Whether you have a toddler, preschooler, or elementary school student, you can celebrate the beginning of the school year with some crafty DIY projects. Check out these 16 fun options, including desk organizers, bookmarks, pencil pouches, bulletin boards, and more.

By Nicole Harris
May 24, 2021

When back-to-school season rolls around, many children aren't quite ready to swap summer days for study sessions. Get them excited for another academic year with some creative back-to-school crafts!

We rounded up easy crafts for toddlers, imaginative crafts for preschoolers, and clever crafts for elementary school students. And perhaps the best part: Your child can actually use some of these items in their studious endeavors, whether they choose to make a desk organizer, bookmark, pencil pouch, personalized backpack, or something else.

Kids Craft Geometric Pencil Pouches
Credit: Jeff Harris

So pick a day in late summer (maybe one with a rainy forecast), choose a back-to-school craft, and let your child's creativity run wild!

Back-to-School Crafts for Toddlers

Toddlers are likely heading to daycare instead of big-kid school, but that doesn't make the milestone any less exciting! Kids can't think too creatively at this age, so the best crafts will keep them entertained while bolstering their motor skills.

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Kids Collections Shadowbox Picture Frame with Stickers
Credit: Aaron Dyer

Sticker Sorting

Give your toddlers some stickers with a back-to-school theme. They can make a collage with them, which improves their fine motor skills. Older toddlers can also sort the stickers by color or size.

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Open-Ended Art

Your toddler will probably use variety of art supplies at daycare: pencils, crayons, markers, paint, etc. Introduce them to these utensils by giving them a blank canvas and letting them create open-ended art. They'll practice hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, and fine motor dexterity!

Allison McDonald baby block painting
Credit: Courtesy of Allison McDonald

Finger Painting

Finger painting has plenty of benefits for toddlers: It can teach colors, improve fine motor development, and encourage creative thinking. Give your toddler painting prompts related to daycare (like "What will you eat for a snack?") While the final result won't look anything like a banana or crackers, it might get them thinking about what to expect at daycare.

Back-to-School Crafts for Preschoolers

When children reach preschool age, they might start to get excited—and a little nervous—for back-to-school season. Prepare them for the classroom with these craft ideas, which include patterned pencils, a polka dot backpack, and paper collages.

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pencils with tape design
Credit: Dane Tashima

Fruity Pencils

This back-to-school craft only needs two materials: washi tape and white pencils. Your preschooler can wrap the tape around the pencils to create personalized writing utensils—perfect for learning letters and numbers!

Do the Polka Backpack
Credit: Tara Donne

Polka Dot Backpack

Your preschooler can assemble this DIY backpack with a little help from Mom or Dad. Start by getting three to five foam pouncers of different sizes, as well as craft paint in their favorite colors. To make a dot, dip a pouncer in paint, remove the excess by dabbing on paper, and pounce it onto the backpack. Let the backpack dry, and it's ready to wear!

children creating art work
Credit: Photographs by Todd Meier

Preschool Collage

Draw a simple image of something related to preschool (the school building, a backpack, a book cover, etc.) Gather clippings of different colors from newspapers, magazines, or construction paper. Your child can glue the clippings onto the drawing for a makeshift collage. While they're completing the back-to-school craft for preschoolers, talk about shapes, colors, and what to expect at school.

Happy Student Coloring Page
Credit: Eric Jeon

Back-to-School Coloring Pages

Print out some of these back-to-school coloring pages, and have your preschooler decorate them (bonus points for staying in the lines!) Hang the completed pictures on your fridge to remind them of the fun school year ahead.

Mushroom Bulletin Board
Credit: Peter Ardito

Bulletin Board

Your preschooler can pin up school projects and photos on this bulletin board, which is actually made with button mushrooms! Simply slice a large button mushroom down the middle and blot it dry. Dip it into acrylic paint (poured onto a paper plate), and press onto a bulletin board. Rotate the mushroom 90 degrees, then stamp again. Repeat until you have a flower shape. (Note: You can also make stamps from other vegetables like potatoes, broccoli, and peppers!) 

Back-to-School Crafts for Kids

Older kids can make crafts that double as functional back-to-school supplies, including pencil pouches, bookmarks, backpacks, and desk organizers.

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Kids Craft Desk Organizer
Credit: Jeff Harris

Desk Organizer

What You'll Need: Primer and spray paint (optional), metal mesh desk organizer, templates, yarn, tapestry needle, tacky glue

What To Do:

1. Prime and spray-paint the organizer if desired. Let dry.

2. Print and cut out templates. Arrange in a pattern and mark points on mesh.

3. Cut a 45-inch strand of yarn and thread the needle. Starting at the back left side of the diamond, insert the needle through to the front, leaving a 4-inch tail. Weave in and out of the mesh to match the diamond shape. Double-knot the ends in back. Trim close to the knot, and use tacky glue to secure the ends. Repeat with other yarn colors

NOTE: Make sure your threaded needle can fit through the mesh. If not, use a smaller needle, and/or double the yarn to completely fill each hole.  

moon bookmarks on blue background
Credit: Dane Tashima

Moon Bookmarks

These unique bookmarks can mark your child's place in their books. To make them, have your child roll white and gray clay together into a ball. Divide into 3/4-inch balls, and flatten into 1-inch circles. Insert a jumbo metal paper clip into each clay circle, pressing to secure. If you want, make craters by pressing a wooden skewer into the clay moon. Bake the bookmarks according to instructions on the clay package. 

Kids Craft Luggage Tags
Credit: Jeff Harris

Luggage Tags

Get the kids ready to work a new angle (and to keep tabs on their belongings!) with this handy back-to-school craft.

What You'll Need: Templates, foam sheets, cardboard, pushpin, embroidery needle, embroidery floss, white cardstock, cellophane wrap, tacky glue, hole punch, braided mason line (available at building-supply stores), lighter (optional)

What To Do:

1. Print templates and cut out. Use template to trace and cut out both sides of the tag from foam sheets. Put the piece with the window aside. 

2. Place solid foam piece onto a piece of cardboard and mark the dots with a pushpin. 

3. Thread an embroidery needle with 3 strands of embroidery floss. Knot the long end, and start from the back corner of the tag piece from Step 2. Bring the needle up, then stitch lines at 45-degree angles as shown. To finish, tie a double knot on the back. 

4. Glue a piece of white cardstock on the back to protect the stitches. 

5. Glue a piece of cellophane over the window of the other piece. 

6. Punch a hole on the top center of both pieces. Glue the top and side seams together. Leave the bottom open. Let dry. 

7. Cut a 15-inch piece of braided mason line. Fold in half, push loop through the hole, and bring the ends through the loop. Trim as desired. Use lighter on ends to prevent fraying if desired. 

8. Cut a piece of cardstock to fit and insert it into the tag.

Kids Craft Geometric Pencil Pouches
Credit: Jeff Harris

Pencil Pouches

Study up on shapes with these binder-ready pouches.

What You'll Need: Template, cardboard, pushpin, pencil pouch, disappearing fabric pen, painter’s tape (optional), embroidery needle, embroidery floss, tacky glue, twill patches (optional), Peel’n Stick Fabric Fuse (optional)

What To Do:

1. Print and cut out template. Lay the template on cardboard and use a pushpin to press through the dots.

2. Center template on the pouch and mark the dots with a fabric pen. (Use painter’s tape to hold in place if needed.)

3. Thread the embroidery needle with 3 strands of embroidery floss. Knot the long end. Starting on the back of one end of the pattern, bring the needle up to the front of the pouch and make a long stitch across to the middle. Repeat to fill all dots. Tie a double knot on the inside.

4. Repeat stitching, starting from the other side, with a contrasting color. Use additional colors as desired.

5. Trim ends and secure in place with tacky glue. Use a colored twill patch with fabric fuse to protect the stitches inside the pouch if desired.

Kids Craft Backpack
Credit: Jeff Harris

Personalized Backpack

What You'll Need: Templates, cardboard, pushpin, backpack. disappearing fabric pen, embroidery needle, embroidery floss, twill patches, Peel’n Stick Fabric Fuse

What To Do:

1. Print template and trim, leaving a ¼-inch border. 

2. Lay template on cardboard and use a pushpin to press through all the dots. 

3. Place the patterns as desired onto the backpack. Use a fabric pen to mark the dots through the pattern holes. 

4. Thread an embroidery needle with 3 strands of embroidery floss, about 40 inches long. Knot at the long end. Place the needle inside the backpack right behind the pattern’s center point. Push it through to the outside and bring it back down through a dot on the outer edge. Find the neighboring dot from behind, and stitch up and across to the center until all dots are filled. Tie a double knot in back. 

5. Use a colored twill patch with fabric fuse to protect the stitches inside the backpack.

NOTE: If working on a dark backpack, you can use a white marking pencil. Or stitch directly over the paper pattern and carefully tear it away when finished.

Pencil Pals Craft
Credit: Sabrina Helas

Pencil Pal

Homework is never fun, but these spiky-haired pencil toppers make it a little more manageable. To make them, layer three pieces of streamer together (with 4.5 inch lengths). Cut fringe into one of the long edges, and put double-sided tape between the layers. Roll the stack around a pencil, securing with tape, and finish up with a paper mouth and googly eyes.

reading nook
Credit: Kate Sears

Reading Nook Canopy

Sure, studying at a desk works fine, but why not create an irresistible (and distraction-free) retreat instead? Our no-sew canopy is made from a bed sheet and a quilting hoop.

Get the how-to instructions here.

Apple Cozy
Credit: Photo by Ed Judice, Idea By Tova Opatrny

Apple Cozy

It can be a bruising ride to school in a kid's lunch box. Protect fruit from dirt and dings with a fleece pouch. It's such an adorable back-to-school craft for kids!

Get the how-to instructions here.