Get kids excited about going back to school AND save a little money on classroom supplies at the same time with these fun & easy crafts for kids of all ages! Whether your tiny tot is just starting kindergarten or your teen is heading to high school, they’ll find something fun on the list below. Keep reading after the crafts for some more tips on saving money on school supplies.
12 Fun Crafts to Get Kids Excited About Going Back to School
Given the rising cost of everything- especially food– I know way too many people who are dreading shopping for back-to-school supplies this year. So I tried to be very mindful of extremely tight budgets. Most- if not all-of these crafts either use supplies that you already have on hand or can find in the dollar store and other discount shops. I also shared some links to products that I like.
FYI, If you buy anything through the Amazon links, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Enough chit-chat, let’s get started!
1. Cute Zippered Pencil Pouches
The only thing you really need to buy for this craft is a plain-colored zippered pencil pouch. I recommend these from Amazon because you get 8 of them for just over a dollar each. Once you have your blank pouches, your kids can use any supplies that you have on hand to decorate them. Markers, fabric paint, stickers, iron-on transfers, colorful duct tape…anything and everything goes. I like them better than hard pencil cases because they help lighten the load of a heavy backpack.
2. DIY Washi Tape Pencils
Here’s an easy one that’s absolutely perfect for all ages. Grab a bunch of cheap number two pencils and give them a makeover with inexpensive washi tape. See how to make the ones pictured above on SheriSilver.com. I love washi tape because it comes in so many colors and patterns. Plus you can usually find variety packs for a fairly reasonable price (like those below).
3. Duct Tape Pencils
If you’re worried that washi tape will fall off too easily in your child’s grip, these duct tape pencils are another cute idea. Again, you can use any cheap number two pencils to start with. Then, just grab some pretty duct tape (like the variety pack below) and follow the tutorial on Burlap and Blue. They also have a really simple duct tape bookmark craft in the same post.
4. DIY Pencil Holder
This one makes a cute teacher gift idea. You can also use it to store all of your kids’ homework pencils at home, too. You’ll just need an inexpensive dollar store planter and some paint. Check out the tutorial over on So Tipical Me.
5. R2D2 Pencil Holder
This R2-D2 pencil holder by Crafts by Amanda is perfect for your little Star Wars fans! You just need any old (and clean, obviously) tin can, some felt, and some glue. Amanda recommends felt glue, but I bet you could even use these little sticky dots. I love those things because they’re not as messy. Plus, you don’t waste quite as much as you do with hot glue and what not.
6. Easy Homemade Tassel Bookmarks
Get kids excited about reading- or at least about marking their spot in their book- with this simple craft. Check out the tutorial on Chica Circle.
7. School Bus Treat Holders
If you have a color printer and some cardstock, you have everything you need to make these adorable treat boxes, thanks to Moms and Crafters! Head to their site and grab the free printables along with the instructions on how to fold them. Then, fill them with healthy snacks, like these easy 2-ingredient parmesan crackers.
8. DIY Backpack
Okay, so you’ll probably do most of the work for this one unless your kids are old enough to sew on their own. Still, it’s a cute little project, and they can definitely help you out. If your kids need something a bit bigger for their actual backpack, you could always turn this into a lightweight lunch bag instead! Check out the tutorial over on The Inspiration Board.
9. Colorful Zipper Pull Charms
We all have random old keyrings laying around the house, right? Grab one from the depths of your junk drawer and use them to add a little pizazz to your kids’ inexpensive-yet-boring backpack with this simple little craft over on Red Ted Art! If you don’t have a spare keyring, the ones below are pretty cheap. You get 4 of them, so your kids could make a purse charm for every season.
10. Foam Cat Pencil Toppers
These little cat pencil toppers are another cute idea from Red Ted Art (I love all of their stuff, they have sooo many cute crafts). You just need some craft foam, markers or felt tip pens and some hot glue. While the tutorial is for white kitties, kids can make them any color they want. Plus, once you have this basic tutorial down, you can follow the directions to make any other pencil topper shape.
11. Lunchbox Treats and Notes Holder
Our kids are facing a mental health crisis, and a HUGE chunk of that has to do with the pressure that they face at school. These little tins are just the right size for a small treat (like these homemade gummies) and an uplifting note to remind your child that you’re proud of them no matter what. Check it out on Happy Deal Happy Day.
12. DIY No-Sew Lunch Bag
I was looking for a cute no-sew lunch bag idea and came across this one on YouTube. It’s made with just two Dollar Tree placemats, making it just around $2.50 (remember, Dollar Tree raised their prices, so now they’re more like the Dollar-Twenty-Five Tree). The tutorial used a Christmas mat, but obviously, you can use any pattern you want. If you can’t find anything cute in your dollar store, here are a few that I like on Amazon (they’ll cost a bit more, though):
Where to Find Free School Supplies
What if literally every last penny you make is going towards just keeping up with the excessively high cost of living these days? When you have money, it’s easy to say things like, “Oh, give me a break! School supplies aren’t that expensive! You can get everything you need for $10 at Walmart!” Yep, someone actually said that to a friend of mine who was struggling. When you’re broke, that $10 could literally mean the difference between eating enough food at dinner or going to bed hungry.
Fortunately, there are ways to get free back-to-school supplies. You just need to know where to look. Here are a few of the best options, as well as some resources for finding more organizations and groups in your area.
- Your kids’ school: Call the main office and ask for information regarding free supplies for low-income families. They’ll either direct you to a group that they work with or at least give you some general information on other organizations to call.
- Teachers: First, PLEASE don’t expect your kids’ teachers to buy supplies for the entire classroom. Teachers pay for all of that stuff out of their own pocket. However, they often know of places that are offering both free and deeply discounted supplies.
- Your local churches: A lot of churches offer free school supplies, and you typically don’t have to be a member of their congregation (or even remotely religious).
- Your local food bank: Food banks often give out supplies during late August and September.
- Check sites like Need Help Paying Bills and Care.com. They offer other ideas that may work depending on where you live.
More Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping
If you have a little money for back-to-school shopping, here are a few tips on how to stretch it out a bit farther. By the way, if you’re looking for a way to save money AND the planet, don’t miss my favorite green lunch gear ideas!
Take inventory at home
Check your home for any supplies from the previous school year that can be reused. Things like backpacks, lunch boxes, binders, and calculators may still be in good condition and save you money on replacements. I know that part of the fun of back-to-school shopping, at least for our kids, is picking out a new bookbag or lunch box. But these things are among the most expensive, so they’ll eat up your budget pretty quickly. Use some of the crafts above to find ways to breathe new life into old items instead.
Create a budget
This sounds like a super obvious tip, but it’s still worth mentioning. Before shopping for back-to-school supplies, set a clear budget that outlines how much you’re willing to spend. This will help you prioritize your purchases and avoid overspending.
Buy generic or store brands
Whenever possible, go with generic or store-brand supplies instead of branded items. In most cases, the quality is comparable, but the price is significantly lower. Some examples include pencils, highlighters, folders, notebooks, and pencil cases. Again, you can use the back-to-school crafts above to turn generic supplies into one-of-a-kind works of art.
Shop during tax-free weekends for clothes
If your state taxes clothing (there are only 5 that don’t), do the bulk of your back-to-school clothes shopping on tax-free weekends. Retail Me Not has a list of dates for each state. Unfortunately, not all states participate, and some are already over. Heads up to my fellow Floridians, our next one runs from July 25 to Aug. 7.
If you happen to live close enough to one of the 5 states that don’t tax clothes, consider taking a road trip to stock up on clothes. Technically, you’re supposed to “declare” those items on your taxes later. However, you can usually offset them with other deductions.
Don’t start at the dollar store
Every single list of ways to save money on school supplies starts with “shop at your local dollar store.” I don’t mean to sound blunt or rude, but that’s really bad advice. First, EVERY item is $1.25 + tax. Sounds great in theory, but during school sales stores like Target and Walmart offer basic supplies for less than $1. Sometimes, A LOT less. For example, $1.25 gets you ONE 70-page notebook at Dollar Tree, but it gets you 3 at Walmart (and you’ll have $0.20 left).
I’m not saying that you should completely skip Dollar Tree. It’s a good place to grab things like planners, journals, stickers (to decorate and personalize your kids’ notebooks and what not), and flash cards. Just don’t assume that it’s always the cheapest place to find supplies.
Wait for clearance sales
Buy only enough to get by for the first week or two. After that, back-to-school supplies go on clearance. You may need to “stalk” the stores so that you can snatch up the deals before they’re sold out (remember, lots of other people are also waiting on those clearance sales). But if you time it right, you can get a lot of stuff for very little money if you hold out until they hit the 50-75% off range. DO NOT buy things when they first go on clearance, though. Those prices are actually often higher than the back-to-school sale prices.
Buy in bulk with a group of other parents
Sometimes you can find good deals on bulk school supplies. If you know enough people to make it worthwhile, consider going in on bulk goods together and splitting the cost. Here are a few examples of things you can find in bulk on Amazon:
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With a little creativity and ingenuity, the back-to-school season doesn’t have to be a nightmare-inducing budget buster. Start with the crafts above and make what you can. Then follow the money-saving tips for the rest!
Last update on 2022-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API