FILED IN: Parenting

Green mommy.

What does one do with old, outgrown toys and other kid detritus? It’s great if you have a small niece or nephew around to hand it all down to, and it’s more than admirable to donate it to the Salvation Army. Another option, though, is to reuse and recycle. Remember, saving the earth begins at home.

Some ideas for creative new uses of familiar parenthood-related products:

The Nursing Bra
Don’t just remove the wire strap adjustment thingys and use it for a dust cloth. After all, no one dusts anymore. Instead, these babies make wonderful slingshots! Your kids will have hours of fun slinging grapefruits at each other (or clementines or honeydews, depending). If that idea doesn’t appeal, hang the bra on the wall, open the flaps so it lies flat, and show your old family slides on it (since you never got around to putting them on discs). Or, if you happen to be one of those people who enjoys living a little dangerously, pack it along on your next tour through war-ravaged lands. It makes a marvelous surrender flag that even the most near-sighted enemy can’t miss.

The Little Tykes Coupe
Those ubiquitous, plastic mini-Flintstones cars that you swore you’d set fire to the umpeenth time you hauled them back into the garage actually make fantastic mobile hors d’oeuvres carts. The next time you entertain, throw a tablecloth over one of them and put a tray of goodies on top. Wheel it around the living room, graciously offering your guests crudités and other fancy stuff. They’ll never know how many times you backed over it as you left the garage.

Thomas the Tank Engine wooden track.
Hey, at ten bucks a pop for two stinking, six-inch long pieces of wood, it really pays to find some more uses for these. If you live in an old house with uneven floors, I’ll bet you’ve already discovered that they make terrific furniture shims. Shove them under the front of an old bookcase. No more worrying about Paradise Lost falling down on the cat. That bookcase ain’t wobbling at all anymore, thanks to Thomas and the Isle of Sodor Railroad. Another idea: drill a hole in a few of them and make some cumbersome, gas station-style key chains that your kids will find difficult to lose. And of course, with the cost of heating fuel sky-high this winter, remember, these suckers burn really well. How green can you get?!

The Infant Seat
Let’s face it. No one wants a used infant seat. How many diapers have leaked all over that thing? How many times have you taken off the cover and washed it, first spraying Shout on the poop stains? Would you accept one from someone else as a hand-me-down? Heck, no. So what do you do with it? Try imagining the possibilities it has as a catapult. Why schlep another round of juice boxes to the TV room during a playdate? Launch them there instead, using the bouncy spring action of the infant seat. Why reach awkwardly across the coffee table to hand the sports section to your partner when you can catapult it across instead? Those Johnny Jump-Up seats that hang from door frames serve the same purpose.

Baby clothes
Now it can be revealed: they stopped making new baby clothes in 1983. Since then, everything’s been handed down and switched around and borrowed and re-gifted so many times that it still looks new to some dazed young mother. It’s like a big game of musical chairs. Some people are starting to get suspicious, though. I swear I saw some kid pass me by the other day with the same Old Navy sweatshirt I handed off to my sister’s kid years ago. (I could tell by the stains.) It’s just a matter of time before every baby waiting in the Sears Portrait Studio has the same Gymboree playsuit on. So don’t feel badly about handing off your baby’s clothes to someone else, thinking you maybe should have kept them as souvenirs of those fun baby years. More than likely you’ll get ‘em back someday soon anyway.

Mysterious black plastic pieces belonging to a racecar set broken beyond repair. Dominoes and stray dice. Harry Potter’s head from the “Chamber of Secrets” Lego set. A checker or two. The little pink and blue pod people from the Game of Life. The plastic cage from the Mousetrap game. The Learning Company Educational CDs. Thousands of super high bouncy balls. Yo-yos never mastered, bags of marbles never opened, party favor puzzles where the object is to get the little silver ball into the hole. All the stuff you are constantly culling, but it keeps returning like swallows to Capistrano. I’m not sure what to do about this. There’s only so much you can re-gift in birthday party goodie bags. Maybe every zip code could have a huge dumpster for this crap. Maybe, somehow, it can be recycled into fertilizer or road paving material or ballast.

Now if only I could figure out what to do with the dozens of remote controls for all those remote control toy cars. They’re all missing the pieces that cover the battery compartments, and everyone long ago gave up any interest in figuring out which control goes to which car. There’s got to be a way I can rewire one to get the garage door to go up and down.