New Uses for Old Things: Kids Edition
These double-duty ideas are made for more than just the children.
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.
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.)
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.
Liven up a child’s chair with colorful stripes. (Use lead-free or plastic tape.)
Has Paddington ripped and lost his padding? To add fluff, cram cotton balls behind the torn seam, then stitch him back up.
Have one special button? Thread it onto a thin chain or a delicate piece of ribbon for a standout necklace.
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.
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.
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.
Turn a birthday party prop into a loved one's bright spot on February 14. All you'll need to make this card is a blank note card, glue, and a felt tip marker.
Once you've found your perfect match, it's easy to turn sentiments into handmade crafts. Start with a blank note card, glue, and a felt tip marker.
When the stakes are high, you'd bet your money (and your heart) on this guy. Start with a blank note card, glue, and a felt tip marker.
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.
Turn rectangles of giftwrap into placemats you don’t mind getting dirty. You can even write guests’ names on the edges to designate seats.
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.)
Hey, math can be colorful! Wrap textbooks in simple paper and use alphabet stickers to label the spines.
One of the most popular kitchen tools also happens to double as a clean-up aid. Before draining the tub, use a colander to make scooping up small toys fun and easy.
Ready to blow it out at your next dinner party? Use a permanent marker to write guests’ names on kazoos to designate seats—perfect for New Year’s Eve.
Happy birthday, sport! Use a (clean) shoelace for a simple, reusable gift tie.
Turn plain white cups into custom-designed party wear with simple dot stickers, available at any office supply store.
Glue ribbon around an existing matte to turn a basic frame into one-of-a-kind art.
Oh, that’s grandma dressed as an alligator? Perfect for wrapping her birthday gift. (And the fridge door is full anyway.)
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
Design Rothkoesque Easter eggs. Fill a jar with dye, then dip half the egg in and let dry. Dip again, but only one-third of the egg. Repeat with both ends of the egg until you have stripes in varying shades.
Need a quick refresher on how to dye Easter eggs? Watch this quick video to learn how to hard-boil an egg, then check out these homemade Easter egg dye recipes.
Put medications in a locked cosmetic case for an easy way to keep curious kids away from poking around the medicine cabinet.
Don’t pay a premium for Halloween-themed treat bags. Turn any paper sack into a jack-o-lantern with a few precise snips.
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).
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.
Roll pool towels and store them vertically, so your kids can grab one before taking a swim.
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.
Fill emptied plastic eggs with puffed rice cereal and silver-ball cake decorations to make impromptu maracas for kids.
Form a cone with a small (5-inch) doily, secure with tape, and fill with candy and treats. The lacy server is a sweet upgrade for the next time you gather the ladies (think bridal shower) or girls (birthday party, sleepover, extra-special playdate).
Create a winter wonderland in the entryway. Flatten white paper liners (foil ones will work, too), fold into halves or quarters, then snip out shapes along the folds. When you open them back up, voilà: snowflakes you can string from the ceiling.
Don’t let your yarn get crossed. Use an empty baby wipes container to keep yarn clean and tangle-free.
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.
Stash supplies for scrapbooking, knitting, or sewing in one of these sturdy, transparent pouches so all of your materials and tools are in one place.
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.
Hold small coats in place on adult-size hangers. Use clips with rubberized grips to help items stay put. Not only will you have an organized coat closet, but you'll save money by not having to buy special kids' hangers.
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.)
For a new twist on a serial dinner favorite, add a layer of crunch to plain old mac-and-cheese. Top your child’s bowl with a sprinkling of flakes (even the bits at the bottom of the bag work). It’s easier and more kid-friendly than toasted bread crumbs.
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.
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.
Give Easter eggs a year-round use (and save on resealable bags) by filling them with snacks like crackers or Cheerios.
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.
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.
Fake freshly washed hair by sprinkling powder on, then comb through down to the roots.
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.
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.
Make a summery shower curtain by hanging two boldly patterned towels using clip-on drapery rings.
Keep a windowblind cord out of reach of little hands (or paws). Just gather the cord up at a safe level and clasp.
Is your Monopoly game missing its top hat? Replace wayward board-game pieces without missing a beat (or a turn).
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.
Serve chips, popcorn, or cookies in filters for consistent, portable (reasonably-sized!) portions.
Serve ice cream at parties without the drips. Freeze individual scoops in liners the night before.
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.
Use a non-skid chopping board as child's placemat or deskside placemat.
Organize coloring books in the main basket and corral crayons, pencils, and markers in the silverware holder.
Create a custom paint palette for an afternoon art session.
Make Play-Doh "hair" by filling the chamber and squeezing.
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.
Store game pieces, play money, or other priceless rainy-afternoon distractions.
Send party guests home with one-of-a-kind favors. Parcel out groups of pieces from an incomplete puzzle and glue a magnet to the back of each. A single box will yield enough decorative sets for dozens of refrigerators.
Clean up glitter (and tiny pieces of construction paper) after craft time.
Add a twist to craft time by using a shaker to dispense glitter.
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.
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.
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.
Sprinkle it on a damp sponge to erase crayon, pencil, and ink from painted surfaces.
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.
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.
Bake your cupcakes directly in the ice cream cones. Fill 24 flat-bottom cones two-thirds full with cake batter. Place the cones in a high-sided 9-by-13-inch baking pan and bake in two batches at 325° F for 30 minutes. Let cool, then frost with two 16-ounce cans of frosting. You can have your cake and eat its holder, too.
Jump-start a trend with this fun, colorful decoration that doubles as a bonus gift.
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.
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.
Clean lime deposits and iron stains inside the dishwasher by pouring a packet of lemonade Kool-Aid (the only flavor that works) into the detergent cup and running the (empty) dishwasher. The citric acid in the mix wipes out stains; you don't have to.
Watch the video to see this tip in action.
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.
Monitor a double boiler by placing a few marbles in the bottom of the pan. They'll start to rattle when the water gets low.
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.
Corral crayons for an instant kids’ distraction kit. Keep the tin in your purse for the next waiting room for perfectly quiet little Picassos.
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.)
Prevent burned fingers by planting a sparkler’s stem in a tub of Play-Doh before lighting it.
Add an instant nonslip surface to your child’s socks. Just dot on some paint, let dry, and—voilà—traction on slippery floors. And, of course, fewer puffy eyes (from sliding into the bookshelf).
For more OJ in your child’s belly (and less on the kitchen floor) use rubber bands to provide some grip around a chilly glass so it doesn’t slip through a child’s small hands.
Record how quickly your child has grown by lining up shoes in a shadow box and labeling them with the appropriate ages. This growth chart is way prettier than pencil marks on the wall.
Cut off one pocketed strip of a hanging shoe holder, sew a ribbon onto each end, and tie it as you would a tool belt, around your little busybody’s waist to stylishly store art supplies. It's a shoe-in for “handiest craft-time accessory.”
Protect your tablecloth (or antique wood table) from paint, crayons, markers, and glitter during arts and crafts. The result: More masterpieces, fewer disaster-pieces.
No more crying over spilled milk from tumbled cereal bowls, thanks to this nonslip surface.
Stash the compartments with granola bars, hand wipes, tissues, and such, then reach for the cardboard savior when your backseat drivers are steering you toward Crazytown (population: one frazzled mom).
Purchase a pair of L-brackets (available at hardware stores) that are a little more than half as long as the skateboard's width. Screw the brackets into two studs in a wall, about 16 inches apart. Remove the trucks and the wheels from the skateboard—or leave them on if they aren't grungy and you want to hide the supports—and place the board atop the brackets.
Hold pens, pencils, invitations, and business cards on a desk (either yours or your child’s) by simply linking the ends. That way you'll have an office organizer that can turn back into a toy at a moment’s notice.
Use Velcro to hang the net on the wall behind the bed to create an easy, sporty headboard. (The netting should be at least 39 inches wide for a twin bed or 54 inches for a full.) It's decor that can change as fast as his sideline sprints.
Add some character(s) to a table setting by sandwiching favorite storybook pages between lamination sheets (available at office-supply stores). Catchy text and colorful pictures (think Dr. Seuss and nursery rhymes) are especially attention-grabbing.
To ensure your child’s favorite books stand at attention: Replace the stuffing with dried beans to weigh down the toy, sew up the opening, and display on a shelf. You'll end up with a sturdy, furry guardian of Goodnight Moon.
Use action figures (that aren't seeing action anymore) as Herculean hooks. Position the arms of each toy straight out in front and apply a two-part epoxy (available at home-improvement stores) over the arms, the shoulders, and the torso, following the package directions. The epoxy will make the outstretched limbs strong enough to support clothing, hats, and even towels. Mount a figure on the wall using two screws placed through the torso.
The toy box, home to a host of plastic baby goods, can easily be turned into an older child's window seat and a stylish storage chest. If desired, cover the box with a fresh coat of paint. Line the interior with cedar paper ($26, organize-it-online.com), and fill it with blankets, holiday decorations, or your tween's growing crafts collection. Attach self-adhesive Velcro strips to a store-bought cushion (order custom-size cushions at foamorder.com) and to the top of the box. Set the cushion in place for a cozy spot to sit.
Create an enchanting nightstand from a kitchen stool by wrapping a tutu around the edge of the seat and securing it with double-sided tape.
Protect the dinner table during a kid’s party, so right-hand-red Kool-Aid spills and left-hand-blueberry pie blobs don’t become permanent features.