Creative Organizing: Using Bakeware for Kids’ Projects

A guest writer from Nostaligic in Maine shares some tips on creative reuse of everyday kitchen items. How do you get creative with organizing?

My kids love playing with Legos, Playmobil, beads, marbles and toys with lots of small parts.  I encourage this and marvel at the creative Lego skills my son has and the patience my daughter shows with beading and sorting and counting.  On a rainy day or after dinner, we often sit down at the kitchen table and work on our little projects.  I enjoy listening to play that requires no batteries and my kids enjoy the increasingly complex projects of building new space ships, castles and “custom jewelry.”

It was actually my son who spotted these yellow picnic plates in the thrift store a couple of weeks ago and told me they would be great for holding his Lego pieces of different sizes.  Up until then he had just spread the blocks all over the table and floor and often became frustrated when he could not find certain pieces.  We tried small plastic bags for a while, but the pieces were still not very visible and accessible.  There were 2 yellow plates, and they were $0.50 each since they were marked down 50%.  Better yet, my son could pay for them himself with his $2 spending allowance.

And they sure do work well! Now he puts certain pieces in the different compartments, and he can find all his tiny pieces for a certain project.  Pretty clever, right?

This got me thinking about using old muffin tins for similar sorting projects. A friend who used to be a teacher (and now home-schools her children), told me she uses muffin tins for counting exercises.  She will put pebbles in the different compartments, leaving some open, and her kids will put in the corresponding right numbers.  I always thought this was clever, and I have used the method myself with my daughter and her marbles.

This weekend I went to Goodwill to look for old muffin tins for this very purpose and also to use as additional sorting systems for my son’s Legos.  In just one visit I found two in two different sizes – perfect – including the prices; both were marked $0.99, but one, since it had a green sticker, was reduced 50%.  Two great organizational/sorting systems for less than $2.   No wonder I love Goodwill.  And my son loves the small compartments of the 12-muffin tin.

I also came upon a couple of Tupperware cafeteria-style trays, also marked at $0.99 a piece.  I bought them too, figuring they also might prove handy for our table projects.  So far they have held some Playmobil projects in progress.

Finally, here are a few more pictures of the versatile muffin tins.  My daughter and I have had fun sorting beads (also thrifted) by color, making bracelets and necklaces out of them (using pipe cleaners to string them), and also doing our counting exercises with her favorite white pebbles.

These new tins have been my kids’ favorite new things today.  And I get to keep my own muffin tin for its original purpose and not worry about scrapes and dings from little fingers.  Although on these hot days, nothing tastes better to little palates than perfectly portioned cold muffin-Jello.  Who knew muffin tins could be so versatile?  Head to Goodwill and pick up some for all your family needs!