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Every year we proudly place our neatly packaged up children in front of our homes or schools, to memorialize their first and last days of school. This usually ends up in a mad-rush internet image search for a suitable sign they can hold in their hands.

Now you can create your own adorable sign, to use year after year with a cute apple icon for first and last days, as well as a theme-appropriate chalkboard to change out the grades.

Your DIY Art kit will contain:

  • 1 base with engraved lines

  • raised 3D wood text

  • 2 apples with raised wood 'first' and 'last'

  • your child's name in raised wood or for a multi-child family, you can opt to have the individual names replaced with 'my'

  • self-adhesive magnets

Glue is not generally included, because it dries out too fast in small quantities. Please use one of the following glues, which I have found to work really well:

  • Aleene's Turbo Tacky Glue

  • Aleene's Tacky Glue

  • Elmer's All-Purpose Glue

They are available at craft stores and many super markets.

I like these because they dry clear and fast. You can also use superglue, but avoid silicone, hot or wood glue.

From home you will need:

  • paints

  • reusable sponge brushes

  • sponge wedges

  • paper plates

  • paper roll

  • masking tape (optional)

1. Paint the base

Using the sponge brush, smooth white paint over the surface in even long strokes, without overloading the brush.


Repeat if desired.

To enhance the engraved lines, use a nail/ toothpick/ scissor blade/ cutting knife to scrape the paint out of the grooves.

2. Lettering, chalkboard & apples

Before painting, attach all the small letters and pieces onto the up-turned sticky side of the masking tape. This will allow them to stay in place while you paint them and will avoid you getting too much paint on your fingers.

You will literally need about a pea-size of paint to create the colors on this project. A little goes a really long way!

You can paint the letters all black, monotone or in any colors you choose.

Use a sponge wedge to dab paint onto the letters carefully, so that excess paint does not run into the spaces or over the edges. Less is more!

For rainbow colors, you can use the same wedge for all the warm colors and a different one for cool colors. This allows colors to blend into each other a little and give a more coherent rainbow effect.

Don't be shy to mix your own shades. Just a few of infinite possibilities:

red + yellow = orange

yellow + blue = green

red + blue = purple

red + white = pink

yellow + pink = apricot

white + black = grey

Depending on the quantity of each color you add, your shades will vary widely.

For large areas, use the sponge brush and for smaller areas, use the wedges or fine paint brushes.

Apply paint sparingly, using more than one coat where necessary.

Add a hint of white to colors for highlights or black for shading.

Dry fully.

For more further painting techniques, with detailed video and photo content, please see this post.

NOTE: you can also color in the letters with crayons or markers!

3. Glue

Space out your fully dried letters on your board.

Using a tiny amount of glue, attach all our letters to the board. If your glue comes out thick, warm it up in a jug of hot water to make it flow better, or use a sponge wedge to dab glue onto the backs of the letters.

The glue suggestions in the supply list above will all dry clear and fast. Still, use glue sparingly, to prevent it spreading out behind your carefully painted pieces.

Assemble the layers of your icons and allow to dry.

5. Magnets

* IMPORTANT: do not leave these magnets unattended around animals and children. They pose a severe health threat if swallowed. Once applied, the permanent adhesive will render them safe, as they will need considerable force and dexterity to be removed.

Before applying the magnets, please note that magnets have poles. Their directionality is important, otherwise they will not work.

See this instructional clip from a similar project for applying magnets or read on:

Tips to applying magnets to the back of apples:

  1. Attach 1 square magnet to the center of your base board by peeling away the sticker backing and pressing it into place.

  2. place the single magnet, face down on top of the base magnet. This is very important. Play with directionality. One direction will click into place, whereas a 90 degree twist will counteract the magnetic field and your piece will not stick! Once you can feel the pull, you know you have the right orientation.

  3. remove sticky backing.

  4. place the apple on top of the sticky magnet, centered on the base. Press to transfer magnet to back of apple.

  5. flip it over to check and press into place with our fingers. It should now be in the best place to allow your apple to be centered.

Raise the sign, and if you attached the magnets correctly, the icon will stay in place.

If the icon slips off, you will need to pry it off the icon and rotate it by exactly 90 degrees!

6. Chalkboard:

Before first use, season the chalkboard or your first word will always be visibly imprinted on it.

Rub chalk all over the black board.

Wipe it off.

Now it is ready for writing.

7. Optional: Varnish

Spray a clear varnish onto your base and apples, to protect them from tarnishing over time. A shiny gloss will be easier to keep clean than a matte version. Do not spray the chalkboard though!

Products I have used and like are any Mod Podge brush or spray on products or Krylon Kamar varnish. Whichever one you choose, make sure it is 'non-yellowing', otherwise your perfectly painted white background will start to yellow over time.

8. Enjoy!

Use proudly at the start and and of every year with all your kids!

Thank you for joining me. I hope you enjoyed this art experience. I'd love to hear from you or see photos of your completed project. Feel free to email me if you have questions and share your art with tag @threeandme on social media.

Until next time,

Claire Houlding


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