Nothing says “back to school” like a new lunchbox.
Some kids get used to the ritual of going to the store and purchasing a new lunch bag each year, and we have definitely been in that pattern for some time. But this year, when I looked around and saw the shelf of lunchboxes in the basement, I figured it was time to take a new approach to our yearly back-to-school lunchbox quest.
I asked my kids to choose one lunchbox from a previous year (or one of their siblings’ bags) that we could doctor up, so to speak. At first I’ll admit there was some pushback, but after sharing pictures of the possibilities with them, they were on board.
This year, my daughter wanted to make her lunch bag, and since the boys weren’t getting new ones I challenged her to base the design on what we already had lying around the house.
So we’re mixing it up this year, and it feels good. My daughter found a fun outdoor, waterproof tablecloth (also called oilcloth) to use for her bag. I chose some canvas fabric.
Reusable Lunch Bags
Choose the material you like – canvas, washable cotton or oilcloth work well. And don’t be afraid of the sewing for this project – it’s beginner-level sewing, and if it took longer than 10 minutes to sew I wouldn’t be talking about it.
Fabric (canvas, cotton or oilcloth)
- Cut the main piece of fabric to 29½ by 8 inches and two side panels, each 12¼ by 5 inches
- Fold the long panel, inside out, into a U shape with a 5-inch bottom
- Make a ¼-inch cut at the bottom corners of the side and middle pieces so the bag folds smoothly
- Sew in side panels, leaving a ¼-inch seam allowance
- Turn right side out and top stitch all around, 1/8 inch from the edge
DIY Blackboard Lunchbox
Instead of sticking with the same old pen-and-paper lunchbox letter, here’s an easy craft you can do together to transform a lunchbox into a mini blackboard. You can use it to leave a sweet note for your kid, or simply a reminder, like “Jimmy, eat your grapes!”
Metal lunchbox (the old-school kind)
Chalkboard paint or spray paint
Foam or bristle paintbrush
3/8-inch decorative ribbon (optional)
- Make sure that your metal lunchbox is cleaned out before getting started. I used a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to scrub some unidentified stuck-on food from the inside, and then gave the whole lunchbox a bath in warm water and Dawn Dish Soap. I let the lunchbox dry thoroughly before continuing
- Using a foam paintbrush, paint the inside of the lid with chalkboard paint (or spray paint). Paint three coats, waiting about an hour between each coat
- When you’re sure the lid is dry (wait until the following day to be certain), you’re ready to write a special note
- Optional: If you’d like to add a little more flair, use tacky craft glue to trim the lid in ribbon
Just a Little Touch Up
For a super simple – yet still good-as-new option – you can always just give the outside of last year’s lunchbox a facelift. Whether you have fabric-insulated bags, traditional lunchboxes or some other variation, use permanent markers, washi tape, ribbon, fabric paint, glitter, button or any craft materials you have on hand. After the kids are finished with their revamped lunchboxes, clean up craft messes large and small with a Swiffer Sweep + Vac – it’s rechargeable and cleans dirt and grime from hard floors, even in grout lines! What’s not to love?
Now if you could just get your kids to pack their own school lunches. Oh wait – we have ideas for that!