DIY: 7 Creative Uses for Pool Noodles!

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Pool noodles are so fun and whimsical, not to mention colorful and so soft. Because of this, they can be used for so many other things besides just floating in the pool! This time of year, you can find pool noodles at your local dollar store for as little as $1, or on clearance for even less. As you can see, these pool noodles are not only practical, but quite inexpensive as well. Take a look below at 7 creative uses for pool noodles, then head over to your local dollar store and snag a few before they are pulled for the season. These colorful little creations are something you will be able to use all year long. Take a quick peek!

7 Creative Uses for Pool Noodles:

1. Make a race track.
Take a knife or box cutter and slice the pool noodle down the center lengthwise. The end result is a track with raised sides, perfect for racing toy cars down. Kids can raise an end of the noodle onto a chair to create an incline, place the car on, and let it rip! While we are talking toys, kids love turning their pool noodles into light sabers, play swords, and more. Just hand a pool noodle over and see how creative they get.

2. Play some tic tac toe.
Take four pool noodles and create a tic tac toe grid with them. You can do this right on the lawn or the basement where you have plenty of room. Toss bean bags, 2 inch cut chunks of pool noodles (2 colors) or another marker of your choice onto the grid and get a fierce game going.

3. Make a lacing game.
Kids love lacing beads, and when you chop your pool noodles into 2 inch cuts, you can create a giant lacing activity for them. Just cut your noodles into 2 inch (or larger) cuts and allow children to thread the “beads” onto rope or yarn. This is a super fine motor skill activity.

4. Start stamping.
Using these same 2 inch cuts, you can create some soft stamps. These two inch chunks are easy for children to hold, dip into paint, and stamp onto paper. You can even cut them into shapes if you want. Plus, they are easy to rinse and reuse over and over. While we are talking crafts, you can also cut a chunk of pool noodle to use as a pin cushion or to poke the ends of paint brushes into so they stay organized.

5. Make an easy door stopper.
If you want to keep a door propped, all you need to do is cut a 3 inch strip of pool noodle and then slice it on one side all of the way to the center to create a clamp. Clamp the noodle over the side of a door so when it closes, the noodle will prevent it from shutting all of the way.

6. Protect those knees.
A pool noodle is the perfect item to use when protecting your knees from the hard ground. If you work in the garage or garden often, take a pool noodle with you. Prop it under your knees and you won’t feel the pain and pressure from the hard ground. Want to protect your fingers too? Wrap a slice of pool noodle around dangerous trampoline springs and voila!

7. Use as an inexpensive filler.
Need to keep your breakables safe? Shred some pool noodles and stuff it around your objects. Want to keep your shoes or boots in great shape? Insert a piece of pool noodle into them. Need to ship a breakable item? Use chunks of pool noodle to secure the item in place in the box. Because these noodles are so soft but firm at the same time, they do this job well!

Who knew pool noodles had some many practical uses? Whether you want to entertain the kids, do some crafting, protect your knees, or just make life around your house a little easier, a pool noodle is sure to do the job for you. Give these uses a try and see how easy it is to really get your dollars worth when you buy pool noodles. Now quick, get to the dollar store before these are gone!

Cabin Fever: Homemade Sidewalk Paint!

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Our weather is so wonderful.  It’s March.  It’s almost 80.  This is Michigan.  I’m scared.  The trees have taken on a wonderful kelly green hue and the grass is looking less like straw by the minute.  And so I wait….wait for the potential frost or snow that may attempt to end it all.  I expect that I’ll soon be scurrying around the yard with my husband, covering my hibiscus, hydrangeas, and lilies.  I’m a little neurotic about my plants, and I love our yard.  And you know, I love our fabulous driveway, too.  It was a point I noted when we hadn’t yet bought the house.  “It’s a nice driveway for the kids to ride their bikes up and down.”, I said.  And now? Boy, do they ever.  Homemade Sidewalk Paint has a way of making  our driveway a nifty canvas, too.    And whether you’ve got a big driveway or small, this fabulous mixture will bring hours of artistic fun for your little ones.  Best of all?  It’s totally safe.  Lately, that means everything, doesn’t it?

Homemade Sidewalk Paint
1/2 cup Cornstarch
1/2 cup Water
Food Coloring
Assorted Paintbrushes

Mix water and cornstarch as well as possible.  Nope, nothing’s perfect here.
Divide into 1/4 cup portions.  You can use whatever container you have.  Ziploc storage containers work just fine for this.
Tint each portion a different color and mix well.
You’re ready to paint.


If you still have some left over, put it into spray bottles and use it for that next snowy snap.  It makes great tinted snowballs or snow, if you only have a dusting.

My kids like to make highway lanes with arrows to follow around.  Yep, they like to play traffic.  Hmmpf, you can bet I’ll remind them of that when they’re moaning and groaning about it someday.  😉

Cabin Fever: Grow Your Own Crystals! Part 1!

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This is one of the easiest, most satisfying chemistry experiments you will ever perform for/with your kiddies.   I promise.

First, let me provide some background information for you.  This experiment is done with nothing more than alum and water, so (relatively speaking) it’s safe to do in your home.  Obviously, if you have small tasmanian-like children, you don’t want them to eat any crystals you’ll form…which is why I say *relatively speaking*.

Alrighty, historically speaking, Alum is a very interesting substance that is all around you and you probably don’t even know it.  If you can your own pickles, you know that it is used in pickling to keep them crisp.  Larger crystals are sold as crystal antiperspirant and alum is  a common ingredient in commercial APDO’s.  It also has antibacterial properties, and so has been used medicinally for canker sores, topically for cuts, and as an immunologic adjuvant in vaccinations.  Meh, you don’t want to hear about the last one.   Suffice it to say, man has been making good use of it for a few thousand years.  Now that we live in a state of abundance,  we play with it, forgetting all about its necessity derived origin.  Nevertheless, it IS great fun and educational, too.

This particular project is extremely uncomplicated, but provides a great entry into the next and slightly more complex experiment – geodes.  Fun, fun!

So, here is what you’ll need for this particular experiment:

A Pyrex (or like) Glass Measuring Cup or glass
1/2 cup Hot Water
2 & 1/2 tbl Alum (found in the spice section of the grocery store)

Instructions & Tips:
Because you want the alum to dissolve in the water, you’ll want to make sure the water is HOT.  I’ve done this a few times and I generally heat mine in the microwave for a couple of minutes in my handy Pyrex Measuring Cup.  From there, you’ll stir in the alum until it is completely dissolved.  If it hasn’t dissolved completely, you can heat the mixture in the microwave using 10-15 second bursts until it completely dissolves.  Next, cover your solution with a coffee filter or paper towel and allow it to sit undisturbed on the counter.  You’ll see crystals begin to form in just a few hours because of the amount of alum vs. water.  When you’re satisfied with them, or your water has evaporated, you can remove them. Now it’s time to ooh and aaah over your fabulous and super inexpensive creations.

If you’d like to discuss some simple scientific ideas that affect how this experiment turns out, you can list variables in the formation process.  For example, the amount variation of alum and/or water, type of container used (glass  vs. plastic) , whether your covering is tight and impacted evaporation, the water temperature, etc.

Finally, the variables are important concepts that translate well to another important life lesson – consequences.  How one thing impacts something else…or how your child impacts others.   After all, the temperature affects the water, evaporation rate, alum and glass – just as one persons actions ultimately affect everyone.

Cabin Fever: Pumpkin Carving Project! Chemistry and Lessons in Decomposition!

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This is the week.  The final countdown to the big day – Halloween.  I would be absolutely crazy if I didn’t try to incorporate some kind of science lesson into the whole shebang.  Personally, I think any child can benefit from this kind of simple learning exercise.  At minimum, it only takes a little observation and I haven’t met a kid yet who doesn’t think it’s fascinatingly gross to watch a slimy pumpkin meet its demise.  Around here, I tend to take it to another level.  After all, my son is 7 and I’m stressing the scientific method.  Meh, it’s never to early to start, I say.   Last year, we coated the inside of one pumpkin with glue and left another as a control.  Since there was little difference between the two and their decomposition, I knew I had to take more extreme measures this time around in order to show a palpable difference between preservation and decomposition.

My plan this year is two treat 3 pumpkins in 3 different ways:

1 Control Pumpkin (untreated) You must have a  control for any good experiment
1 Pumpkin  coated with Pumpkin Fresh (contains Sodium Benzoate  – a preservative with antifungal properties and Borax – sodium tetraborate decahydrate is the chemical name, in case you’re wondering)
1 Pumpkin coated in Vaseline – my least favorite option of the three.   This is intended to prevent shriveling and slow bacterial and fungal growth.  Personally, I know there are plenty of bacteria and fungi that thrive quite well in the absence of oxygen, so I don’t see much benefit in this beyond the control pumpkin.  Meh, we’ll give it a try though.

Each day, we’re going to record our observations of the three pumpkins and photo document any changes in the event that they’re not easily seen.  In a side by side comparison of the previous day, it should be easy to see some changes, however slight.  Now, this is the extent of involvement in the process of  decomposition for a small child.  It introduces a new concept, terminology, and shows evidence of it working.  Done.  As they get older, it helps to expand on that by exploring which options worked and WHY they worked.  I fully expect the Pumpkin Fresh to work best because of the mixture used.    We’ll definitely be talking about what gets introduced to the cavity simply by cleaning it – bacteria from our arms, microscopic spittle from talking while working, utensils, etc.  Yes, it’s a joy to live inside my head.

More specifically and point-by-point:
1.)  Bacteria and fungi introduced by processing.
2.) 10 day (perhaps more) study of decomposition –  The variability largely depends on the conditions outside.
3.) We will record our observations  throughout the process and be specific.   If nothing else, it helps develop attention to detail, i.e. black spots appearing here and there, smell, etc.
4.) Conclusion. Bacterial growth inhibited by using nothing? Vaseline? Pumpkin Fresh?  And to what degree?  If nothing, what environmental factors may have played a role – sunlight, extremely cool temperatures, etc. and the effect of these on the breakdown.  In case you’re wondering, warmth, not sunlight, generally speeds decomposition, while cool temperatures inhibit decomposition because bacteria do not thrive in that environment.  If it’s wet and warm, well, eewwww.  You can make this a  somewhat tangible concept by comparing it to your refrigerator and what happens when you leave food out vs. refrigerating it.

For even older kiddies, decomposition, has many stages.
1.)  Release of water (which is why you see shriveling) and other water soluble compounds IN the water.
2.)  The physical breakdown into pieces after the shriveling gives greater surface area for colonization by bacteria and fungi.
3.)  When sitting in a yard or garden bed vs. front porch, the decomposition at this point becomes significant as opportunistic fungi and bacteria  take control and the remaining structures are broken down – fibrous pulp, etc.
4.)   This entire event is an exothermic reaction meaning heat is released because the bacteria drive the decomposition.  Several gases are also released during the entire process including carbon dioxide and methane.  It should also be noted that this is also a chemical reaction vs. a physical reaction.  Chemical reactions cannot be undone, as they permanently change the bonds and molecules within the pumpkin that make it a pumpkin.  Physical reactions are,well, like crushing an ice cube.  It’s still frozen water and unchanged.

If you’re feeling particularly inspired, there are several You Tube videos that show time lapse images of fruit and vegetable decomposition.  Around the web, you can find experiments done with pumpkins, but older children will benefit more from learning about the specific processes involved in the exothermic reaction and how it changes form, particularly if they’re writing reactions and balancing them.

And yes, I went to college for THIS not couponing…in case you’re wondering.  😉

Cabin Fever: Construction Paper Shape Monsters!

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Yep, I’m running late on the Cabin Fever post.  It’s a Friday thing, but if your Friday was anything like mine, you didn’t need an indoor activity.    Holy moly,  I think it must have something to do with my birthday because the weather has been phenomenally good for Michigan.  Beautiful trees and warm sun…it’s like heaven out there.

OK, enough of my weather talk, but really….no, I’ll stop.  Haha!

Here’s another cute idea for your rainy day bag of tricks – Shape Monsters!   My 3 AND 7 year old love to make these.  Maybe this will tell you how much – Our entire upstairs is theirs and they have the walls completely decorated with their many creations for Halloween.

Here’s what you’ll need:

9×12 Construction Paper

Scissors/Safety Scissors

Glue Stick(s)

Magic Marker (for pupils)

My notes:  You’ll want to cut enough pieces to assemble several monsters.  Most children, even small children who are familiar with Mr. Potato Head (or something similar),  can do this with little difficulty.  I keep STACKS with the various body parts stored together in a craft box for fidgety moments.  They’re super cheap to make and completely frustration free for everyone!  I’m assuming self explanatory too! 🙂

Cabin Fever: Homemade Finger Paint!

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Finger paint is something I never buy because it is so much more inexpensive to make.  That certainly isn’t true for many things, but it definitely is here.  I like these particular recipes because they take advantage of items you probably already have in your kitchen.  I should note that I have tried several, and I can tell you that some are definitely better than others.   There are quite a few that use dish soap and various coloring agents, but I’m not comfortable with them.  My goofballs are just a bit too lickity.   In my opinion, these are the best, and completely non-toxic, too. The first is one my Mom used when I was little.  It’s one of those *duh, of course!* things for me.  I have many of those because I’m not at all crafty or creative by nature.  In this instance, the apple has fallen far from the tree because my mother can build a car out of acorns.  Well, not really, but it seems that way to me.  🙂

Edible Pudding Paint
1 Jello Instant Pudding 4 serving
Assorted Food Coloring

Mix pudding according to package directions.  Add food coloring as desired.

I have my own opinions about the pudding recipe.  While I think it’s fine for older children who understand what is edible and what isn’t, I think smaller children will translate the ability to eat this paint with eating other paint.  Obviously, this varies child-to-child, and this is something I easily used with my son when he was little.  My daughter doesn’t seem to have any ability to differentiate, so I would never use an edible recipe with her.   All of this to say, use your own judgement, as you know your child best.  🙂

Original Fingerpaint – My kooky girl friendly recipe
1/2 Cup Cornstarch
2 Cups Cold Water
Food Coloring

Mix water and cornstarch in small saucepan over medium heat.
Bring to a boil while whisking continuously.
When the mixture thickens, remove it from the heat and allow to cool.
Divide into individual containers and add food coloring.

There are other recipes out there that include flour, Jell-O and Kool Aid.   I don’t care for any of them for a variety of reasons.  The flour paint doesn’t spread well and the consistency is poor.  The same is true for the Jell-O paint.  The Kool-Aid stains.  Yep, anything that requires more work to clean than to make is not a fun time for me.  Any project that is a letdown for the kids is equally bad, so stick with either the cornstarch recipe or pudding if you’re going to try this one out.

Thanks, Mom!


Fall is here and that means cooler temperatures and even cooler weather to come.  That also means less play time outside and more cabin fever for the kids.  With that in mind, I thought this was the perfect time to share some of my fun finds that I’ve used to keep my kids busy.

Every Friday, I’ll share with you one new, fun project that you can do with your kids, grandchildren or you can pass this along to a Mom you know!

Cabin Fever: Homemade Tap Shoes!

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Photo Credit: Real Simple Magazine

Fall is here and that means cooler temperatures and even cooler weather to come.  That also means less play time outside and more cabin fever for the kids.  With that in mind, I thought this was the perfect time to share some of my fun finds that I’ve used to keep my kids busy.

Every Friday, I’ll share with you one new, fun project that you can do with your kids, grandchildren or you can pass this along to a Mom you know!

If they’re old enough, these are all things most kids can handle with little assistance.  For me, those are the best projects because they’re terrific confidence builders for my son, while  my daughter still needs a lot of help.  I really hope you’ll enjoy this winter series.  I’ve got so many fun ideas in store for you!

This first project from Real Simple magazine has added a whole new dimension to playing in the basement.  My daughter thinks she is a princess in her tap shoes and is so proud of the sound she makes.  We bought a pair of clearance floral Mary Jane style shoes for her at Meijer for around $5.  My son just used an *extra* pair he had lying around that don’t fit well enough for everyday wear.  You could also use a worn out pair as well.  Also, since summer shoes are on clearance now, it is the best time to pick up an extra pair for something like this or for wear next year.

You can use a hot glue gun if you’d like more permanent results.  That, of course, should not be done by children.  Alternatively, you can use Elmer’s Glue All.  It is safe for use by children, is non-toxic and gives similar results.

The directions are largely self explanatory.  Glue a small handful of pennies to the bottom of each shoe and allow to dry.  Instant tap shoes!  If you’d rather, you can use larger washers instead of money if you have them around the house from various projects.  I’ve found that I often get extra washers with tables and such that require assembly.  We have all sorts of them around and that’s what I used instead of pennies.

Happy Tapping!

How To: Duck Tape Wallet (For The Kids)

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This is among the activities at Michael’s for Father’s Day this weekend.   As a matter of fact, I think it’s tonight!  Well, if you aren’t going to *make it to take it* tonight, you can plan to do it tomorrow at the dining table.  Home Depot posted a really nifty video today detailing exactly how to make a Duck (duct) Tape wallet for Dad.   Hmmm, I wonder how long it will be before duct tape is replaced by duck tape in the lexicon.  It’s kinda like bokay vs. bouquet.  Gah.  My mother was an English teacher, what can I say?  😉

Food For Thought: On Housing – Less Is More!

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I would never say that I couldn’t do this because I could…easily. You can view their You Tube tour HERE too.  I loved it.  While I feel that their son currently doesn’t have adequate space, overall, it’s a refreshing change of pace and perspective.  What do you think?

Video: Family Lives in 320-Square-Foot ‘Shotgun Shack’

By Stefanos Chen | Posted Jun 1st 2011 11:30AM 681 comments

Having trouble qualifying for a home loan? Then consider what this inventive family of three did and buy yourself a Mississippi-style “shotgun shack.”

Sick of working two jobs apiece to pay the mortgage on their 2,000-square-foot home, Debra and her husband Gary decided to give it all up and start over – by purchasing a 320-square-foot shack for $15,000 cash.

The video below, first submitted to the blog on an open call for videos of tiny homes, shows the couple and their teenage son living mortgage-free in their surprisingly spacious abode.

The home includes a walk-in closet, conventional-sized appliances and even a lofted bedroom for their son that, the family boasts, is big enough to host sleepovers. Watch the video below to see just how far a little ingenuity can take you, even in today’s prohibitive mortgage market.


For the Kiddies: Hummingbird Nectar Recipe!

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This idea is not my own, but I have done it before.  I was reminded by a post today on the C&H Sugar page on Facebook.  It’s a neat, EASY project to do with the kiddies this weekend.  Hopefully, you have a hummingbird feeder already.   I do, but that’s just me.  Haha!  Oh, and if you haven’t printed it yet, there is a $0.50/1 C&H Sugar coupon HERE.


Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

  • 1 cup tap water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Bring tap water to a boil then add sugar, stirring to dissolve.  Allow to achieve room temperature before adding to your feeder.
  • This is a 4:1 ratio, so if you’d like to make larger portions, you can adjust accordingly.  It will keep refrigerated for two weeks.

**Please don’t use food coloring, honey, brown sugar, unrefined sugar or sugar substitutes, as they can be harmful to hummingbirds. Under no circumstances should insecticides or other poisons be used at hummingbird feeders.

Hummingbird Fun Facts

  • The best way of attracting Hummingbirds is to use a combination of their favorite flowers, plants, shrubs and vines; and, of course, Droll Yankees Hummingbird feeders filled with a homemade nectar of Domino® Pure Cane Sugar and water!
  • Hummingbirds feed 5-8 times an hour.
  • A hummingbird’s tongue is roughly twice the length of its beak. It licks the nectar. (Approximately 13 licks per second!) You might see its beak and think that it can’t reach the nectar in the bottom of the feeder. Look closely with binoculars to see the tongue.