7 Kid Friendly Crafts Using Upcycled Old Books

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”
– Fred Rogers

little free library books

Giving books to the library or to friends is one common way that people dispose of old books. You can start your own library in your neighborhood! In fact, Little Free Library even sells their own book-sharing box here. Learn more at littlefreelibrary.org. But that isn’t the only thing you can do with all those books that are threatening to take over your living space. Here are seven ways you can upcycle old books with your children, starting right now.

1.     Book Bins

hollow book bin spine

I don’t know of a single family that doesn’t have at least one storage bin in their house. They can be unsightly. Cover the face of those bins with the spines of old hardcover books.

For this project, you will need:

Just remove the spines from the books and glue them to the face of the bin. You’re done! Personally, I think a glue gun works best here. Depending on the depth of the storage bin, you can hide those toys or crafting supplies on the bookshelf. Make sure you use a slightly damp cloth to wipe down the spine of the books. You’ll have to dust them regularly.

2.     Desk Organizer

desk organizer made from pages book

Your children can keep their desk tidy by upcycling old books into a desk organizer.

For this project, you will need:

  • A stack of books
  • Cardboard tubes or cups (optional)
  • Glue (optional)
  • Pencil
  • Utility knife

You can find one tutorial for this project here. But, to simplify it a little, these are the steps that I would recommend:

  1. Remove any hardcovers from the books. Unless you are sure you can cut a circle through the cover.
  2. On the top book, trace two circles using the cardboard tubes or cups.
  3. Using the utility knife, cut out the circles. You’ll need to do this a few pages at a time. Once you have the first section of pages cut, use those pages as a guide, working your way through the entire book.
  4. Place the first book on the next book, trace the already cut circles onto the cover, and repeat step two.
  5. Repeat steps one and two until you have your desired height.
  6. Stack the books, and insert the pens, pencils, crayons, scissors, etc.  I recommend gluing the books together. Good ol’ Elmer’s Glue should work fine. Just don’t use too much.

I recommend keeping the spines on the book as it adds a nice decorative effect.

3.     Picture Frame

picture frame made from book

Copious amounts of pictures and stacks of hardcover small children’s books are two things many families have. Once your child has outgrown their favorite book, you can turn it into a picture frame.

For this project, you will need:

  • Glue or tape
  • Ruler
  • Utility knife
  • Pencil
  • Hardcover book
  • Photo
  • Photo album corner (optional)
  1. First, you need to trace edges of the photo onto the middle of the book. I recommend using a ruler to center the image, but the most important part is making sure the tracing isn’t crooked.
  2. Use the utility knife to cut out the frame from the hardcover book. Goes as deep into the pages as you want, but take your time. The good news is that if you mess up on the pages it’s not like anyone will see them again.
  3. Finally, tape or glue the photo to the inside of the book. This all depends on how much of an inset you want for the photo. I would use tape so you avoid damaging the photo.

If the book refuses to stand up you can glue some of the pages together to give it more stability. If you are worried about ruining the perfect book for this project, then grab another hardcover book and practice.

4.     Clock

book clock where the wild things are

This project will require a little bit more prep time, as you’ll have to purchase a clock set. However, once it is finished, it will be an excellent addition to your child’s bedroom.

For this project, you will need:

Creating a literary clock is as simple as marking the center of the book, drilling a hole, and attaching the clock.

  1. First, you need to find the center of the book, or wherever you want the center of the clock to be. This is where your ruler comes in handy. If you want to frame any of the pages and use them as art, you’ll definitely want to remove them before you drill.
  2. [Optional] If you don’t like the brass color of your purchased kit, I couldn’t find any additional colors, then head outside with a can of spray paint and change that color. Be careful to not let your child breathe in the fumes.
  3. Time to drill the center of the clock. Look at the instructions that came with your clock kit, you want to pay close attention to which size drill bit it recommends you use.  Please do not let little kids play with the drill. I don’t want to share my father’s story about how easy it is to drill through your finger. Another note, be careful drilling so as not to completely through the book into the table underneath.
  4. Assemble the clock using the instructions that came with the kit. If the clock set isn’t the right size for you, then simply return it. Amazon takes back just about anything.
  5. Add the numbers using the longhand as a guide on how far away they need to be. You can use super glue here as well to ensure that the numbers never fall off.
  6. You’re finished!

5.     Floating Bookshelf

floating bookshelf 3 sets wall

A bookshelf made out of a book? It may be meta, but it is still a wonderful and easy way to up-cycle old books (if they’re hardcover).

For this project, you will need:

  • Hardcover book
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Glue
  • L-bracket
  • Flat-head screws
  1. Open the inside cover of the book. The l-bracket does NOT attach to the hardcover.
  2. Find the center of the book with a ruler, glue and screw the l-bracket to the book’s pages. I recommend screwing the l-bracket through the pages to make it more secure.
  3. Glue the cover of the book to the inside page with the l-bracket. Use a lot of glue.
  4. Let it dry overnight with something heavy lying on top of the book. For instance, your child can sleep on it. I’m just joking. Seriously, give it around 24 hours.
  5. Mount it to the wall using the attached l-bracket.
  6. Stack your books on it until you can no longer see the l-bracket.
  7. Done!

6.     Planter Box

plants inside books planter succulents

These books-turned-planters will make for a great present. Plus, as these planters are recommended for succulents, it means a low-maintenance gift. Here are a few succulent plants you can order online.

For this project, you will need:

  • Utility knife
  • Glue
  • Potting soil
  • Plastic bag or parchment paper
  • Dry moss or ground cover
  • Ruler
  • 2-3 small succulents.
  1. Simply add glue to the outside of the pages to hold the pages together when cutting the hole for the plants. You’ll need to let this dry for over 12 hours.
  2. Open the cover and cut a square box into the pages. Use a ruler to make a straight edge. Feel free to break the glue seal on the pages allowing you to cut a wad of pages together. You will not be able to simply cut the square through all the pages at once. Save the title page for last, because it’s the only page that matters. Don’t worry about the square not being pretty or perfect. You’ll need about an inch and a half of depth.
  3. Place the plastic bag or parchment paper in the square. You’re essentially creating a pot, and the liner is going to protect the rest of the book from soil and water. Don’t worry you can trim all the excess after you’re done.
  4. Plant the succulent with potting soil. You want to pack the soil around the pot to help it stand up straight.
  5. Feel free to add a little dry moss or another ground cover to conceal the soil if you like.
  6. Cut the plastic bag or paper leaving it only slightly higher than the soil. You can use the moss to conceal the exposed edges.
  7. Succulents need very little water. Seriously, you can water them once a week. However, you’ll need to give them lots of indirect sunlight. That means they’ll need to be by a window. I don’t recommend keeping them outside unless you want your book to rot.

7.     Reading Lamp

reading lamp made from books

Having a reading lamp with a stack of books as the base is a great idea. This project does require a little more prep time, and a trip to the hardware store. There are two ways you can do this project; one is a little simpler than the other.

For the first method, you will need:

The tutorial can be found here.

For the second method, you will need:

  • Hammer
  • Hacksaw
  • Drill
  • Dremel with ¼” router bit
  • ½” drill bit
  • Screw driver bit
  • Wire Strippers
  • Phillips head screw driver
  • Pencil
  • Ceremaic light fixture
  • Pancake electrical box
  • Lamp cord with switch on the cord
  • 6” threaded rod
  • 2” wood screws

The finished project is very appealing and rustic, but it does require a lot of steps and a fair amount of supplies and tools. You can find the complete tutorial here.

Of course, if none of the these projects are for you and your children, you can always do the tried and true cut-a-hole-in-the-pages-to-hide-objects method.