Going back to school can be an exiting time for both parents and their children. It is a time of change, reflection and anticipation. Get your children ready for the new school year by turning ordinary school supplies into something creative and unique. Many of these items also make thoughtful gifts for a new teacher.
Most kids carry backpacks to school every day. Help them decorate and customize their packs with some simple craft ideas.
Kids love backpack tags, and they'll love showing off their own personalized designs.
- Shrinkable plastic craft medium (such as Shrinky Dinks)
- Markers, colored pencils, and rubber stamps
- Other embellishments
- Hole punch
- Key ring or lanyard hook
- Prepare plastic according to package directions (some brands require sanding before decorating).
- Cut out a shape you like, such as a tag, an apple, a star, or a circle. Remember that the piece is going to get about one-third smaller in the oven, so keep your piece bigger than you'd want it to turn out.
- Have the child write his or her name on the tag, or write it for them if you have very small children.
- Let your child to decorate the tag with markers, colored pencils, rubber stamps, stick-on jewels, and other fun embellishments.
- Use a hole punch to make a hole in one end of the tag. The hole will shrink too, so make it bigger than you have in mind.
- Bake the tag according to package directions.
- Use a key ring or lanyard hook to attach the tag to a zipper pull or the fabric hook on the backpack.
You can also tie these tags onto zipper pulls using ribbon or string, or consider sewing them directly onto the backpack using a needle and thread through the prepared hole in the tag.
Decorate a Backpack
Choosing the perfect backpack is an important part of back to school preparations for many children. Instead of picking out a pre-decorated backpack, consider having your child use fabric paint to embellish a plain one. They can personalize it by writing their names, adding a quote or slogan to show support for a favorite sports team or using a stencil to create a design.
- Fabric backpack without a pattern
- Fabric paint
- Brushes and other applicators
- Lay the backpack down on a flat surface
- Lay a stencil down on the backpack and use tape or pins to hold it in place
- Apply paint with a brush or applicator
- Add other painted embellishments such as the child's name or a simple design
- Allow the bag to dry
Show your appreciation for a special teacher by creating a useful and decorative gift.
Decorating a series of note cards that she can use throughout the school year is a thoughtful and useful gift.
- Blank note cards and coordinating envelopes
- Rubber stamps
- Glitter, stickers or other embellishments
- Stamp the front of the note card with the teacher's initial or a design
- Add embellishments
- Allow to dry
After at least six cards have been completed, tie the stack together with a cute ribbon bow
You could also write a clever learning-themed quote onto the front of the cards and add some stickers or embellishments. Add a pen or pencil for a gift that's both memorable and practical.
Terra Cotta Apple
An apple for the teacher takes on a whole new spin when the apple itself becomes a functional, decorative piece.
- Terra cotta pot with drain plate - Any size (the plate should be the same size as the opening of the pot)
- Black chalkboard paint (available at most craft stores)
- Silk leaves
- Glue gun or tacky glue
- White chalk
- Paint the pot and plate red (or yellow or green) and remember to paint the bottom of the plate, which will be the top of the apple
- Allow paint to dry
- Attach a raffia bow and a couple of leaves to the top of the apple (bottom of the plate) with tacky glue or a glue gun
- Decorate the apple by painting on a "chalkboard" with black chalkboard paint. After it dries, write a message to the teacher on the board with white chalk
- Place the plate upside down on top of the pot. Glue the lid to the top of the apple and wait for it to dry
Give this or another gift to the teacher on the first day of school as a useful and decorative gift.
Older kids who have lockers at school typically enjoy decorating them to add some personality to the space.
Decorative magnets can help hold things such as notes, photos and homework assignments in school lockers. You can make almost anything into a magnet with a purchased small round magnet or magnetic strip and a hot glue gun, or you can buy magnets that have sticky material on one side so you can just peel and stick. Use decorative card stock, photos, marbles or small toys to create magnets.
- Magnetic strip or circles
- Glue gun or tacky glue
- Decorative items such as buttons, photos, shells, or other trinkets
- Glue a magnet to the back of a decorative object
- Allow it to dry
- Create several magnets for a themed look
These magnets also make a good gift for kids to give their peers.
Your child can make a personalized locker caddy to keep her locker neat and organized.
- Small cardboard box (like a Pop-Tart box)
- Con-tact paper (any color)
- Scrap pieces of cardboard
- Scissors or knife
- Strong magnetic strips (optional)
- Take a small cardboard box and wrap it with Con-Tact
- Make dividers by cutting two pieces of heavy cardboard the same width as the box
- Wrap these pieces to match the rest of the box
- Cut a slit down the middle of one, leaving an inch or two uncut. Cut a short slit, about two inches long, into the other piece.
- Slide the two pieces together so the slits fit inside one another, and slide them into the box
- Add an adhesive-backed strong magnet or two if you want to hang the box, or just leave it to sit on the floor or shelf of the locker
- Fill with pencils, hairbrushes, and other important supplies.
Notebooks are a staple on most school supply lists. Make them stand out by creating covers that will help your child identify her notebooks quickly and easily.
Kids of all ages need notebooks to write notes in during class. Creating special covers for these books is a fun project for parents and kids to complete together.
- Double-sided tape
- Construction paper
- Markers, crayons, and colored pencils
- Clear Con-Tact paper
- Attach double-stick tape to a piece of construction paper
- Wrap the construction paper around the notebook, covering the front and back
- Draw designs on the paper with crayons, markers, gel ink pens, or colored pencils
- Add stickers, rubber stamps, glitter, cut-out pictures, or other embellishments
- When you've got everything looking just the way you want, cover the construction paper with clear Con-Tact paper.
You can also create a decoupaged collage cover for a notebook or three ring binder. This provides the perfect way for kids to display pictures featuring their favorite people, places, and things. Young kids might like a collage of family pictures, while older kids would like to use pictures of themselves hanging out with their friends. This is a fun way to keep summer memories close as the school year begins.
- Copies of old photos
- Wrapping paper or patterned scrapbook paper
- Other images such as Sunday comics, old maps, sheet music or images from favorite magazines
- Mod Pdge adhesive
- Foam paint brush
- Notebook or binder
- Cut out the images you wish to use, playing with the arrangement on a sheet of scratch paper
- Apply Mod Podge to the images using a foam paint brush
- Adhere the images to the notebook or three-ring binder, carefully smoothing out the paper to prevent air bubbles when the Mod Podge dries
- When the Mod Podge is completely dry, cover the surface with one or two more coats of Mod Podge to seal and protect your project.
Other Back to School Crafts
There are many other useful and decorative crafts that can be done to celebrate going back to school.
Everyone needs more bookmarks since they always seem to be getting lost. Make plenty of these useful items to keep at home and at school.
- Construction paper or card stock
- Clear Con-Tact paper
- Scissors and pinking shears
- Hole punch
- Yarn, ribbon or tassel
- Stickers, rubber stamps or other embellishments
- Cut the basic bookmark shape out of construction paper, poster board, or cardboard. Each bookmark should be about two inches wide and six inches long
- Decorate with pictures, stickers, drawings, rubber stamps, glitter, or whatever you like
- Cover with clear Con-Tact paper to make them more durable
- Add wavy edges with the help of pinking shears
- Punch a hole in the top and add ribbon or a tassel
Friend Autograph Album
After a long summer, it's great for kids to be able to see their friends at school. Make a special souvenir of their reunion by helping your children to create a homemade autograph book that their friends can sign. Depending upon the rules at your child's school, you could even visit on the first day to take a few pictures to add to the book at a later date.
- Construction paper
- Copy paper
- Crayons or markers
- Hole punch
- Decorate the construction paper with stickers and your crayons or markers. Write a title, such as "First Day of School" on the front
- Punch holes in the construction paper
- Punch holes in the copy paper
- Stack the copy paper between the covers
- Tie the pages together with yarn.
If you are still looking for even more cool ideas, consider help from DIY guru Bethany Mota in her DIY Back-to-School video.
Anticipate a New School Year
Anticipate the start of a new school year by making some of these functional items together. To create a sense of ownership, encourage your kids to select crafts they want to create. Eliminate the possibility of frustration by helping them choose crafts that are age appropriate, then let them do as much as possible without your help. Crafting is a great way to get the whole family into back-to-school mode.