Cotton Balls as Teddy-Bear Stuffing
Has Paddington ripped and lost his padding? To add fluff, cram cotton balls behind the torn seam, then stitch him back up.
Teddy Bear as Ring Bearer
Send your ring bearer down the aisle with a plush teddy bear (rings tied to a bow around its neck) and cue the “awws.” Bonus: Once the ceremony ends, your ring bearer has a cuddly new toy to commemorate the day.
Cereal Box as Photo Saver
Sending Grandpa a shot of the all-star soccer team but don't want the postal journey to bend it (like Beckham)? Sandwich the picture between the large panels of a flattened box.
Glass Jar as Arts and Crafts Organizer
Kids can see inside the glass jars to find what they’re looking for, from crayons to pompoms. Leave off the lids for extra long supplies, like pipe cleaners or colored pencils.
Ribbon as Photo Matte
Glue ribbon around an existing matte to turn a basic frame into one-of-a-kind art.
Chopsticks as Glue Stick
To get a tiny sequin in just the right spot during your next craft project, use the tip of a chopstick to nudge it into place without gumming up your fingers.
Shower Curtain Liner as Child’s Smock
Finger-painting on the day’s agenda? Cut a new shower curtain liner in half or in fourths, and then cut a hole in the center for your little one’s head to pop through.
Scratched CD as Paint Palette
When you're working on an art project, dab the colors you need onto a CD. (Place one finger in the hole to keep the CD stable.)
Cereal Box as Sweets Carrier
Attention, PTA members: Here’s a practical Transport Alternative for the bake sale. Tape a cereal box closed, then cut away the front or back panel to create a tray for those top-selling brownies. Best of all, you can just "donate" the box.
Party Hat as Confetti Holder
Hang party hats upside down and fill with colorful ready-to-be-thrown confetti.
To-Go Container as Paint Palette
Even a starving artist eats takeout sometimes. Use the plastic top from a to-go container as a palette for mixing colors; when you’re finished, just toss.
Paper Sack as Halloween Treat Bag
Don’t pay a premium for Halloween-themed treat bags. Turn any paper sack into a jack-o-lantern with a few precise snips.
Stickers as Book Labels
Hey, math can be colorful! Wrap textbooks in simple paper and use alphabet stickers to label the spines.
Sticker Dots as Party Cups
Turn plain white cups into custom-designed party wear with simple dot stickers, available at any office supply store.
Ribbon as Shoelace
Let everyone know you march to the beat of your own drum; use colorful ribbon in place of shoelaces. Change when the mood strikes.
Post-It Notes as Garland
Admit it: You’ve always wanted to unfurl an entire stack of Post-its. Here’s your chance. Gently attach one end to a wall and spread the stack across without pulling too tight (you don’t want the sheets to come un-stuck) to make a quick, graphic garland.
Turkey Baster as Pancake Shaper
Use a baster full of batter to squeeze custom pancakes onto the griddle. Start with easy letters and shapes, then work up to more complicated designs, like these leaves. (The trick is to draw the outlines and veins first, let them brown, then fill in the gaps with more batter.)
Kid Art as Holiday Wrap
Oh, that’s grandma dressed as an alligator? Perfect for wrapping her birthday gift. (And the fridge door is full anyway.)
Dental Floss as Picture Hanger
Hang a lightweight painting. Wrap one end of a strand of floss several times around one of a pair of screws or hooks attached to either side of the back of the frame. Wrap the other end around the remaining screw or hook, leaving some slack. Knot the ends and hang from a nail.
Parchment Paper as Musical Instrument
Make a kazoo by folding a piece of parchment or wax paper over a comb’s teeth (the paper should hang over about an inch).
Rubber Bands as Sandwich Labels
Distinguishing chicken salad from tuna is no picnic. Next time you’re packing sandwiches, stretch a thick rubber band around each one and label it with a permanent marker. Divvying up lunch will be a snap.
Contact Lens Case as Travel Spice Holder
Pack small amounts of salt, pepper, and spices for a camping trip.
Clothespin as Refrigerator Magnet
Turn your fridge or stove hood into a memo board. Glue a magnet to the back of a pin and use it to hold reminders, invitations, and photos.
Muffin Tin as Large Ice Cube Tray
The cold, hard truth: Small ice cubes melt fast, leaving a pitcher of lemonade watery. To make long-lasting jumbo cubes, use a muffin tin. Pop them out by running the back of the tin under hot water for 30 seconds.
Poker Caddy as Pencil Organizer
Dialed back on late nights? Corral some clutter with that poker caddy. Glue a poker chip to the bottom of each slot, then close the gaps on the sides with playing cards to create compartments for stray pens and pencils.
Book as Word Scramble
For the kids' table: Cut out 30 or so words from old children's books (the fonts are larger) and challenge them to form sentences with the pieces.
Metal Magazine Rack as Towel Holder
Roll pool towels and store them vertically, so your kids can grab one before taking a swim.
Cereal Box as Drawer Organizer
If you're the flaky type, cereal boxes (including the single-serving minis) can corral desk-drawer chaos. Slice off the tops and the bottoms and fill them with loose odds and ends.
Zippered Plastic Bag as Pencil Case
Always have your pencils and PTA notes (or toddler’s crayons and doodle paper) in the same spot: Just punch holes along the nonzippered edge of a sandwich bag, then click it into a three-ring binder.
Clipboard as Place-Mat Holder
Hang a clipboard on the wall (or inside a cabinet) to clamp down on place mats—and that old “I can’t find them!” excuse from the person setting the table.
Pencil as Key Lubricant
If a key is sticking in the lock, scribble on its edges with a trusty number two. Graphite in the lead helps the key glide and turn more easily (so it also makes your day go more smoothly).
Velcro as Pet Bowl Securer
Keep Fido’s bowl from migrating away from its designated spot with a few pieces of Velcro on its bottom side.
Button as Board Game Piece
Is your Monopoly game missing its top hat? Replace wayward board-game pieces without missing a beat (or a turn).
Ankle Weight as Stroller Counterbalance
Ground the wheels of a stroller that has a jam-packed diaper bag hanging on the handles by attaching the weights just above the front wheels. You'll no longer be saying “Whoopsie daisy!” when you lift your child out of the seat.
Swap Conversation Hearts for Chalk
If you can’t find the real deal for your message center or that game of tic-tac-toe, these candies will do the sweet talking for you. (Hang on to them until summer, when the driveway is just begging for a masterpiece by your TOO CUTE toddler.)
Rubber Band as Canister Measure
Stretch a rubber band around an opaque container. Each time you scoop out the flour or coffee, move the band down to mark the supply level. No need to lift the lid while making your grocery list—you can see how much is left in a snap.
Dice as Vegetable Counter
Decide how many more bites of dinner your child has to eat before being excused. Let your child roll so he’s the one controlling his fate. You'll end up with a more peas-ful family meal.
Teaneck, New Jersey
Dryer Lint as Modeling Dough
Since you most likely have it in abundance, use it to make homemade modeling dough. Simply mix the lint with water and flour (and, if you prefer, food coloring), as directed below for an ear-resistible sculpture of Dumbo.
To make the modeling dough:
- Place 3 cups (shredded) dryer lint into a pot.
- Pour in 2 cups water.
- Stir in 1 cup flour.
- Add ½ teaspoon vegetable oil.
- Stir continuously over low heat until the mixture binds together and is of a smooth consistency.
- Pour onto a sheet of wax paper to cool.
Dustpan as Toy Herder
Scoop up small toys―Lego blocks, jacks, Barbie shoes, plastic soldiers—with your dustpan and brush, so you can reclaim your living room for grown-ups.
Plastic Easter Eggs as Snack Containers
Give Easter eggs a year-round use (and save on resealable bags) by filling them with snacks like crackers or Cheerios.
Kids' Floaties as Wine Bottle Protectors
Buffer breakables in a suitcase by placing delicate items, such as wine bottles and precious trinkets, inside an inflated arm floaty, and it will shield against bumps, bruises, and breaks.
Glow-in-the-Dark Stars as Nightlights
Create a well-lit path he can follow from his room to the bathroom. Line up stars near the baseboard and make sure they get plenty of light during the day. You'll get fewer bumps (or cries for Mom) in the night.
Baby Spoons as Condiment Servers
Dish out dips or condiments at a party. Reuse those old shower gifts to spoon the sauce from a teacup or a candy dish for a presentation a tad more elegant than the squeeze bottle.
Baby Food Jar as Paint Bucket
Simplify paint touch-ups by pouring a few ounces of each new wall paint into a jar for when those times it’s needed to cover the inevitable nail holes and scuffs.
Beach Towel as Shower Curtain
Make a summery shower curtain by hanging two boldly patterned towels using clip-on drapery rings.
Binder Clip as Cord Holder
Keep a windowblind cord out of reach of little hands (or paws). Just gather the cord up at a safe level and clasp.
Business Card Organizer as Photo Album
Showcase favorite walletsize photographs, or make a timeline of school portraits by stashing them in a business card file on your desk.
Changing Table as Potting Bench
Once the little ones are potty-trained, give your changing table new life as a potting bench. A coat of semi-gloss or high-gloss paint will protect it from the elements. Stack pots on shelves and stash seeds in drawers. Fill an easy access hanging nylon or canvas diaper bag with shears and gloves.
Cupcake Liner as Ice Cream Bowl
Serve ice cream at parties without the drips. Freeze individual scoops in liners the night before.
Cupcake Liner as Snack Bowl
Fill sturdy foil cupcake holders with mixed nuts, mints, hard candy, or candy corn and scatter them around a party. Or, to make kids swoon at a birthday, place an individual cupcake holder at each setting.
Cutting Board as Placemat
Use a non-skid chopping board as child's placemat or deskside placemat.
Dish Rack as Art Supply Organizer
Organize coloring books in the main basket and corral crayons, pencils, and markers in the silverware holder.
Dish Towel as Dog Toy
Whip up a dog toy. Find three old towels. Cut an inch wide strip from one short end of two of the towels. Use one strip to tie the three towels firmly together at one end. Tightly braid them, then tie the other end with the second strip.
Egg Carton as Paint Palette
Create a custom paint palette for an afternoon art session.
Electrical Tape as Chair Decorator
Liven up a child’s chair with colorful stripes. (Use lead-free or plastic tape.)
Garlic Press as Modeling Dough Tool
Make Play-Doh "hair" by filling the chamber and squeezing.
High Chair as Mail Holder
Free up some counter space by using a clip-on high chair as mail catchall. Great solution for rounding up keys and stashing mail and permission slips.
Jewelry Box as Game Piece Storage
Store game pieces, play money, or other priceless rainy-afternoon distractions.
Lint Roller as Glitter Pick-Up
Clean up glitter (and tiny pieces of construction paper) after craft time.
Martini Shaker as Glitter Dispenser
Add a twist to craft time by using a shaker to dispense glitter.
Oranges as Mini Snowman
Build snowmen without bundling up. For a holiday party, give each child three oranges, some toothpicks, a sturdy plate, and store-bought frosting. Stick the large orange to the center of the plate with a dollop of frosting. Poke a few toothpicks halfway into the top of the fruit and spear a smaller orange on top. Repeat with the third orange, and layer on frosting, a vanilla wafer, and peppermints to make a hat. Use candy-cane pieces for arms and a nose, cloves for the eyes, and red licorice for a scarf.
Pillowcase as Art Smock
Hold the pillowcase up to your little Picasso, measure, and cut out holes for the budding artist's head and arms. Gather the fabric between the neck hole and each armhole and tie with a ribbon for a better fit.
Bean Bag Animals as Ice Packs
Console an injured kid with a comforting ice pack. Chill a beanbag animal in the freezer and apply it to a little one’s wounds.
Velcro as Toy Storage
Inspire housekeeping habits that will stick. Affix the rough sides of a few strips to the wall, and the soft sides to the backs of stuffed animals. The act of putting away toys will gain all-ages appeal.
Baking Soda as Crayon Eraser
Sprinkle it on a damp sponge to erase crayon, pencil, and ink from painted surfaces.
Child's Skirt as Art Smock
Make a smock for a budding artist. Fashion shoulder straps from rickrack or ribbon and stitch the ends to the front and back of the skirt’s waist.
Coupon as Grocery Store Game
Ward off temper tantrums in the supermarket by handing out unneeded coupons and have your kids go on a scavenger hunt. First one to spot five items gets a big prize (okay, a pack of bubble gum) at checkout.
Jump Rope as Ribbon Replacement
Jump-start a trend with this fun, colorful decoration that doubles as a bonus gift.
Kazoo as Bubble Machine
Blow your little one’s mind with this two-in-one toy. Just dip the big end into soapy water and huff and puff away for a sudsy symphony.
Ketchup Bottle as Pancake Batter Dispenser
Portion pancake batter with precision―without the usual mess of transferring batter from the bowl. Squeeze out baby-size or plate-size rounds, or add Mickey Mouse ears to a batch of silver dollars.
Key Protectors as Jingle Stoppers
You love your dog and can even tolerate the occasional barking. But you could do without the incessant jinglejangle of his tags. Well, here’s a new trick for you: Cover them with rubber key protectors.
Courtesy of reader Jayne Burns of Sebastopol, California
Lazy Susan as Egg Decorating Helper
Use a lazy Susan to simplify egg dying―you don't have to precariously pass those cups of green, red, and purple dye. And you won't end up with a "tie-dye" finish on your kitchen tabletop.
Need a quick refresher? Learn how to hard-boil an egg.
Makeup Case as Art Supply Storage
Now that your travel toiletries have taken up residence in a plastic bag, stash markers and colored pencils where the makeup brushes used to, and tuck stickers and stamps into the case's smaller compartments.
Paper Tubes as Lincoln Logs
Cut squares out of the sides that are roughly the same diameter as the tube (see bottom left of photo) for a DIY version of Lincoln Logs perfect for little hands. Stack the “logs” perpendicularly to one another. It's a no-cost way to let the good times roll.
Altoids Tin as Crayon Box
Corral crayons for an instant kids’ distraction kit. Keep the tin in your purse for the next waiting room for perfectly quiet little Picassos.
Photos as Memory Game
Give a good ol’ game of memory a personal touch. Print doubles of your favorite photos, turn them upside down, and start flipping. It's twice the fun for you and your child. (And, hey, this mental exercise may prove handy when it’s time to find the keys.)
Rubber Band as Waistband Extender
Make pants pregnancy-proof by looping a rubber band through the buttonhole, then securing the band's end around the button, giving your belly a few more inches of breathing room.
Kitchen Timer as Board Game Timer
Keep games fair. Replace the sand timer in a board game with a much less subtle kitchen timer. (The dinging will keep the game moving.)
Penny as Replacement Game Piece
Replace a missing piece of your family’s favorite board game. Just remember: No fighting over who gets to be president!