A noteworthy project

Customize your school supplies

It's that time again: the start of the school year. Which means, among other things, supply lists from kids' teachers and a dozen trips to the office supply store to find that spiral notebook with SpongeBob SquarePants on the cover. You know, the one your neighbor's kid has.

Rather than buying notebooks sporting the latest cartoon characters-and reinforcing TV-watching habits in the process-why not reinforce creativity instead?

Helping your kids personalize their own notebooks is a fun way to encourage both creativity and individuality. It might even save you some money.

The possibilities are endless. Here are three ideas to get you started:

Button bouquet. Cut out a piece of cardstock to cover the front of a plain spiral notebook. Allow 1 inch overhang on the top, bottom and right-hand side. Don't cover the spiral rings. Paste the cardstock on the front with the glue stick. Fold the excess over onto the inside cover and glue. Use tacky glue if the glue stick doesn't hold well enough. For flower stems, cut several green pipe cleaners. Tie them together with ribbon. Squirt tacky glue onto the back of the stems and paste them onto the cardstock. You may also want to glue down the ends of the bow. Dab tacky glue onto the backs of colored buttons and arrange these "flower petals" at the tops of the stems. Allow to dry.

Glitter galaxy. This makes a great science notebook. Glue a piece of black, glitter-flecked cardstock to the front cover of a notebook. You can also use solid black or blue. Using glitter glue, paint a space scene-shooting stars, moons and planets. (See photo for suggestions.) If the glitter globs, spread it around with a small paintbrush. Allow to dry for several hours.

Window to the world. Carefully tear a full-page photo from an old magazine, such as Arizona Highways. Glue this to the front of the notebook. Cut six ½-inch strips of black cardstock-three that equal the height of the notebook and three that equal the width you're covering. Using tacky glue, arrange the strips to make a "window." Four of the strips form the window frame. Glue the last two down in the shape of a "+" sign to make window panes. Optional: Glue on old fabric scraps to make curtains.

The only limitation is the number of notebooks you've bought. But don't worry-just because your kids run out of notebooks to decorate doesn't mean it's time to go back to the office supply store and buy more. Just flip the notebook over and customize the back.

Lorien Menhennett

Kids Eat Chicago

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