DIY: 10 Backpacks and Other Projects You Can Make With the Kids

Ten easy-to-make DIY projects to get your kids all geared up for school.

Hard to believe for most parents, but it’s time to send your kids back to school. Instead of spending tons of money on all that back-to-school gear they need, involve them in the process and make the stuff yourself. All you need are some basic tools and materials and a serious sense of play. Here are ten great back-to-school DIY projects you (and the kids) can easily make at home.

Apple Print Drawstring Backpack.
A is for Apple, and this easy-to-make drawstring bag by Alphamom features an apple print that is made using an actual apple, and its leaf. You could also totally decorate this bag with any motif you like, or better yet, let the kids design one.

Initial Drawstring Backpack
Drawstring bags are great because they are so easy to create, which means you can actually make more than one of these. We love the striped fabric in combination with a large bold initial on this DIY bag by Momtastic. You could also make this with smaller letters to spell out your child’s whole name (but think twice about that if that name happens to be really long).

Patterned Backpack
Who says you have to buy a new bacpack just because school starts again? Maybe an old backpack could do just fine with a fun little update. This floral backpack tutorial by Hello Cotton shows you how to add panels of patterned fabric – which, by the way, doesn’t have to be floral – to an existing bag to give it a whole new look. We’re thinking you could do this and just tell your kid it’s a new bag.

Solar Backpack
For all those science nerds out there (and their parents), this DIY solar backpack by Dick Demenus (via NPR) would be a fun family project. It involved soldering and weatherproofing, so it seems like it could take a while, but making it yourself means it will cost around $40 – far less than the $200 or so that similar backpacks cost in the store.

Fabric Lunch Bag
Instead of packing them lunch in paper bags, make a washable, reusable lunch bag that will last all year long. This fabric lunch bag by The Purl Bee features cute embroidered detailing on the front, which you can skip or modify (maybe let the kids loose with some permanent markers?). The basic construction, though, is very simple, sturdy and, of course, easy to make.

Oil Cloth Lunch Bag
If your kids are on the messier side of the scale, it could be a good idea to try your hand at making one or two of these resuable oil cloth lunch bags by Skip to My Lou. They can easily be washed off and you can make them from worn out outdoor table cloths you may have laying around after summer.

Bicycle Frame Lunch Bag
If you’re fortunate enough to live in a place where it’s safe to send the kids off to school in their bikes, you should totally make sure they have a lunch bag that attaches to their bike frame. This simple tutorial by Evil Mad Scientist shows you how to make it. While you’re at it, make one for yourself too (oh, and start biking to work).

Drawstring Gym Bag
Sometimes it’s helpful to have a smaller bag to pack special things for school – such as gym clothes or supplies for a special project. This drawstring pouch by Planet Green takes only minutes to make. Using a tea towel is clever and saves time, but you can use any material you like.

Pencil Case
Help your little ones keep their pens, scissors, erasers and such in order with a nice pencil case. This DIY one by Pink Penguin is a little more involved, but – if you have the time to do it – totally worth it. Again, you can use any kind of fabric. Let the kids pick them and you can be sure they love their new case.

Chalkboard Notebook
Customizing notebooks is something most of us have done since we were in school. It’s a basic way to express our creativity, which is why we love the idea of one that can constantly change and evolve. Check out this tutorial by Warm Hot Chocolate and make the cover of your child’s notebook into a chalkboard. A bonus is that they can use it instead of passing notes, because that, well, kills trees you know.

Johanna Björk

Johanna is a sustainable fashion writer currently based in Ojai, CA. Read her weekly On Trend column to learn what's new in eco fashion.