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Let Them Use Tape: Easy Art Projects for Kids

My new favorite supply to buy for the art classroom is tape. I don't know why it took me so long to realize the importance of tape in the art classroom, but here I am 14 years in and I've discovered that it is one of the most essential art supplies.

gift wrapping tape
One of my rolls of tape from a recent bulk tape order.

It started last school year when I provided my grade 3 to 5 students with a bin of recycled materials that they could use to build and create artworks during their free art time. This was a lot of fun for them, but the question I got time and again was "Where's the tape?" I had a limited supply and would only allow the tape out of it's hiding place for a little bit of each day. I was afraid I would run out of tape before the year was over! The tape would often have to be put in "time out" if there were an overly aggressive tape user in class that day.

When the tape was available to them, it allowed kids to be extremely creative with their artwork. Glue skills are important for kids to learn, but sometimes tape is a little easier to use. Anyway, lesson learned for me - buy more tape! I already have plenty on order for my upcoming school year and I keep a lot in my house for my own kids and for my art camps and other art events in the area. My advice: next time you're at the grocery store, buy a little extra tape. And then anytime you have a rainy day, a kid home sick, or you've had enough of the screen time, you hand them the tape and see what happens.

Here are a few types of tape along with some easy art projects for kids you can do at home.

Masking Tape Sculptures aka Just Tape Stuff Together

Masking Tape Sculptures are exactly what they sound like. Three-dimensional artworks made out of only masking tape or using masking tape a few other found materials. Kids can roll, bunch, and layer the tape to make a 3D item out of tape. If they want to incorporate other materials into their sculpture that is even better! Try crafting with aluminum foil, cardboard boxes, or other materials that may otherwise end up in the recycling bin.

art supplies and kids making art
Can you spy the tape in the sea of recycled art supplies?

Tape Paintings

Masking Tape Resist Paintings involve a piece of thick paper or canvas, masking tape, and your choice of paint. If painting on canvas, you'll want to use tempera paint (or acrylic for older kids and adults). If painting on thick paper, you can use watercolor or tempera paint. Have the kids tape their design and then paint over it. When it dries, they can pull up the tape. The tape resists the paint and will be left the color of the paper or canvas. Check out this tape resist how-to for younger kids.

canvas kid paintings
Kids touching up tape resists paintings on canvas in my after school class.

Clear Tape Image Transfer

Using clear packing tape or gift wrapping tape and a photocopy of an image (must be photocopy or laser print - ink jet won't work), kids can transfer images from paper to tape. Then they can use that to decorate collages, paintings, notebooks, etc. Tinker Lab explains the process and materials really well. Check it out!

Double Sided Tape Art Gallery

Have your kids mount their artworks to colorful pieces of paper using double sided tape. Ask them to add a label for each artwork which should include the artist name, the artwork title, and a list of materials used. Then, if you are comfortable, they can tape the art to the walls. If you aren't comfortable with stuff taped to your walls, they can lay out their art gallery on the floor. When you visit the gallery, make sure you ask them some questions about their art. Suggested questions include:

  • What were you thinking or feeling when you made this?

  • What made you use that color in that spot?

  • This artwork makes me feel ____________ - how does it make you feel?

  • What is the story behind this artwork?

Presentation of student artwork is one of the core skills we teach in the public school art classroom, so practicing at home is always a good thing. And it relates to other areas of academic life when they have to make visual displays for science, writing, or math. It's also great for them to practice writing and speaking about their artwork. And it all starts with tape. Thank you tape!

Check out this article including questions you can ask kids about their art.

child's artwork with colorful paper and pom pom frame
An artwork my child made in their art class at school. Mounted with tape to colorful paper. Not pictured is the label with the title, artist name, and materials.

Duck Tape Fashion Item

I used to teach fashion illustration to adults and once a year we would have a fashion design challenge where students would have to make a garment using abnormal materials. One of the coolest designs was a dress made almost entirely out of duct tape. Duct tape comes in so many colors and patterns - you can give a few rolls to kids and challenge them to make a fashion item.

This is a very cool tutorial for making a duct tape bag. It involves some steps with an x-acto blade, so it is for older kids or for young kids with adult supervision. The end result is very fun!

red duct tape dress
The duct tape red dress from my years of teaching in a fashion program.

Washi Tape Collage

Give your kids a pile of construction paper, old magazines, scissors, glue, and washi tape, so they can create a washi tape collage. Washi tape is a decorative tape used in art and design work as well as scrapbooking projects. Kids can use it to add color, pattern, and texture to their collages, drawings, and paintings. This tape is lightweight and usually no more than one inch thick. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns. It's not great for holding things together, but it is fun for jazzing up two-dimensional designs like in this workshop from Tinkerlab.

washi tape
A selection of washi tape from my studio.

Tape is a simple and relatively cheap art supply that is easy for you to have on hand in your house. You will be delighted by what your kids create. And I think you will enjoy the hours of quiet time it can often provide. It is a great material for kids of all ages and even adults. Check out the links provided in this post or do some internet searching on your own. You will find lots of great tutorials and workshops to inspire you and your kids. When in doubt, hand them the tape!

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