Remember the feeling of starting a new school year with a fresh binder and a fistful of unsharpened pencils? There’s only one way to top that feeling. Help your kids splash some creativity into their supplies, and they’ll have unique gear they can be proud to pull out of their backpacks.
Book Covers

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Covering your child’s textbooks helps prevent them from being damaged or picked up accidentally by another student, and gives them a unique look that can be coordinated or mixed and matched.

You will need:

  • Decorative paper – giftwrap, brown paper bags, old newspaper comics, drawings the kids have done, leftover wallpaper, artwork of favorite characters printed out from the Internet, use your imagination!
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Markers
  • Optional: Ribbon

First, think about your theme. Brown paper bags make a wonderful base, they’re sturdy, cheap and easy to find. Imagine them simply lettered with a gold metallic marker, or you could cover the paper with colorful graffiti. If your paper is flimsy, glue two sheets together (or use a paper bag for backing) with spray adhesive or a glue stick.

Open your book and measure it while wide open. Cut a rectangle from your paper that is the same height as the book, adding at least 6″ to the width (3″ on each side.) Lay the book in the center of the paper, close the book, fold the overlap to the inside of the front and back covers, and firmly crease. You may also want to firmly crease the paper along both sides of the book’s spine. Use markers to put the title of the book on the front or spine so it’s easy to identify.

If you like, you can cut a piece of ribbon a few inches longer than your book and glue it to the inside top of the paper cover (by the spine) to make a built-in bookmark.

Personalized Pencils

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If you or one of your kids is a whiz at computer design, bring up your word processing software and look for a template for small labels (buy labels in the office supply aisle). Create labels with your child’s name and a favorite design or color scheme to mark pencils, pens, and other small items. You can also decorate the labels by hand, of course.

Unique Notebooks

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You will need:

  • Fleece or felt scraps
  • Marker
  • Notebooks
  • Scissors and/or craft knife
  • Fabric glue or spray adhesive

Fleece comes in all sorts of fun patterns and designs, from cartoon characters to sports teams, and bright solids and patterns as well. Neither felt nor fleece will ravel when cut, making them perfect for no-sew projects. Cut the fabric into rectangles that are the same size as your notebook fronts, leaving a little space for the wire binding. Glue the fabric to the front of the notebook. While the glue dries, cut out your child’s initial or another design of their choosing from a coordinating solid or print and glue that in one of the corners or in the center of the cover. Allow to dry and trim the edges, if needed.

Decoupage Binders

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Kids love covering their binder with their favorite designs. Popular motifs include horses, sports, butterflies, superheroes, flowers, and photos of friends. Gather together magazines, newspapers, even fabric and wrapping paper with the pictures and words that represent your theme. If you can’t find enough, you can always print out pictures from your computer. If you have an inkjet printer, the colors will run when dampened, so consider photocopying them first.

Carefully cut out each picture, word or phrase. Create a variety of shapes, using rectangles sparingly. You can use some ovals, circles or triangles, but you’ll get your best results if you cut most of the designs away from their background, following the edges of the object.

Lay out your photos and words to get an idea of your overall design. Then spread decoupage glue (buy it or mix one part white school glue and three parts water) on the back of your pics and position them on the binder. Use a popsicle or craft stick to smooth out wrinkles and air bubbles (some wrinkles are part of the process, though). When the binder is completely covered, paint it with a layer of the glue and let dry. Keep adding layers of glue, letting dry in between, until you can’t feel the edges of the paper any more. Then spray with acrylic spray sealer to finish.

Lauren Haas is a writer who specializes in finding the fun! Lauren was the publisher of the St. Louis Area Family Gazette for eight years, and now writes freelance articles on St. Louis events and attractions, budget travel, arts and entertainment and fitness topics. Her work can be found at