crayons.jpg It’s that time of the year again – shopping lists start arriving from schools demanding your child have a backpack full of brand new notebooks, crayons and more. The average American family spends over $600 year every fall on school supplies – an insane amount when you think about how many of these supplies end up barely used by the end of the year. While it’s true that many teachers rely on students furnishing their own supplies due to shrinking district budgets, the lists have become quite expansive throughout time. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to reuse school supplies from the past in new ways (either in class or at home). Check out some these awesome projects and have your kids heading back to school in style without the hefty price tag.

Watercolors made from dried markers

It almost seems to be a conspiracy how fast markers tend to dry up, especially if your little ones are constantly forgetting to put the caps on tight. While these mainstays of the school supply list don’t necessarily cost an arm and a leg, there are plenty of ways to upcycle those dried up colors. An excellent project is to turn old markers into new liquid watercolors (often seen on younger students’ lists). It’s an easy and fun to watch DIY event – simply collect dried up markers of the same color and rubber band them together in groups of five or six. Place the tips of markers into small jars of water and over time (about eight hours) the remaining ink in the markers will flow out. Put some lids on the water jars and you’ll have a brand new (and free) set of paints, just as good as store bought!

DIY wet wipes

More and more early childhood classrooms are asking for baby wipes, as they’re used for everything from wiping noses to cleaning up spills. Again, these items aren’t necessarily expensive, but a large group of pre-K students could easily go through several packs of wipes per day. Create your own stockpile of DIY wipes out of soft paper towels, baby shampoo and baby oil and then make a dispenser out of a plastic coffee can. This blogger created an excellent recipe for the wipes, while this tutorial will show you how to make the dispenser. Create a large amount so that a few cans can go to school while a few stay at home or in the car for your messy ones.

Homemade cold pack

This super-easy DIY can be used both for keeping lunches cold or as an emergency boo-boo. Take a regular sponge and fill it with water, then place it into a Ziploc bag and freeze. As any water melts, it will be collected in the bag. The process can then be repeated over and over again. The cold pack is non-toxic, meaning that if a leak occurs there will only be pure H20 dripping out instead of potentially harmful goo.

Crayons made from other crayons

While your child may beg you for the huge and seemingly perfect 120-pack of crayons at the store, keep in mind all of those broken crayons at the bottom of the box from last year. These crayon bits can be melted down and turned right back into fancy – and usable – ones. Make the idea fun by letting children choose what shapes they want to make. Plastic medicine bottles make perfect giant crayon molds while peanut butter cup papers make crayons seem like a treat. Allow kids to mix colors for a rainbow crayon (see tutorial here) or simply make a new set of individual colors to bring to class.

Tempera paint from your cupboard

Instead of buying expensive tempera paint for your child’s classroom, make your own out of salt, flour, water and food coloring. This blogger put her paints into condiment squeeze bottles for her children to explore with. They can also be put into baby food jars for students to bring to class. Another pro tip is to place leftover (but still useable) paint into take-away sauce containers. They also happen to be the perfect size for those one-off projects that occur on rainy days.