Archive for the ‘Kids’ activities’ Category

Repurposeful wrapping

I’ve posted on this idea before, but I wanted to bring it up one more time. Child artwork makes great wrapping paper. Not only does it help clear out your cabinet full of salvaged artwork, but it’s a money-saver (no need to buy a new roll for a special occasion), it’s unique and thoughtful, and of course, it’s a green solution for wrapping a package.

Photo by hoyasmeg.2104152944_27eb8892b1


Smaller packages work best when using artwork as wrapping paper. However, if you have several larger pieces that are color coordinated (from the last paint session where your child created 8 different masterpieces), you can easily tape pages together to wrap a larger gift.

Turn it into a project! Gather several pieces of large paper and spend an afternoon creating wrapping paper for the upcoming gift-giving season. You’ll be giving your kids a constructive activity while making cheap and one-of-a-kind wrapping paper.


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…doubles quite nicely as a drying rack.



And did you know, that an old table cloth work great as a drop cloth for kids’ painting projects? 


And when you’re done with said art project, be sure to keep all large pieces of artwork to use them later as wrapping paper for gifts. We did this recently for another child’s birthday party gift and the unique wrapping paper was a hit with kids and parents.


Happy art-making!

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Never in a million years would I have thought that marshmallows could serve any other purpose besides the gooey guts of a s’more, or of course, the topping on sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. But in the world of repurposeful living, marshmallows can do so much more.




Keep brown sugar soft. Pop a marshmallow into your bag of brown sugar and it will keep it from becoming rock-hard.

Make s’mores cookies, no campfire needed. This recipe looks dangerously delectable.


Keep birthday candles from dripping onto cake. Before inserting birthday candles on a cake, stick a marshmallow on the bottom of each candle. That way, the wax will drip onto the marshmallows, not the cake.


Make a marshmallow gun/shooter. I imagine that one day, I’ll come home to find my husband creating something like this — you know, “for the kids.”  


Prevent ice cream drips in sugar or waffle cones. I love a pointy sugar cone as much as the next person, but there are times when the bottom hole drips out ice cream, which is a) annoying and b) it wastes my precious ice cream! But, if you stuff a mini marshmallow in the bottom before filling the cone, you’ll have no more drips.


Impromptu cupcake icing. A minute before your cupcakes are done, pull them out of the oven and place a large marshmallow on top (or several minis), place the cupcakes back in the oven for a minute and ta-da, instant icing! No spreading necessary!



Photo by John-Morgan.

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…with this new site I found, just today: Dollar Store Crafts. Ok so, yes, some of the crafts involve buying things (on the way-way cheap) from the dollar store, but many of them involve repurposing things you already own! For example:


Make a gadget case using an old tie.


Make a recycled t-shirt necklace (no really, it’s cool, take a look!).


Make a rolled paper wreath (another use for junk mail and old magazines).


Make a credit card bracelet (the ultimate in recession friendly).


Make curtain tiebacks from an old necklace.


And there are many, many more. I’ve already spent too much time looking… go check it out!

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Summer is coming. And with that, comes the all-too-familiar sighs of “Moo-ooom, I’m boooored. What can we do?” I don’t yet have school aged children, but I can remember uttering those words as a child. I was told: “Go read a book!” If (like me) your child shutters at the thought of quietly reading a book, maybe one of these crafts — using repurposed materials, of course — will pique your interests.


Sandwich box monster. This one would work well with an old tissue box too.


Pet rock. Classic, but yet it never fails to amuse children.


strawberry_necklaceStrawberry necklace. And you thought peach pits were useless! Such a neat little craft idea.


Paper beads. Kill two birds with this one: get rid of junk mail flyers and entertain your kids!


Rain sticks. Not that you need more noise in a house filled with the music of children, but at least this project engages their sense of creativity too!

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We all know that a large cardboard box will entertain a child for hours (maybe even over several days), but beyond that, there are tons of projects than can be created from a simple cardboard box.




Clipboard. Cut a piece of cardboard to 9″x12″, attach a large binder clip to the top and bam, instant clipboard!


Sticker board. On your next car trip, give your bored-to-tears child a lap-sized piece of cardboard and a few sheets of stickers. Depending on the age of your child, you can make this simple or more intricate to meet their development level.  For example, if your child is learning numbers, draw a large grid on the piece of cardboard and number each of the squares. Then, challenge her to put the corresponding number of stickers on each square.


Boomerang. Cardboard is much safer than wood when it comes to flying objects. Check out the instructions here.


Box guitar. Though it won’t exactly sound like a jam session with Eric Clapton, this project is a timeless classic.


Weaving loom. For the artsy-craftsy child in your life, this is an excellent project. It helps a child work on his fine motor skills and helps build concentration and patience (wait, maybe I should do this!). 


Customizable desk. This is a cool, practical and seemingly simple project from Family Fun.

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Despite the high today of only 70 degrees, I jumped the gun and brought out our kiddie pool. Since my boys are now exhausted and asleep, I can positively say that it was worth it! Without a doubt, the kiddie pool is a beloved summer pasttime — it’s cheap, simple and enduring entertainment (we were outside for nearly 3 hours today!).




However, filling up the kiddie pool takes a lot of water over the course of a summer. With a few extra, simple steps, you can make the most of your use of water, as well as time, while entertaining the heck out of your kids.


How to “greenify” your kiddie pool


Cover it. If properly covered, your kiddie pool’s water can last nicely for 3 or 4 days. Using a cover, like a plastic tarp, old shower curtain or liner, vinyl table cloth or a sheet of plywood, helps keep out bugs and debris, and it prevents mosquitos from inhabiting and laying eggs in the water (eww!). A cover also helps insulate the water — children generally prefer nice, tepid water instead of the ice-cold stuff that comes straight out of the hose.


Strain it. After your kids are done playing for the day, and before you cover your kiddie pool, strain it to remove as much debris as possible. You can use a regular kitchen colander, a fish tank strainer or a mesh bag.


Don’t dump it! When it comes time to refill your pool with new water, don’t just dump the water out! Use it to water outdoor plants, indoor plants or your lawn. If your plants have recently been watered, find a way to save the pool water in another container (or two). Painters’ buckets work well, or add it to your rain barrel if you have one. Again, be sure the container has a lid to prevent mosquito farming.

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First, be sure to thoroughly clean out your detergent container.


1. Hand washing station. For the spigot-style containers, use in your garden, bring along on camping trips or keep in the back of your car to wash off dirty hands.


2. Store stuff. With either a regular detergent container or a large spigot-style container, cut off the top or one end and use the remaining piece to store things in your laundry room (clothes pins) or garage (rags, nails, etc.). Instructables has an awesome photo tutorial for an entire organizing system using laundry detergent bottles.


3. Funnel in the garage. Cut off the bottom of a jug of detergent and use the top as a funnel for changing oil in your car.


4. Sharps container. Safe and practical disposal of insulin needles.


5. Measuring cup. The lid holds approximately 1/2 cup.


6. Watering can. Wash the container out very well (removing all soap residue) and use as a watering can for indoor and outdoor plants.


7. Scoop. The handled jugs work perfectly as a scoop for grain, seed, dog food, etc. Wash out very well and cut off the bottom of the jug and use the top handled portion as your scoop.


8. Fun for your kids. Make a ball-in-cup game or some ball catchers.


9. Weights. Fill with sand, weigh on your bathroom scales and get lifting!


10. Salt sprinkler. Fill with deicing salt and use in the winter on sidewalks and driveways during icy weather.


Bonus idea: Refill an old detergent container with homemade detergent! Check out The Simple Dollar for a recipe and tips.

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I’m guessing there are at least one or two of you out there who still haven’t put together your child’s Easter goodies. Don’t fret — you still have time. Here are some ideas for Easter baskets that are inexpensive, environmentally friendly and perfect for last-minute planning.




Eco-friendly, last minute Easter baskets

The basket

If you don’t already, please reuse your child’s Easter basket from year to year. Just like a Christmas stocking, your child will appreciate the familiarity of his basket and look forward to seeing it filled on Easter morning.


If you’re in need of a basket this year, consider a few options:

  • ask a friend or neighbor if they have an extra basket lying around that isn’t being used; you can offer to return it, but they’ll probably just let you keep it
  • go “shopping” in your closets and attics for a basket you already own that’s collecting dust; even if it’s not in Easter colors, the goodies you put inside will make up for a dull looking basket
  • think outside the basket — a galvanized metal flower pot, a straw hat, a decorated milk jug or coffee can would all make for great Easter baskets
  • pop into a thrift store; I can’t tell you how many baskets I’ve seen in thrift stores and they’re almost always less than $1
  • if you purchase a basket new, spend a few extra dollars for a quality basket; the longer it lasts, the more use your children (and maybe their children) will get out of it


The “grass”

Personally, I can’t stand traditional plastic Easter grass. But opinions aside, it makes a mess, it’s harmful to landfills and it’s a choking hazard to small children and pets. Consider something different this year.


Shredded paper. To make it colorful, shred the comics section of the newspaper, colorful advertising circulars or colored-on pages of your child’s coloring book.

Clothing or cloth. If one of your gifts is a new t-shirt, beach towel or something made of cloth, use it to line the bottom of the basket.

Candy. Ok, so not the healthiest option, but a big bag of jelly beans would create a nice lining at the bottom of a basket. 

Nothing. This is my favorite. Let’s be honest, do kids really care about what lines their basket? Forget the filler altogether and just fill it with the good stuff.


The goods

When this time of year comes around, I can’t help but notice the over-abundance of cheapo plastic toys that line the shelves. And parents fall into the trap (I’ve been guilty of this too) of thinking more is better. Fill that basket up with as much candy and junk as it will fit! Instead, purchase just a few quality items (and yes, candy too) for your child’s basket. Again, the items will last longer and can be passed on to another child when they’re no longer of interest to yours.


As for candy, think about packaging when you purchase. I love a bag of mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as much as the next person, but there is a lot of extra packaging waste as compared with a giant bag of jelly beans or Whoppers eggs.


Eggs: Plastic vs. Real

This is a tough one. To be honest, I’m not sure which one has a bigger environmental impact, but I have my guess. On the one hand, plastic eggs can be reused year after year, unless your dog chews one up or you inadvertently step on one (speaking from experience here). On the other hand, real eggs can be eaten (if they have only been out of the refrigerator for less than 2 hours) and they’re biodegradable. From a practical standpoint, both types of eggs require work. Real ones take time to decorate, plastic ones take time (and more money!) to fill them. If you plan to use plastic, here are a few economical ideas other than candy to fill them:

  • pennies — a big hit with younger kids
  • make coupons for getting out of a chore for a day or a special day with mom or dad
  • stickers — chances are your child already has oodles of stickers; grab a few from her collection to fill some of the eggs
  • dandelions or other treasures from nature (again, works well for younger kids)



Photo by daBinsi.

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This little trick for repurposing junk mail envelopes is so cool! (What does that say about my life when I get excited over envelopes? That’s a rhetorical question, folks.)


Ever since posting about making notepads from junk mail envelopes, I’ve been saving a stash of envelopes in my kitchen drawer. And since I haven’t actually taken the time to make more notepads, the stash has over-grown(remember the pitfalls of repurposing?). Yesterday I discovered another use for junk mail envelopes — make-your-own labels and stickers.


Repurpose an envelope flap into labels and stickers

1. Save unused junk mail envelopes (like the return envelopes sent with credit card offers, etc.).


2. When preparing your label or sticker, cut off the flap of an envelope.


3. Cut down the flap to the size you need for your label or sticker.


4. Write on or decorate the non-sticky side of your label.


5. Lick it & stick it!


So far, I thought of a few great uses for the envelope flap labels around my house: 016

  • file folder labels for your my office
  • date leftover food containers in my refrigerator (label will come off when container is washed)
  • re-mail a previously used envelope and use the flap labels to cover up the address and return address areas
  • make-your-own-stickers art project for the kiddies
  • make a “This Book Belongs To:_______” book plate
  • label my son’s sippy cup (great for his morning out/preschool program where the cups are not washed before being sent home)



Thanks to the creator behind Junk Mail Gems for this idea! She has an awesome step-by-step tutorial on her site for creating envelope flap labels.

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