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Recycled Crayon “Muffins”

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This is a great way to give new life to your old and broken crayons, and it’s a fun activity for kids to help with!  Melt down your own crayon pieces to make new crayons in the shape of little muffins.

What you need:

  • Old crayons
  • Muffin tin
  • Oven preheated to 300 degrees F

Step 1: Collect old crayons

We chose broken crayons and ones we haven’t been using (since we seem to have about 5 different sets of crayons and barely use any of them)

 

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Step 2: Remove paper from the crayons

This is not easy!  “J” was not able to help with it at all, and I struggled with each crayon.

For some reason, the larger, toddler-sized crayons seem to have easier-to-remove paper, so use those crayons if you have them.

“J” enjoyed the job of breaking the crayons into smaller pieces.

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Step 3: Put the crayons into a muffin pan

I was worried the crayons would get stuck in the muffin pan (they won’t!) or would make a mess in the pan (they didn’t!), so I used an old pan.  You can rest assured they will not ruin your pan, but I still wouldn’t recommend melting crayons in your best pan.  There was a little residue leftover afterwards, and it wasn’t easy to get out every last drop of it.  Luckily, most crayons are non-toxic!

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Step 4: Bake at 300 degrees F

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  When it’s ready, but your muffin pan into the oven and “bake” for about 15 minutes.  I used a standard-size muffin pan and filled the cups about half-full.  If you fill them higher, you may need to bake longer.  If you use a mini-muffin pan, you may not need to bake for as long.

in the tray

Step 5: Remove from the oven and cool for 20 minutes.  Then put in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes

The crayons melted together to form pretty mixtures.  Be careful that the kiddos don’t touch the hot pan or put their fingers in the melted hot wax!

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Step 6: Pop the “muffins” out of the pan

When the muffins have cooled, remove from the refrigerator and pop them out of the pan.  Two of the four we made popped right out, and two were more stubborn.  To get those out, I loosed them on the edges a little with a butter knife and then banged on the back of the pan.

This is what we ended up with!  The cracked one actually didn’t crack coming out of the pan — “J” thought they looked like little cakes and pretended to eat them, which is when it cracked.  They draw great and are beautiful to look at!  I think “J” will probably use them in his play kitchen more than he will draw with them, but at least they will get more use then our old crayon bits!

Crayons final

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DIY Kid’s Desk Makeover

I’m always on the lookout for free and cheap stuff, particularly large pieces.  My toddler “J” has a ton of toys but not so many furniture items.

I was out walking the dog a few weeks ago and stumbled upon a kids’ plastic desk on the side of the street for free.  It would never have occurred to me to have purchased a young toddler a desk, but as soon as I saw it, I was sure it would be a useful piece.  We have a small table and chairs, but the chairs are a little high for “J” (who is not particularly tall for his age), and it’s hard for him to pull himself close to the table once he sits on a chair.  The desk is a perfect solution!  I also thought that the tilted desktop would be helpful for reading and drawing.  Sure enough, he LOVES it!

The desk was pretty ugly when I picked it up: it was dirty, not the prettiest in “style,” and had some stickers still have stuck on it.  I instantly went to work fixing it up.

I didn’t take the greatest pictures of it, but you can see it beforehand here:

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It’s in the bathtub because I was starting to wash off the dirt.  Not the most appealing piece ,but it was structurally sound and had a decent overall design.

Steps:

  1. Wash off the desk.
  2. Sand the desk so that paint will adhere better.  This also removed the stickers that were on it, which I was very happy about.
  3. Take the desk apart — I found that it was really easy to take off the side panels, so I decided to paint them a different color.
  4. Spray paint with paint that’s meant for plastic — I did two coats.
  5. Put the desk back together when it’s dry.  All done!  The paint says that it adheres to plastic best when it has a chance to dry for about a week, so I didn’t give it to “J” right away.

Here’s the final version!

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This was my first experiment painting plastic and using spray paint, and I think it turned out well.  The paint does scratch off a little, so it’s probably not going to hold up for years, but so far, we’ve had no problems.

A few tips I’ve learned from the process:

  1. Make sure you keep the spray can at a distance from what you are painting, and don’t hover over any spots too long.  I had a few problems with runny paint that would have been prevented by this.
  2. Spraying over runny paint drips actually works to fix them.  I was shocked at how well it fixed the problems and made the drips disappear.
  3. Be careful using a finishing coat.  I wanted to spray a clear coat on at the end to help seal it, but it just created a strange murky tint to it.  It was easy to spray more paint over the top when I realized I didn’t like this, but I would be wary of using a clear coat again as a result of this.  It’s possible that it didn’t work well because I sprayed it too soon after painting and/or because I did it in the garage when it was fairly cold out, and the paints usually suggest a somewhat warm ambient temperature.
  4. Consider using a primer first.  All the things I read online seemed to suggest that you don’t really need a primer, but since doing this, I’ve started working on another project painting plastic, and I’ve found that using primer has made a big difference in how well it’s adhering and how it looks.

Happy DIYing and upcycling!

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DIY “Books” or Cards

My toddler (“J”) loves looking at pictures in books, magazines, catalogs, and anything else he can get his hands on.  He particularly enjoys pictures of his favorite things (like electric drills, kitchen mixers, blenders, and trucks).

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The other day, he made a grab for the Crate & Barrel catalog and found a picture of a mixer, which has been his most recent obsession after seeing me use it to make cookies and muffins.  He also found a picture of a blender, a slow cooker, and a toaster.

“J” would flip through the magazine in search of his favorite pictures, always wanting to close it for some reason and then open it again and find them.  Of course, it was difficult for his little fingers to turn the very thin pages, and the magazine was not holding up well to a lot of handling.  When “J” nearly had a tantrum because he was having trouble turning to the picture of the mixer, I decided it was time to take the mixer out of the magazine.

And so, the “trading cards” were born.  They are sort of half books, half trading cards.  My husband says they are like toddler baseball cards and that it would be funny if toddlers carried these around with pictures of their favorite equipment and traded with their friends.  That sounds pretty awesome to me, so get your toddler on board with us!

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Materials:
Old magazines or catalogs with pictures of things your toddler recognizes and likes
Scissors
Cardboard remnants (I cut up an old box)
Mod Podge or other decoupage glue
Scrapbook paper, construction paper, or other colorful paper (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Choose the pictures you plan to use and cut them out in the shapes you like.  You can cut closely around the objects if you want or can cut out squares or circles leaving some border around your object.  What works best depends a lot on the type of picture you have.  I tried to cut mine so that none of the advertising text was visible.
  2. Cut cardboard pieces so that they are the size you want.  They should be big enough for at least one picture on each side, but you could also make them larger if you want to put more pictures on each page or if you just want a lot of “white space” around them.
  3. (Optional:  Cut scrapbook or construction paper to the size of the cardboard pieces.  This will be the background for your pictures.)
  4. Using Mod Podge or other decoupage glue, adhere the paper to the cardboard and then adhere the picture(s) on top.  I like to use decoupage glue because you can put it over the top of the pictures to seal them so that it won’t be easy for little fingers to pick at the edges and pull them off.  It also helps firm up the card/page a little and make it sturdier.
  5. Let the glue dry.  If you are making two-sided cards/pages, it’s a good idea to do one side at a time and find a place where you can dry them in between gluing.

All done!  “J” loves these cards and carries them around with him when we go places in the car.  It’s much easier for him than flipping through the magazine, and it’s fun for him to flip them over and even use them as toys (putting them in and out of his toy trucks, building little tunnels with them, etc.).  I’m planning to do more of this in the future with different types of pictures.

Other Ideas:

  • Use markers to write the names of the objects on each card, giving your child increased familiarity with seeing the written word.
  • Cut up the cards, and use them as puzzles.  (Note: It’s difficult to cut these after finishing them.  I recommend cutting before gluing or using an X-Acto-type knife afterwards.)
  • Make a bunch of cards and use them for playing games like “Go Fish!” or matching.
  • Hang the cards on the wall as decorations.  You could use clothes pins and maybe boards nailed to the wall or yarn hung on the wall (as long as you make sure it’s not a strangulation hazard).  Your child could play with the cards and the clothes pins and enjoy putting them up and taking them down again.
  • If you have an older child, you could do this project together.  It’s very simple and safe, as long as you closely supervise the cutting.  I recommend that an adult be the one to cut the cardboard, since it is tough to cut and will require a sharper knife.
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DIY Play Mailbox

If your toddler is like mine, he or she loves putting things in and taking them out again.  What better place to do this than a mailbox?

We go outside to get the mail together most days, and “J” seems to like it a lot, so I made him his own play mailbox.  It was intended to go on the door to his playroom closet, as though that were his “house,” but when it was attached to the wall, he could pull it apart too easily, so I took it down and just use it unattached.  If your child is a bit older and/or you make sure to tape it more securely, you could probably adhere to a door or wall without a problem.

Materials:

Used (or new) U.S. Postal Service mailing box
Scrapbook or other nice-looking paper
Paste or other type of glue
Stickers for decorating (optional)
Additional pieces of cardboard for making “postcards” (optional)

Instructions:

1.  Deconstruct your cardboard box and cut off unnecessary sides.

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2.  Cover the outside with paper as desired, making sure to include enough of an extra amount on the inside so that you will see a continuation of the nice-looking paper when you glance inside (rather than unfinished cardboard).  You could meticulously cover every inch of the box with paper, but neither you nor your child will really see into the deep inside, so it’s perfectly fine to be a little lazy in your covering.

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3.  Put the box together using paste and/or clear tape.  I used paste, but it was not very strong, so although tape would ruin the line a little, I think it might be a good idea to use some clear packing tape.

4.  If desired, add stickers or other details to the box.  I had some extra scrapbook stickers, so I used them to write “Mailbox” and “123 Main St” on the one I made.

5.  Optional:  Use cardboard and extra paper to make postcards or “letters” that can be put in and taken out.  Alternatively (or additionally), you can let your little one put other little things into the box, or you can use real envelopes or junk mail.

Happy mailing!

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Recycled TP Roll Flowers

Instead of recycling your toilet paper rolls, make them into flowers!  This could be an activity you do to decorate your child’s room, or an activity you do together with an older kid.

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Step 1: Cut your TP rolls into smallish strips

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Step 2:  Using a hot glue gun, put a dab of glue in the middle of one of the strips. If you are working with kids, this is something you should do rather than them. It’s very easy to burn yourself doing this.

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Step 3: Position another strip on top of the first at a roughly 90-degree angle.

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Step 4: Continue to adhere more and more strips at 90-degree angles until you have a flushed-out flower

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Step 5: Cut a piece of scrap fabric into a circle and use your hot glue gun to adhere it to the middle of the flower.

 

I’m making several of these to put into a pretend flower box that will hang on my son’s closet door, leading to his “playhouse area.”  You could also use these for a million other purposes:

  • Use these as packing material when mailing a gift
  • Attach them to pipe cleaners or glue to wood sticks and use as fake bouquets or flower arrangements
  • Put velcro on the back and use as pretend corsages
  • Put them into a pot or other container for a doll garden
  • Hang them on a string or ribbon as a room decoration