Sponge Painted Gift Bags for Parents

I really get into Christmas! I love the decorations, the music, the feelings of goodwill. Most importantly, I love the activities we do in the classroom around this time of year.

One of my favorite things to do is to have my students make a present for their moms, dads, or guardians. We make ornaments and sock snowmen, and when we’re done, we wrap them in these really cute sponge-painted gift bags.

Here’s how we do it:

1. Cut Kitchen Sponges into Shapes

I like to use circles for snowflakes or snow, but they are also cute stacked up to make a snowman. First, I cut three different circle sizes so the snowman could be tiny and cute or big and tall. I also cut stars and pine trees of several different sizes.

One thing I like about this combination is that it works well for kids who may celebrate holidays other than Christmas, and the combination makes a sweet forest scene.

Before using the sponges, make sure to run them under the faucet to get them wet and then wring them out thoroughly before sponge painting.


2. Gather Tempera Paint and Paper Plates

I use yellow, white, and green for this. I pour a blob in the center of a paper plate and show students how to push the sponges into the paint and then dab…dab…dab… to get most of the paint off.

We talk about being careful not to get the colors mixed (green stars are not so pretty), and we talk about how sponge painting should have tiny holes. That’s part of its charm.

Here’s how they look after sponge painting but before decorating:


3. Time to Sponge Paint the Brown Bags

I get the whole class started making cards for their parents/guardians (we do pop-up cards). After explaining the sponge painting, I call students back to our table about six at a time.

Before students start to paint, I make sure to put their names on the bottom of the bag (just to be safe that this isn’t missed). Then they sponge paint the front only.


4. Time to Decorate

Once the bags have dried (which takes only a few hours), the kids add details using markers. They might add a hat, scarf, buttons, and face to the snowmen or add decorations to their trees.


5. Finishing It Up

When the parent/guardian gifts are done, I have students wrap them in a sheet of tissue paper (I shop after-Christmas sales and get these the year before, so they’re super cheap) and put them inside the bag.

We fold the top down once, towards the back, and then hole punch the top of the bag, about an inch and a half apart near the center.

Students thread curling ribbon through the holes, tie a knot, and either curl it themselves or, for about 90% of them, I curl the ribbon for them (no biggie as this takes just a second to do).

We tape the cards to the back, and away they go home in backpacks, the day before our holiday party.

I really enjoy doing these gift bags and hope you enjoy them too.


With the holidays almost here, I thought I might suggest some ready-to-go resources for you…

Need some print and digital ELA materials for Christmas? This one is lots of fun, with topics your kids will love but academic at the same time! It hits key reading strategies, has poems and writing activities, and also comes with two sets of 32 task cards:

Christmas Literacy Set


I also love this Holidays Around the World for Older Kids.

It has comprehension passages with 21 different countries (Christmas as well as Diwali, Hanukkah, St. Lucia’s, Ramadan, New Year’s, Passover, and Kwanzaa), activities, and a trifold mini-research project. I love that it combines literacy with map skills to keep students busy learning in a fun way during the crazy days of December:

Holidays Around the World for Upper Elementary


FREE Holidays Around the World Italy Unit

Lastly, here’s a FREEBIE. It’s a Holidays Around the World: Italy mini-unit. Try it and see what you think!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all who celebrate!

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The Teacher Next Door - Creating upper elementary resources that target standards for busy teachers

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