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.
2 of 20 Aimee Herring
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.
3 of 20Aimee Herring
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.
Collette Mather Teaneck, New Jersey
4 of 20Aimee Herring
Chip Clips as Clothes Hangers
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.
5 of 20Aimee Herring
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.
6 of 20Aimee Herring
Shower-Curtain Liner as Tablecloth
Protect your tablecloth (or antique wood table) from paint, crayons, markers, and glitter during arts and crafts. The result: More masterpieces, fewer disaster-pieces.
7 of 20Aimee Herring
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.
8 of 20 Aimee Herring
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.
9 of 20 Aimee Herring
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.)
10 of 20 Aimee Herring
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.
Cher Willems Northampton, Massachusetts
11 of 20Aimee Herring
Soccer Net as Headboard
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.
12 of 20Aimee Herring
Shoes as Growth Chart
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.
13 of 20Aimee Herring
Corn Flakes as Bread Crumb Substitute
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.
14 of 20Kathryn Barnard
Puffy Paint as Slip Preventer
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).
15 of 20Annie Schlechter
Skateboard as a Shelf
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.
16 of 20Annie Schlechter
Action Figures as Hooks
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.
17 of 20Annie Schlechter
Toy Box as Window Seat
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.
18 of 20Kathryn Barnard
Rubber Band as Glass Gripper
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.
19 of 20Kathryn Barnard
Shoe Organizer as Art Supply Storage
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.”
20 of 20Kathryn Barnard
Stuffed Animal as Bookend
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.