My husband and I are really bad at the diaper bag thing. My son has sat through more than one restaurant dinner in some state of undress, including wearing nothing but a diaper at his cousin's birthday dinner, because we inevitably leave the house without adequate diapers, wipes or a change of clothes. Luckily he's old enough now that diaper blowouts are a rarity, however toddler-boredom-turned-general-naughtiness has taken hold where poop-up-the-back-of-your-shirt-and-seeping-down-your-pants-leg used to live.
After one too many dinners out during which I try and fail miserably to entertain the duckling with a dull butter knife and a packet of Splenda, I decided to get wise and create a quick and easy bag that could keep the little guy entertained long enough for me to enjoy a glass of wine. Then I got pregnant (see you in July, wine), but the need to keep our kid out of trouble persists....enter the magnetic activity bag!
Be forewarned, this little bag is addictive. I think I spent an hour creating messages out of two sets of alphabet magnets from the corner drugstore. I got a little carried away (you'll see), but if the duckling likes this thing half as much as I do, next time we go out to eat we may just have enough time for dessert.
You Will Need:
- a canvas tote bag (this link is for a single tote, available on our little Amazon shop, but if you've got the storage space, I recommend buying them in small bulk, like this set of four here. You can find fifty ways to use them all, and there's a better cost savings for a bundle.)
- gesso primer (I used Martha Stewart brand available at Michael's)
- magnetic paint (if you have spare magnetic spray paint on hand, like Krylon's version, you could try that too, you'd just have to do a better job covering the areas you don't want sprayed)
- two foam brushes
- masking tape (you could likely use painter's tape, too, I just happened to have masking tape on hand)
- scrap cardboard sized to fit inside your bag
1. Place your cardboard inside your bag to prevent any paint bleed. In truth I didn't have a problem with this, and the gesso primer should help, but better safe than sorry.
2. Tape off the area you want to paint with masking tape.
3. Using your foam brush, apply an even coat of gesso primer onto the bag. I used a pretty sturdy canvas, so I could get away with one coat, but you may need a second coat depending on your bag.
4. Once your primer is dry, prepare your magnetic paint. In truth, this was the hardest part of the whole process and is also the reason I mentioned in the supplies that you could theoretically also do this with spray paint. The instructions on the can said something to the effect of "stir well, as the magnetic ions tend to sink to the bottom". Maybe it's just semantics, but when you say something sinks to the bottom, I think of tapioca pearls in bubble tea or chunks of feta in a tossed salad. This was more "stir until you're grunting and cursing, as the magnetic ions create a swamp-like quicksand that's nearly impossible to penetrate". When I opened the can it looked like magnetic soup.
And after 20 minutes in my mother-in-law's garage with a heavy duty stirrer, it finally had the texture and consistency of a semi-melted magnetic milkshake. It's possible I just bought a really old can. Has anyone else encountered this before?
In the end it was worth the wait and elbow grease, as it then went on smoothly and quickly with my remaining foam brush.
5. The instructions said to wait 24 hours before applying a second coat, but since this wasn't going to be holding up anything more than letter magnets, I threw caution to the wind and applied the second coat about an hour later. Truth be told, the biggest motivator in speeding up the application of the second coat was that I was terrified of having to repeat my magnet milkshake churning efforts, even if I did go to college in a town known for churning butter. You try stirring quicksand with a baby belly the size of a basketball.
No matter how you do it, I do suggest at least two coats of magnetic paint. After the paint is dry, I just peeled off the masking tape and was done. Because this is a primer, you can apply a topcoat of a colored paint of your choosing, but I liked the dark grey, so I called it a day. I seriously think that this is one of the easiest projects I've ever done, and the finished product is well, a wee bit addicting...
I stitched up a pouch with a $1.50 fat quarter of abc themed fabric and printed out a few free alphabet activity books I wrote about here so that the bag is stocked with some "keep 'em quiet" activities for our next car ride or dinner outing. The best part is I can throw in a rotating cast of toys and magnets, like these animal magnets that we got our little man for Christmas, to keep it interesting. And as my guy's interests change to dinosaurs or dogs, I can supplement with new sets of magnets (I can already see Thomas the Tank Engine lurking on the horizon, and frankly, I'm frightened).
I'm sure I'll come across some other uses for the bag as we go along that I'll be sure to share. Do the same if you end up whipping up one of these bad boys.