I have an amazing opportunity this year to go volunteering in South Africa on an Orphan Day Care and Community Support project. One of the things that I will be doing is working with young children who only have access to education thanks to volunteering projects like this and so I wanted to use my creativity to make something that would be multipurpose as practical, educational and fun and so I designed this great backpack to take with me.
Practical use - It is a backpack that I can fill with toys, art & craft materials and many other things that can be used by the children when I am with them on project. There is even a handy pocket for extra storage!
Educational - I have designed the outside of the backpack with all key elements of a basic education for young children covering numbers, shapes, letters and colour. So I can use this an educational tool!
Fun - I have designed a way the children can get involved with the backpack to but more on this later...
You need very few things to create one yourself but the most important thing is creativity! Materials wise this is all you need (see picture):
1 white backpack - drawstring bags similar to those used for swimming (this gives a good base to design on and is also lightweight when on volunteering project)
1 old t-shirt - this is for the fabric to create the pocket any t-shirt will do but I think the brighter the better
1 pack of Acrylic paint pens - these can be found in most arts and crafts stores and are great for painting on fabric, again I chose bold primary colours.
1 piece of cardboard - to prevent paint leaking through fabric
Paper and pencil - to design and practice your drawings
Sewing kit and scissors - Ensure it includes a darning needle and lots of colourful threads
Step 1: Pocket Making
The first step is to make your pocket and stitch it onto the backpack.
I chose a bright coloured t-shirt that already had some zip detail on the fabric just to make the backpack that bit more interesting.
Cut a square out of the t-shirt that is big enough to hold pens etc once made into a pocket, dont worry about the edges being too neat as this can be done afterwards.
Once the square is cut I folded over the rough edges on to what would be the inside of the pocket and sewed them down by hand with a few straight stitches along all sides. This then gives the pocket neater edges when sewn on to the backpack.
Next line up your pocket with where you want it on the backpack. I decided to have mine folding over on to the back slightly as this provided a small pocket on the back for items such as a ruler.
Use a thick darning needle and cotton thread to sew 3 edges of the pocket to the backpack. A darning needle is required to get through the thick material. I decided to do big straight stitches in different colours on each side of the pocket just to follow the bright colourful theme.
Once the 3 edges are sewn down properly you should have a very useful pocket for storing pens etc.
Step 2: Educational and Fun - Back of Backpack
Next I decided to make the back of the backpack educational and fun.
I used a pencil to sketch out the letters of the alphabet and added a few fun characters around the outside of these.
I chose to draw some African inspired animals as this was were I was travelling and the children would recognise them easily.
Once sketched in pencil and happy with the layout, I put some cardboard into the bag (to prevent leakage through to the other side) and I went round all the outlines using the black acrylic paint pen. These are really easy to use and just need to be shaken well then use the pump action to draw the paint to the nib before using on the fabric.
I decided I would leave this just purely as outlines as the fun part for the children would be the fact that I would be taking paint pens with me and they can then colour in the letters and animals however they chose! This would be a great way for them to have fun and also means that I would have a fantastic reminder of all the wonderful children when I leave.
Step 3: Education and More Colour - Front of Backpack
For the front of the backpack I decided to design some fun ways to teach shapes and numbers.
Firstly i sketched out an elephant made completely of different shapes. Then using the black and white paint pens I shaded my elephant in being sure to keep the shapes clear. Make sure you work fast with the shading as the pens do dry quickly. I also added the basic shape drawings around the elephant to pin point out what each shape is.
Next I drew a colourful green snake and again used the paint pens to bring the character alive doing shading, I called this character the number snake as I put the numbers 1 to 10 throughout its body.
Finally I just put some colourful headings on each area to show the purpose of the animal.
This will dry very quickly and you will be left with a colourful, educational and useful backpack to use on any teaching/children based volunteering project. Please note these are only my ideas but let your imagination run wild (excuse the punn) and I am sure you can come up with many creative ways to decorate your own :-)