — create. Bring the sidewalk inside in winter with a washi tape hopscotch game on the playroom or dining room floor. Or lay down a network of roads, and pull out all your Matchbox cars and toy trains for an afternoon of play. Add houses, and shops — and don't forget parking!
Similarly, craftier kids may want to build their own paper-and-tape village. (At age 5, my daughter Tessa happily passed several hours stuck in the car crafting three-dimensional roomscapes and furniture with just tape, coloured paper and scissors.)
Up for more of a challenge? Use washi tape to highlight architecture — or fake it where your room's bones are underwhelming. Use a level (we have a level app on our iPad) to ensure lines are perfectly vertical or horizontal.
Let's call this rainbow-striped wall treatment the Super Bowl of washi installations. The DIY for the bright, cheerful project certainly won't be a piece of cake (have your level on hand for this one!), but the show-stopping results are as bold as the most eye-catching wallpapers.
Feeling less mathematical and more artistic? Express your inner Picasso with a design like this cross-stitch-inspired bird. Plan your pattern on paper before starting work on the wall itself.
In the end, my 7-year-old, Tessa, and I carved out a quiet hour after her little sister went to bed to flex our artistic muscles and test-drive two easy starter projects. She did a bang-up job re-creating one of the ideas above — a bouquet of “door flowers”. I tried my hand at a simple gallery wall over 2-year-old Zoë's bed (she was bunking in Tessa's room), and I must admit that I'm not totally happy with the results. (One good pointer I came away with was to double up the tape strips to make my semitransparent washi tape look bolder.) But therein lies the beauty of washi tape: I can pull it all down and start again next weekend — no harm, no foul!
1. Katie Hayden
2. Heart Handmade UK
3. Jessica Antola
4. Hana & George
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7. Bonnier Media
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14-15. Katie Hayden