A Back-To-School Tradition + Kid-Friendly DIY

by Caitlin Kelch



My daughter, Viola, and I have had a love affair with polka dots since she was three and picked out her first self-styled bathing suit, complete with a few layers of ruffled red and white polka dots. Now that she’s 10, she’s been incorporating more black and greys into her personal color story, but the red and white polka dot is still a staple for her. As we get ready for back-to-school this year, we whipped out the materials for our annual B-T-S tradition. The Back Story: When I was young, my Mom always gave me a tiny houseplant when I headed back to school with a note about how she loved to watched me grow. The flip side of the note spelled out the basic care the plant required and I took very good care of it throughout the year. When summer rolled around, the tiny plant had grown into a lush, green kingdom with long vines hanging down from the macramé plant hanger next to my bed.

I love to share that special ritual with my daughter, so every year we work together to decoupage a small terra cotta pot with fabric and then fill it with a tiny Philodendron. Within a few weeks, we can see how the plant has already taken root in its container and dropped what will eventually become a long vine. Needless to say, our home is now filled with lots of hanging houseplants — each one marking a year in the life of Viola.


Whether you’re headed back to school yourself or turning over a new leaf after a summer of revelry, this simple DIY is a nice meditative activity to do by yourself or with a child. You’re able to get your hands sticky smoothing out the fabric over your pot, and dirty as you pot your plant. Even if you’re not crafty or a gardener, working your hands outside of a device or keyboard feels remarkably calming. And smoothing out wrinkles is an apt metaphor for the beginning of any new chapter in life. I hope if you have a child in your life, or are focusing on some new adventures you’d like to create for yourself, you’ll click through for the instructions and then head to store and grab the few things you need for this simple project. Here’s to growth throughout the year! —Caitlin

*This post is brought to you in collaboration with Waverly Inspirations. This project, ideas, and words are my own and I was thrilled to be able to share our family tradition with our readers. Thanks for supporting our sponsors that help us create & publish original content three times per day. The Waverly Inspirations collection is available at Walmart.


Viola asked to pick out some fabrics this year that she could use to do some book-covering and sewing projects with, too. As expected, she choose a black, white and red palette and some ribbon and craft paint for a few add-ons. Our selections came from the Waverly Inspirations line.

Here’s how we created this year’s back-to-school planter:



-Terra cotta pot
-Fabric (We used three prints from theWaverly Inspirations collection at Walmart)
-Craft Paint
-Mod Podge
-Small plant (We chose a Philodendron)


Step 1: With your large piece of fabric laid out flat, place your pot near the vertical edge of the fabric with an extra 2″ above and below the top and bottom of the pot. You’ll need this extra fabric to tuck in on the top and bottom. Roll the pot with the fabric until you have enough fabric to cover the pot horizontally, plus an extra 2″. Cut the fabric into the smaller piece that you will use to wrap the pot with.


Step 2: Lay your smaller piece of fabric flat and cover the outside of the pot with Mod Podge. Roll the pot so that the fabric sticks to the entire pot. Don’t stress if there are folds or lumps, but try to smooth them out as you go. Loosely tuck the extra fabric at the top of the pot into the pot if you find it gets in your way. Once the fabric is stuck to the pot, use your hands to smooth the wrinkles towards the seams where the two ends of the fabric meet.


Step 3: Your hands will be sticky from smoothing at this point, so if you’re a neatnik, feel free to wash your hands to handle your scissors. Trim the extra fabric at the top of the pot down to 1/2″ or so, then coat the inside and rim of the top of the pot with Mod Podge. Press the fabric down into the pot along the glue line. This will be covered with soil, so don’t stress about an even cut or ridges. Before you glue, you can cut “V” shapes around the edge of the fabric to eliminate the bulkier folds of fabric, if you’d like.



Step 4: Flip the pot over and coat the bottom with Modge Podge. If the fabric is covering the drainage hole, snip away the excess fabric and then press the fabric to the glued surface.



Step 5: Once the top and bottom are all tucked in, paint Mod Podge over the entire fabric-covered pot, including the inside top and the bottom. Smooth out any wrinkles and make adjustments before placing it aside for some drying time!


I have to say, if you’re making this project with a child of any age, it’s a great teachable moment for them to slow down and thoughtfully press out any fabric wrinkles. Because their hands are covered in sticky glue, it gives them (and you) a chance to really be aware of their hands and their movement in a way that’s very different from other creative pursuits.

Let the pot dry for one hour or until it’s dry to the touch. Then fill it with potting soil and your tiny plant. Watch it grow over the coming year and smile each time you look at it! My daughter and I always label the bottom of our pots with the date and year so we can see how much they grew during the school year.


I love the slightly shiny effect the Mod Podge has on bright fabric. It almost makes the fabric look like paper.


Viola decided she wanted to use some of the city buildings fabric for a pot she was making for a babysitter who’s headed off to college! She added some trim to her pots, too.


She loved the grey paint named “Elephant,” so she decided to add it to the rim of back and white print fabric pot. Viola said that touch makes it more modern. She opted for a double scallop on the rim of her city buildings pot. Endless possibilities!


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  • This is such a sweet tradition. I am getting teary-eyed. Thank you for posting. We’ll definitely be doing this.

    • Ah, thanks Katie :) My mom and I get teary-eyed when we see Viola potting up her plant too.

      Enjoy this!


  • This DIY is so clever! I’m going to have to try this one out with my little brother and sister and keep it in mind for school projects maybe! :)

  • Love this so much! My daughter will be starting kindergarten next year and I will definitely be keeping this in mind. Thanks for sharing.

  • Our kids are totally in love with polka dots. Polka dot this, polka dot that… Love this idea and funnily enough, I’ll be attempting this not only for our family but for some clients of ours too. Thank you!