It’s back to school season, and this year is special for our family because our five year old is starting Kindergarten! He’s been in daycare since he was two years old and graduated from Pre-K this past June, so I should be used to sending him off into the world. I’m not! Kindergarten feels different.
New York City public school enrollment is super competitive. We live on the Upper East Side in a third floor walk-up without a dishwasher or laundry in the building. It’s the sort of apartment in which every square inch of space must be used. While we’re not stashing shoes in the oven like the NYC apartment cliché, I do have multiple kitchen cabinets dedicated to my crafting supplies.
It’s close quarters for our family of three, but it works for us. What our apartment lacks in space, it makes up for in opportunity. We are “zoned” for Upper East Side public schools. Last spring, we submitted our list of about ten public elementary schools in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, hoping and praying that he would be accepted to our first choice school.
Our first choice school was highly ranked among public schools in the city, but the best part for us is it’s a two minute walk from our apartment! Having his school right down the block is such a convenience – we would no longer have to take the bus every morning like we were doing for his Pre-K further downtown.
Well, he got in to our first choice school! We couldn’t be more excited for him to start this new adventure in his life, and to meet other parents who live in our neighborhood that have children in his grade. I get a little teary-eyed when I think about dropping him off for his first day in September. Where has the time gone?
To honor back to school season, I had my five year old help me make a very simple, very inexpensive, very elementary-school-inspired wreath for the front door of our apartment. It’s a Popsicle Stick Wreath! Glued to a paper plate! You really can’t get any more “kids art project” than this.
I was able to make it with things I already had around the house. Because it’s such a low-maintenance craft, I don’t feel at all bad about throwing this out when we’re done with it, instead of storing it away. When you live in a 500 square foot apartment, there’s not much room for wreath storage.
We started off this project setting up our mason jars with water and food coloring. The food coloring part was the perfect job for my five year old. I had him count out 20 drops of coloring per jar as he squeezed the little food coloring bottles. We made six dye jars: red, yellow, green, blue, purple, and greenish-blue. The purple and greenish-blue jars were a good exercise in creating secondary colors from primary colors. There’s always teachable moments when you’re making things with kids!
While my son was counting out drops, I divided the 150 sticks into six piles. We placed the sticks in the jars to hang out and absorb the dye. Two of the jars we made – the purple and greenish-blue – ended up not being saturated enough to dye the sticks. I threw the purple sticks into the red jar and the greenish blue sticks into the blue jar just to hurry things along. We left the sticks in the dye for about three hours, but you could leave them for as little or as long as you’d like, depending on how saturated you want the coloring to be.
For the wreath ring, I took four paper plates and cut out the centers. I used four plates so the sticks would have enough stability, one paper plate seemed too flimsy. The four plates were secured together with masking tape.
Working from the outer ring in, I glued the semi-dried sticks using my hot glue gun. I definitely could have waited over night for the sticks to dry fully, but I’m impatient. Life’s too short to wait for Popsicle sticks to dry, right?
I glued a section of all red sticks, then a pattern of one yellow, one red, yellow, red and again a section of all yellow sticks. That way, the sticks have more of a softer, gradient effect. This is the pattern I used:R R R R R R R Y R Y R Y Y Y Y Y Y Y G Y G Y G G G G G G G B G B G B B B B B B B R B R B
In total, I created three layers of sticks so that the paper plates were completely hidden, and the wreath had a nice 3-D depth to it. I had a leftover yard of blue ribbon to use to hang the wreath. To secure the ribbon to the back of the wreath, I first hot glued it straight to the plate, and then used a strip of duct tape just in case.
What’s great about this technique is that the Popsicle sticks can be dyed whatever color you want. You could make an ombré wreath with varying saturation of one color. Or, you could paint the sticks – which I personally found too time consuming an idea for something as transient as a Popsicle stick wreath. But, by all means, knock yourself out! I also think the sticks would look nice with just their natural wood color, or you could purchase the pre-colored sticks and save yourself a step.
Working with the Popsicle sticks brought me back to my childhood, when I went to the summer day camp in my little suburban town in New Jersey. The mornings were spent making friendship bracelets and boondoggle keychains and playing Spud. During the arts-n-crafts segment of camp, we would make those Popsicle stick treasure boxes with the alternating Lincoln Log technique.
All cards on the table, I know this is a Popsicle stick wreath. It’s in the spirit of those same childhood crafts. This might not be a fancy craft. It’s not fine art, it doesn’t use expensive or unique materials. It’s the sort of craft that reminds you: creating is fun just for the sake of it.
Not all D-I-Y projects need to be a permanent fixture in your home. I think keeping that in mind takes the pressure off of making things, and instead allows decorating to be a fun, playful experience. I don’t like making my home a monument to itself, everything perfect and perfectly in its place and unchanging. Sometimes my home is getting ready for the first day of kindergarten, and a Popsicle Stick Wreath is all it really needs.
- 150 Popsicle Sticks
- Food Coloring
- Glass Jars
- 4 Paper Plates
- Masking Tape
- Hot Glue Gun
- Hot Glue Sticks
- Ribbon (length depends on how you are hanging the wreath)
- Duct Tape
- Fill jars with water, 20-30 drops of food coloring per jar in whatever color combination you prefer
- Separate Popsicle sticks into even groups and place in the food coloring/water jars
- Let soak for at least 1 hour (I let them sit for 3 hours)
- When the sticks have reached their desired saturation, let the sticks dry upright in cups or laying flat on paper towels
- Meanwhile, cut the centers out of 4 paper plates; secure the plates together with masking tape; I put masking tape at the 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 & 9:00 positions of the plates
- Starting with the outermost ring, glue the sticks using hot glue in whatever design or pattern you choose, for a total of 3 layers of sticks
- Turn the wreath over and secure the ribbon to the back of the wreath using hot glue and/or duct tape
- Hang your wreath and enjoy for as long as you can before the sticks start inevitably popping off one by one each time someone slams the door too forcefully – this is a Popsicle stick paper plate wreath after all!