Make a set of Stamped Harvest Placemats.
Make a set of Stamped Harvest Placemats.
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The start of the school year is a great time for extra special back-to-school crafts. Sometimes activities related directly to school can help get kids enthused for the upcoming year. For instance, kids can get ready for school by creating unique book covers or planning a newspaper for their class. Or they can get into "school" mode by teaching a younger sibling or neighbor how to recognize different shapes.

Other activities take advantage of fall materials and resources. Cornhusk dolls can be complicated or simple, depending on the age of the child making them. Indian corn can be used for a variety of other art projects as well. And don't forget the leaves -- they're great for art projects or just for playing in.

Check out the back-to-school craft projects below to get into the swing of things this year:

Back-to-School Newspaper

Become the news-hound for your school and start up a back-to-school newspaper to let everyone know what's going on!

Stitching Up Shapes

Help a young friend learn his or her shapes with this cool back-to-school crafts project.

Styling Book Covers

Use your text books to express yourself! Make one-of-a-kind book covers that will make your books stand out from all the rest.

Harvest Corn Doll

Learn how to do a traditional, old-time American craft, and make your own corn-husk doll -- for yourself or for a young friend.

Stamped Harvest Placemats

If you don't like eating vegetables, you might enjoy using them to make these pretty placemats for fall.

Cornhusk Doll

Here's a cornhusk doll that's easy for younger kids to make and fun to play with.

Indian Corn Painting

Here's a new and creative use for Indian corn -- painting! You can get some great effects with this craft project.

Pre-Carved Pumpkins

Personalize your pumpkin by carving it -- before it's harvested!

Growing Indian Corn

Grow your own supply of Indian corn. You can use it for the projects in this article or give it to your friends.

Sneaky Leaf Gathering Game

Have fun playing in the leaves with this fun and goofy game.

Leaf Stencils

Preserve the beautiful shapes of the leaves you find with this craft project.

Compost Sculpture

Composting is good for the environment, and it can be artistic too! Try out this fun craft.

For ideas on starting up a back-to-school newspaper that will get everyone up to speed for the new school year, see the next page.

For more fun back-to-school activities, check out:

Back-to-School Newspaper

A Back-to-School Newspaper helps everyone catch up on what happened over the summer. Here's how to make one:

What You'll Need:

  • Paper
  • Pen and markers (or typewriter or computer)
  • Copy machine

Step 1: To get your stories, interview classmates and teachers to find out what they did over the summer and what they hope to accomplish this year at school. Remember that a good newspaper story always answers the questions who, what, when, where, why -- and sometimes how.

Step 2: Write your stories by hand or use a typewriter or computer. Illustrate your stories with funny cartoons that you draw or use cutouts from old magazines. If you have a camera, you could also take pictures of the people who are in the stories.

Step 3: Think of a name for your newspaper, and write it across the top of the first page in big, bold letters.

Step 4: Give all your stories headlines, such as "Mrs. Sellars Builds Sailboat Over Summer."

Step 5: You may also want to include a "Letters to the Editor" column, a joke corner, or a weather report.

Step 6: Ask an adult to copy your newspaper so you have one for everyone in your class. Staple the pages together, and hand them out.

For a different type of back-to-school craft, see what it feels like to be a teacher. See the next page for a back-to-school craft called Stitching Up Shapes.

For other fun back-to-school activities, check out:

Stitching Up Shapes

Stitching Up Shapes is a back-to-school craft that teaches kids about circles, squares, and more. Kids also learn about stitching in the process. Here's how to do it:

What You'll Need:

  • Foam trays from fruits or vegetables
  • Pencil
  • Permanent markers
  • Colored shoelaces or yarn with taped ends

You can be a real teacher when you help young friends learn about circles, squares, triangles, and other shapes.

Step 1: First wash some foam deli trays well with hot water and soap. You may want to have an adult help you do this because the trays must be really clean.

Step 2: Dry the trays.

Step 3: Use a pencil to poke out the outlines of various shapes (triangle, circle, square, etc.). Leave 1/4 to 1/2 inch between each hole, depending on the size of the shape you want.

Step 4: Use a marker to write the name of the shape on each tray underneath the shape.

Step 5: To teach younger children the names of the shapes, help them lace up the outline with a piece of yarn or a shoelace. Show them the name of the shape that you have written. Make sure you tell your young students what a great job they did! Be sure that young children do not play with yarn or shoelaces without supervision!

If you're done shopping for school supplies, check out the craft on the next page to make Styling Book Covers that will brighten up your schoolbooks.

For other fun back-to-school activities, check out:

Styling Book Covers

Make Styling Book Covers for your school books.
Make Styling Book Covers for your school books.
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These Styling Book Covers make schoolbooks look great and are a good back-to-school craft for older kids.

What You'll Need:

  • Thin cardboard
  • Felt
  • Fabric
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Elastic strips
  • Needle and thread

Step 1: For each book you want to cover, open the book and lay it flat with the back and front covers facing you. Cut a piece of thin cardboard to fit over the book's surface. Cut your piece about 1/2 inch larger at the sides.

Step 2: Make 2 creases in the middle of the cardboard (the width of the spine) so that it will bend easily when the book is opened and closed.

Step 3: Glue a piece of fabric or felt onto the cardboard. Make sure the cloth is at least 1 inch larger than the cardboard all around.

Step 4: Fold the extra fabric on the other side of the cardboard, and glue it in place.

Step 5: Cover the remaining cardboard by gluing another piece of felt or fabric onto it.

Step 6: A couple inches from either end, sew an elastic strip top to the bottom on the inside of the book cover you just made -- be sure the elastic is stretched a bit so the book cover stays in place.

Step 7: Slide the front and back covers of your schoolbook into these strips to hold the book in place.

Step 8: Decorate the outside of your new book cover with felt cutouts.

Now you're ready to go back to school in style!

The next craft takes us back in time. See the next page to learn how to make a Harvest Corn Doll.

For other fun back-to-school activities, check out:

Harvest Corn Doll

Make a traditional Harvest Corn Doll.
Make a traditional Harvest Corn Doll.
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Harvest Corn Dolls have been traditional autumn ornaments in England for hundreds of years. Introduce the tradition to your family by making one.

What You'll Need:

  • Cornhusks
  • Bowl of water
  • Yarn
  • Scissors
  • Permanent marker
  • Glue
  • Fabric scraps (optional)

Make a cornhusk doll for decoration or for play. These dolls were first made in England to celebrate harvest time.

Step 1: To make your own cornhusk doll, carefully peel the husks off 2 ears of corn.

Step 2: Place the husks in a bowl of water, and soak them until they soften.

Step 3: Remove them from the water, but allow them to remain damp.

Step 4: Start to make your doll by rolling a cornhusk into a ball for the doll's head.

Step 5: Layer 4 more cornhusks, and fold them over the head.

Step 6: Tie a piece of yarn under the head.

Step 7: Layer 2 more cornhusks, and roll them together lengthwise. Slip these under the head to create arms.

Step 8: Tie yarn at each end to make hands.

Step 9: Tie another piece of yarn under the arms to secure them in place and to make the doll's waist.

Step 10: Cut the ends of the husks hanging below the doll's waist to make legs.

Step 11: Tie yarn near the bottom of each leg to make feet.

Step 12: When the husks are dry, draw a face on the doll using a permanent marker. Be sure the husks are dry -- otherwise the markers might bleed.

Step 13: Make hair for your doll with yarn, and glue it on.

Step 14: Keep the doll natural in his or her cornhusk clothing, or create a more decorative outfit by cutting out scraps of fabric and gluing them on the doll.

For another creative fall project, see the next page to learn how to make printed harvest placemats.

For more fun back-to-school activities, check out:

Stamped Harvest Placemats

Make a set of Stamped Harvest Placemats.
Make a set of Stamped Harvest Placemats.
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With these decorative Stamped Harvest Placemats, fruits and veggies become art supplies. Even the pickiest eater will get a kick out of this back-to-school craft.

What You'll Need:

  • Onion, apple, mushroom, garlic clove, Brussels sprout, cabbage wedge, and/or other fruits and vegetables
  • Knife
  • Table covering
  • Clean foam food trays
  • Paint
  • Construction paper
  • Clear adhesive vinyl

These festive mealtime decorations can be used to celebrate any of the many international harvest festivals. Make the harvest placemats by printing with fruit and vegetables.

Step 1: Choose several fruits or vegetables and have an adult help you cut each in half.

Step 2: Cover the table.

Step 3: Pour several colors of paint into clean foam food trays. Choose fall colors or create your own personal color scheme.

Step 4: Dip the cut side of the fruit or vegetable into the paint, and then make a print on a sheet of construction paper.

Make several prints on the paper. You can cover each sheet of paper with a combination of fruit and vegetable prints or a single fruit printed with different colors.

Step 5: Let the paint dry.

Step 6: Cut 2 pieces of clear adhesive vinyl slightly larger than the construction paper placemat.

Step 7: Peel the white paper off a sheet.

Step 8: Place the adhesive vinyl on a table, sticky side up.

Step 9: Carefully lay the placemat on top of the adhesive vinyl, and gently rub it so it sticks.

Step 10: Then peel the white paper off the second sheet of adhesive vinyl, and carefully place it, sticky side down, on top of the unsealed side of the placemat. Gently rub to seal.

Step 11: Trim the edges if necessary.

Now the easy-to-clean placemats are ready for a holiday meal!

See the next page to make an easy cornhusk doll to decorate the table along with your placemats.

For other fun back-to-school activities, check out:

Cornhusk Doll

Make an easy Cornhusk Doll.
Make an easy Cornhusk Doll.
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Use this back-to-school craft project to make an easy Cornhusk Doll with Indian corn to celebrate the arrival of fall.

What You'll Need:

  • One ear of Indian corn
  • Yarn
  • Craft stick or frozen treat stick
  • Craft glue
  • Black felt-tip pen

Step 1: Bend the cornhusks on the ear of the Indian corn over the cob.

Step 2: Tie a piece of yarn around the husks about 2 inches from the top for the head.

Step 3: Tie another piece around the husks at the middle of the cob for the body.

Step 4: Insert a craft stick or frozen treat stick through the husks for the arms. Add a dab of glue to hold the arms in place.

Step 5: Draw a face on the husks.

Step 6: Glue yarn hair on top of the doll's head.

For another creative use of corn, see the next page and learn how to do Indian Corn Painting.

For more fun back-to-school activities, check out:

Indian Corn Painting

Indian Corn Painting is an easy and fun way to decorate your classroom. Try out this cool back-to-school craft.

What You'll Need:

  • Newspaper
  • Poster paints
  • Paper plates
  • 1 or 2 ears of Indian corn
  • Sharp knife (use with an adult's supervision)
  • Drawing paper

Make a fall painting with Indian corn as your paintbrush.

Step 1: Cover your work surface with newspaper.

Step 2: Pour poster paint on some paper plates.

Step 3: Have an adult use a sharp knife to cut the corn into 3-inch sections.

Step 4: Dip the cut end of 1 corncob in poster paint. Stamp it on a piece of drawing paper to create a flower-like pattern.

Step 5: Roll a 3-inch corncob in some poster paint. Then roll it on the paper for a unique dotted design. Use this technique to fill in a picture or to create patterned paper.

For more fall decorations, grow special pre-carved pumpkins. Learn how to do this back-to-school craft on the next page.

For more fun back-to-school activities, check out:

Pre-Carved Pumpkins

For this back-to-school craft, plant dwarf pumpkin seeds in the summer and be the hit of your class Halloween party with a Pre-Carved Pumpkin.

What You'll Need:

  • Sunny garden spot
  • Dwarf pumpkin seeds or starts
  • Water
  • Clean nail

When you grow your very own dwarf pumpkin, there's a way to make it reflect your personal moods. All it takes is a clean nail.

Step 1: Plant dwarf pumpkin seeds or starts in a sunny spot in your garden.

Step 2: After they grow from seeds to flowers to melons, and when they are yellow and just about to turn orange, carve your name in the skin of the pumpkin with a clean, sharp nail. Be careful not to slip and "nail" your own skin.

Step 3: As the pumpkin continues to grow, the skin will scar over your marks, leaving a very personal signature.

Indian corn is another great fall decoration. Learn how to grow Indian corn on the next page.

For other fun back-to-school activities, check out:

Growing Indian Corn

Grow your own Indian corn for fall.
Grow your own Indian corn for fall.
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Growing Indian Corn will yield a colorful harvest that you can use in fun back-to-school crafts!

What You'll Need:

  • Indian corn seeds
  • Small, sunny square of ground

Do you love the way that colorful brown, yellow, and orange Indian corn brightens up the autumn? You can plant your own series of stalks long before the summer turns to fall.

Step 1: Head for your favorite general or gardening store in March, April, or May. Gather up seed packets of colorful corn varieties.

Step 2: Plant them as instructed on the packages.

By the time fall comes around, you'll have grown your own rainbow of maize to harvest and enjoy.

Another fun activity in the fall is playing in the leaves. Try out the Sneaky Leaf Gathering Game on the next page.

For more fun back-to-school activities, check out:

Sneaky Leaf Gathering Game

When autumn leaves are falling, play this Sneaky Leaf Gathering Game. Then you can use the leaves you've collected for all kinds of back-to-school crafts.

What You'll Need:

  • Fall leaves
  • Cardboard boxes

The object of this fast-paced game is to see how many leaves each player can collect without having them stolen by other players.

Step 1: Set boxes (one per player) about 15 feet apart in a leaf-covered park, yard, or playground.

Step 2: One player says "go," and the game begins.

Step 3: Grab handfuls of leaves and put them into your box.

Step 4: But watch carefully. You can steal leaves from other boxes to fill your own, so you'll want to guard your box as you go. Remember, your box can be robbed while you're out searching or stealing!

One thing you can do with the many leaves you gather (unless yours get stolen away!) is to make Leaf Stencils. See the next page for instructions.

For more fun back-to-school activities, check out:

Leaf Stencils

Make some beautiful Leaf Stencils.
Make some beautiful Leaf Stencils.
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Leaves make lovely artwork -- and unique greeting cards and stationery for classmates and teachers. Make your own Leaf Stencils with this fun back-to-school craft.

Adult Help Needed

What You'll Need:

  • Tempera paints
  • Water
  • Spray bottles
  • Leaves
  • Newspaper
  • White paper
  • Crayons (optional)

Step 1: Make easy and safe spray paint by adding water to tempera paint to thin it. Then put the different colors of paint in different spray bottles.

Step 2: Collect a variety of leaves with interesting shapes.

Step 3: Cover your work surface with newspaper. The newspaper should be bigger than the paper you will be using so it will catch the "over spray" when you paint.

Step 4: Put a few of the leaves you collected on a piece of paper.

Step 5: Spray paint the leaves. Be sure to spray around the leaves, too.

Step 6: Let the paint dry, then take away the leaves. The image is called a stencil.

Note: You can also rub crayons along the edges of the leaves instead of using spray paint to create your stencil.

Make your leaf stencils into greeting cards or make stationery by painting with light-colored paints. Overlap several leaves for an intricate design.

Another fun activity with leaves is to compost them, which you can make even more fun by creating the Compost Sculptures on the next page.

For more fun back-to-school activities, check out:

Compost Sculptures

Make Compost Sculptures out of leaves!
Make Compost Sculptures out of leaves!
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These Compost Sculptures make interesting lawn decorations, and you'll end up with some handy compost by spring break! Check out this cool back-to-school craft.

What You'll Need:

  • Paper yard-waste bags
  • Crayons or permanent markers
  • String
  • Smaller brown paper bags
  • Twigs (optional)
  • Tape

You've probably seen those orange plastic bags that look like pumpkin faces and are filled with leaves. The ones you make will be even better for the environment. If you place them where they'll be protected during the winter, in a few months you'll have some compost in the bottom of the bags -- just in time for your spring garden!

Step 1: Before filling the yard-waste bags with leaves, decorate them with the crayons or markers. Animal faces, funny faces, or designs of any kind make interesting sculptures.

Step 2: When finished, fill the bags with leaves.

Step 3: Tie the tops shut.

Step 4: You can add twigs for arms, use a smaller paper bag to make a hat -- who knows where your imagination will take you!

For more fun back-to-school activities, check out:

ABOUT THE CRAFT DESIGNERS:

Back-to-School Newspaper by Lisa Lerner and Kersten Hamilton

Stitching Up Shapes by Lisa Lerner and Kersten Hamilton

Styling Book Covers by Lisa Lerner and Kersten Hamilton

Pre-Carved Pumpkins by contributing writers Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe, and Kelly Milner Halls

Growing Indian Corn by contributing writers Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe, and Kelly Milner Halls