Hoarders of the world shed your guilt! That junk you can’t throw out is actually an educational experience for your kids.
I know that it is an old cliché that when you give a child a new toy they will play with the box and ignore the contents, but the idea of using household items as toys has got to be a blessing.
Toilet rolls, older cousin kitchen roll tubes and big brother The Tube from the Aluminium Foil are the second biggest cliché after cardboard boxes. Apart from their starring role in many a junk model they can be used as skittles or swords or telescopes.
For my eldest son’s first Christmas we, of course, spent madly on gifts, toys and clothes the way you do when you only have one child. What did he do all afternoon? Spent it feeding the discarded tube from the wrapping paper through the discarded tube from the foil.
Now, I am an inveterate hoarder. It is hereditary; I am convinced that my parents both had some squirrel DNA. So under my sink there is a growing stack of empty ice cream tubs. When I was a kid it was A Big Deal to have a whole tub of ice cream, and the tubs were like gold dust. I haven’t yet got over this mentality so I have to keep them. On a rainy day the stack is a special treat for the kids. They can build a tall tower and knock it over again.
Old socks are one of the best. Apart from rolled up as soft projectiles, lobbed comparatively harmlessly at an unsuspecting sibling (kids, don’t tell your mum I said that will you?), they make great puppets which will keep kids quiet for ages. I mean when one gets a hole you just can’t throw the other one out now can you?
If you collect items for recycling (If not, why not?) you can simply let the kids have free rein on anything in there. If your child’s having fun it’s still recycling and you’re still saving the planet by not consuming more things.
We get more free newspapers, leaflets, council newsletters and property papers than we have time to read. The toddlers will love just tearing the papers up, and the older ones will be able to make anything from papier mache to my favourite, paper palm trees.
Roll them up, cut down about halfway lengthways and pull the centre of the roll upwards. Instant desert isle for the cost of an inch of sticky tape! Even better with a broadsheet, if you can find one.
Finally, plastic bottles have a million uses (I know - I’ve watched a lot of Tikkabilla). From skittles stabilised by adding water or sand, shakers made with rice or dried peas to boats made by cutting them in half and adding a sail.
So now if anyone asks you why you’re saving all those boxes/tins/plastic cups/widgets you just say ‘it’s for the kids!’
About the Author: Jacqui O'Brien is the Editor of eParenting.