4 quick and easy DIY projects for back to school

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | September 20, 2016

It's back to school time! Remember the thrill of seeing fresh school supplies laid out neatly on the table, trying out that cool backpack for the first time, and wondering who your new classmates would be?

As a fun-loving parent, you can add to that excitement by creating DIY projects that will enhance study time and encourage them to keep things neat. They're fast, too, which is perfect for the back to school rush. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Build a new bookshelf

One of the most exciting parts of back to school are all the new textbooks a student will receive. Even though they might not be able to take the books home, you can provide supplemental tomes that will encourage them to study, as well as fiction and non-fiction books appropriate for their age and grade level. But where will all those new books go?

That's where your DIY bookshelf comes into play. Though you could make a simple bookshelf of sturdy plywood, where's the fun in that? Create a floating bookshelf instead. Simply install sturdy L-brackets on the wall at regular intervals, creating either a vertical or horizontal shelf area, depending upon your available space. Then stack books directly on those L-brackets to create what appears to be books that float against the wall.

It's such an easy DIY that even little kids can do it -- with some help from you, of course.

2. Give them a "new to you" desk

Is there a desk in your home that is really comfortable, has been around for ages and fits just right in that perfect corner? This is the right time to make that 'old' desk new again with a fresh coat of paint and a few little embellishments.

For maximum fun and minimal mess, drag the desk outside for painting. Allow your kids to choose the colors, give them a paintbrush and let them work their magic. To make things seem even newer, add little details like a pencil rail (held down with double-sided tape), drawer organizers made of small strips of wood (painted in complementary colors, of course), and side folders attached with small strips of Velcro. The result is a desk the kids will be proud to call theirs.

And if you don't like the colors they choose? You can always paint over it when they go off to college.

3. Explore new storage options

If your kids have a habit of dropping their backpacks on the floor, followed by shoes, outerwear, and anything else they might have been carrying, you could wind up with a hefty pile of school stuff right inside the front door.

Corral all of that with dedicated cubbies and hooks. The hooks can fit neatly almost anywhere, but if you don't have enough hanging space, a colorful coat tree will suffice. For cubbies, create simple wood boxes of plywood, paint them in your child's favorite colors, and stack them in a nearby corner. For the youngest kids, make sure all those boxes are clearly labeled, so they know exactly where things are supposed to go.

Of course, how often they actually put things in those proper places is another story…

4. Create a snack crate or two

Kids usually burst through the door with food on their minds. The refrigerator is probably the first place they go after getting home -- and they might dig through it until nothing is where you left it. Remedy that problem by creating a dedicated space just for their snack craving.

This DIY is two-fold: Start with a sturdy plastic crate that will fit nicely in the fridge, and stock it with things the kids love, such as bite-size veggies or cheese in individual containers and juice boxes. Then turn your attention to a favored spot on the table or counter, where you can place a handsome wooden crate for non-perishables, such as granola bars or handfuls of nuts in single-serving containers.

Turn the kids loose on both crates with paints of their choice to help them get excited about having space of their 'own' to use after school. The more ownership they feel over the crates, the more likely they will be to eat the good things inside them.

These projects will make back to school a much more exciting time for them -- and a more organized time for you!

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.