Do you love the farmers market as much as I do? If so, you are going to adore this fun afternoon stamping project. You can use vegetables (or fruits) you probably already have around the house to make companion totes that you and your favorite little veg-lover can take anywhere. Guaranteed to provoke lots of “ooh’s,” “ahhh’s,” and “aww’s” from other local shoppers.
Kids have a ball seeing how different vegetables look stamped, laying out their own pattern, and picking out colors, and it’s a wonderful introduction to basic kitchen skills. We even have a couple of printable templates for stencils if you want to get clever with words as we did. My friend’s daughter Asa came over to make her own tote and we had the best time experimenting with our stamps – she is incredibly proud of her special handmade market tote, and couldn’t wait to take it out for a “test run” last night!
To make your own vegetable-stamped DIY farmers market tote you’ll need:
Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains a few Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*
- 1 or 2 (or more!) tote bags – I like these for the adult-sized heavier totes
- Assorted vegetables or fruits for stamping – these are our favorites for stamping:
- Green Beans or Snow Peas
- Baby Artichokes
- Lemons or Limes
- Fabric paints in assorted colors (we used this brand for bright, machine-washable colors)
- A foam brush and/or assorted paint brushes
- Our farmers market tote free stencil templates
- (1) or (2) sheets of 8.5 x 11 heavy cardstock to print templates on
- An X-Acto knife to cut out template designs
Before you start, make sure you have washed and ironed your tote bags – it will make stamping or painting in the templates so much easier.
To prep, smock up (hands get messy) lay out some scrap paper for test printing + towels for cleanup and cut a few vegetables in half lengthwise. We squeezed a little of each of our paints on their own plastic container or lid (the kind you get from a deli, etc. work really well) and laid out a few foam brushes and regular paint brushes.
Vegetable-Stamped DIY Farmers Market Tote Instructions:
- Wash and cut vegetables in half
We thought carrots, radishes, artichokes, and green beans would give us a fun variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. After the fact, I kind of wished we had used baby artichokes (the larger ones were hard to stamp) but we had a ton of fun experimenting anyway! Lemons, oranges, and strawberries work out well too!
- Brush with paint and practice stamping on newsprint
We did some practice stamping on pieces of newsprint and liked them so much we decided to do more on drawing paper!
The vegetable stamping alone could definitely be its own activity – like this variation with paper and ink from the Chicago Botanic Garden.
- Lay out a pattern on your tote with the cut vegetables
You don’t have to do this, but we decided it would be helpful to play around with the cut vegetables and layout our final design (perfectionist in the house…).
- Begin stamping on your tote
We used a foam brush to brush paint directly onto our stamps, but you can also put your paint in a dish and dip if it’s easier. Once you have your stamp face down on the canvas, gently push it down from top to bottom to make sure it has completely stamped. Once you have the hang of it, stamp away!
- Let dry for 30 minutes then add details
Once you’ve made your pattern, let it dry for about 30 minutes, then you can go back and add some decoration if you’d like. We wanted to keep it simple but thought it would be fun to add some little cut stems for color.
Using a small paintbrush, we just dipped into the fabric paint and brushed some on.
- OPTIONAL: Stamp or stencil the other side
Asa really wanted to have both sides decorated, so we waited about an hour (the fabric paint actually soaks in and sets fairly quickly) then we flipped the bag over and prepared our stencil. If you want to do the same, you can download the templates below (or make your own!).
Using an X-Acto knife, I cut out the design, then we VERY carefully painted in the stencil with a brush. When trying to stencil with fabric paint, it worked best to tape the stencil down with thick tape and blot your foam or paintbrush often as you’re working (so the paint doesn’t build up and squish under the stencil). After our stencil paint had set, we stamped some more vegetables to fill in.
Before you use these, make sure you thoroughly let the paint dry – we did a little finger-dry test to see if she could safely carry it around last night and, amazingly, our paints were set and dry within a few hours.
This is so dependent on the type of tote you use and paints you have though. The best thing to do is to consult the directions on the fabric paints for appropriate drying times (typically 24 hours is a good amount of time to let fabric paint dry in my experience). To be safe, wait at least another 48-72 hours to wash them – and if you can’t handwash, turn your tote inside out, wash on gentle and let air dry.
Ways to use your veggie-stamped totes for learning and play
- LEARN MORE ABOUT FOOD. Colors, types of fruits and vegetables, plant parts…there’s so much to learn about the food and produce we eat (and stamp with)! I found an amazing resource in this Farmers Market Educators Guide from Storey that I keep as a reference for informative food lessons and kitchen work.
- USE YOUR TOTES FOR DRAMATIC PLAY. We’ve found our set of totes is the perfect accessory for farmers market dramatic play. We regularly set out our DIY cardboard market food in small crates, cartons, and baskets, then open up shop for grocery play. Making lists, adding quantities, counting money – there are a lot of good lessons packed in this fun play setup!
- TAKE IT SHOPPING! Beyond the DIY, this activity was a fun way to get kids excited about hitting up the farmers market to pick out their favorite fresh produce – so take it out for a spin to the real thing. And this list of ways to make the farmers market fun for kids (via ECOlunchbox) is the perfect prep for actual visits.
Looking for another fun project for budding foodies? Keep the summer-food-themed art party going with a cardboard design-your-own food truck project! If your kiddo preferred the stamping element of this activity, try these scrap stamp shape collages!
*A note about Amazon affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Amazon. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click-through to make a purchase, we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!