How to make recycled chalkboards (without paint)

This is a super-easy home recycling or upcycling project. I love this project because I have ADHD and chalkboards around the house help me keep track of things. This is really simple to make and you don’t need any specific crafting skill or equipment.

Do you have old cardboard boxes lying around? All you need to make a load of chalkboards are the following:

1. Some cardboard boxes.
2. This chalkboard Fablon stickyback plastic (you can write on it with chalk pens). Similar in the US here.
3. A pair of scissors

That is literally it.

How to make your chalkboards

Cut your cardboard down to the right size.

Place the cardboard on an unrolled length of Fablon. When cutting the Fablon, make sure to leave about 1-2cm around each side of your piece of cardboard so it can stick properly (I judge this with the squares on the backing paper).

Cut a diagonal line in each of the four corners of the Fablon to help it fold over onto the cardboard.

Now carefully remove the backing paper and line your card against it. Do a little at a time to avoid any air bubbles or creases and press it down moving toward the unfinished part of the chalkboard.

Last, fold the edges over, one at a time, and press them down. Cut any extra bits off.

Voila, you have a chalkboard. Now you can get some chalkboard pens and start drawing on them. The Chalkola chalkboard pens I use are here (or here in the US). To remove chalkboard pen ink from your chalkboard, use a wet cloth. The longer the paint is on the board, the more likely it is to stain.

You can also do the same project with whiteboard plastic, available here (or here in the US). The result is less pretty (IMO) but more functional for things like a classroom where you want to get feedback from your kids as part of your AfL strategy.

Level up your chalkboards: Make them magnetic!

Buy a sheet of sticky magnets, or magnet tape, and stick them to the back of your chalkboard. If it’s not sticking to your fridge very well, double the amount of magnet stickers/tape you are using (as a rule, the amount of magnet should be abut 5-10% of the size of the chalkboard).

10 uses for your new chalkboards:

Write your weekly meal plan on a board and stick it to the fridge.

Have another chalkboard for your grocery list.

Make a beautiful sign welcoming people to your home.

Keep one empty for mindfulness – with a pack of chalkboard pens, you can doodle, draw or write down what’s bothering you then wash it away when you feel better.

Make a note of any important tasks you need to get done today and number them in order of importance (don’t overload it though). It’s really satisfying to wipe this board clean at the end of the day.

Give one to your child to entertain them. This is especially good as a high chair tray activity or a car activity that’s easy to clean up. Remember to get non-toxic chalks, and NEVER give children under 5 chalk pens.

Make tiny chalkboards for a doll’s house.

Frame postcard-sized chalkboards and write some inspirational messages on them. To make a frame, cut out a bigger piece of card so the inside edge is a little smaller than your chalkboard, and paint it white.

Use chalkboards to help organize your cleaning schedule by writing each cleaning task along with the date it was last done. When you clean that thing again, just wipe off the date and write the new one in! Stick this in the cleaning cupboard to keep it with your cleaning products.

Use chalkboards to help your child learn new words, you can draw a picture and ask them to tell you what it is, or to write the word under it, or give your child a word and ask them to draw it to tell you what it is.

What will you use your new chalkboards for? Let me know in the comments!

DIY upcycled book caddy from a wine carrier

So I really wanted one of those gorgeous Ikea spice racks that Americans are transforming into book holders for children, but sadly, UK Ikea don’t sell the same spice racks. The ones in the US go for $6.99 and the nearest UK equivalent is £18.

That’s a pretty huge difference, when you consider that a British £1 is worth more than $1 USD. Like, they get the same thing for about £5 that we would have to pay £18 for.

Nope.

So I bought this wooden wine carrier from Hobbycraft. It was unfinished and I measured it. It’s the perfect size for the Gruffalo but about half a centimetre too small to fit any of the Charlie and Lola books in (boo). If Hobbycraft ever make these half a centimetre bigger, I’ll get another one and paint that instead.

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I painted the ends green and the middle red, using cheap acrylic paint from The Works (£2.99 for 6 different tubes of coloured paint) and cheap brushes, also from The Works.

They deliver.

I copied the frog picture from Jellyfish’s favourite bath sponge, a frog we have dubbed Mr. Ribbit. If you’re wondering, the frog sponge is here in a 2 pack.

It took two days to do the whole thing and I feel really proud because I am not very good at painting.

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I can see the frog could have been painted better (by someone other than me, with a steadier hand and better drawing ability) but overall I’m happy with how this turned out. The first thing Jellyfish did when he saw it was try to put it in his mouth so he definitely thinks it looks like his frog sponge.

I can’t wait to put books in it!

Have you made anything this week? Let me know in the comments.

DIY No-Sew Montessori Toy

We’re starting a bit of Montessori right now, particularly in the way of getting Jellyfish to play with toys that show him how to sort, organize, or how things work. If you’ve looked into implementing Montessori in your playroom (or in our case, the square metre of floorspace in the living room where Jellyfish can play safely), you will know already that those toys are expensive. They are also not very versatile. So I am planning to make him some toys, and this is the first one I did.

I came across the idea of a posting toy, where it’s basically a cardboard box with a slot that kids can put objects in. Jellyfish isn’t really at that level, yet. So I flipped it around. Instead of posting things, he can pull them out. He loves opening things or taking them apart and he especially loves pulling all the tissues out of boxes if they’re left in his reach.

I originally thought play scarves could go into the box, but all the ones I’ve seen on Amazon are unreasonably expensive for what amounts to a few flimsy strips of fabric, and delivery is like end of June, by which time Jellyfish will be into something new, I’m sure. So I got an empty tissue box and some old baby vests that a) don’t fit him and b) have no other use. I can’t give these vests away because they are stained and no one wants stained second hand anything, and anyway the whole world is on lockdown so it’s hard to buy/sell/exchange preloved items.

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Tissue box toy2

I cut the baby vests into squares. Pinking shears would have made a neater edge but we don’t have that luxury right now. Then I folded them into the tissue box so they would come back out again without him having to make much effort. It took like 5 minutes to make this toy so parenting effort = zero.

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I have placed all the “tissues” inside the box and left it on his play mat. I can’t wait to see him playing with this in the morning! So they aren’t that filmy, flimsy scarf fabric that looks so shiny in all the baby sensory pics. I don’t know that he will care as long as he has a box full of things he can take apart. And in terms of sustainability, it has saved a tissue box and three stained baby vests from landfill. I am parenting like a boss tomorrow.

Full disclosure: Today was actually a total washout as Jellyfish has 5 teeth coming in and he is in a lot of pain and crying. Today was a TV day and I justified it by putting on Octonauts in French dub because that’s then educational, right? Yeah, you can change the language on Netflix via the subtitle menu and it alleviates my guilt. But tomorrow will be epic. And if not, there is wine. Which is also French and therefore educational.

What random things keep your baby entertained?