lego house

photo by uzvards

The first tip is a great idea during school vacations or whenever kids get bored. The same concept can be used to create tasks for chores (pick a chore a day) or for journal prompts. If you're making a journal jar, you can write prompts on slips of paper and have your child select one each. Glue the creative-writing prompt into her journal to get her started thinking and writing.

ACTIVITY JAR: When my children were younger, we made a "boredom buster" jar. We wrote different activities (build a Lego house, paint a fish, make a clay monster, etc.) on scraps of paper and then put all of the paper in a jar. Whenever the kids said they were bored, I told them to draw out of the "boredom buster" jar. It worked great. I had forgotten about that one. I think I'll do it again this summer with a bit of an upgrade for the older kids. They'll like it much better than my usual response: "If you're bored, I have a lot of jobs for you to do." A calendar works great, too. -- Shawna Rae, Oregon

BED WARMER: My grandmother used to put a hot-water bottle in our beds before we went to bed. It was free, and it made the bed nice and toasty until we fell asleep. -- Lynn, Massachusetts

REMOVE PET FUR FROM FURNITURE: I have used a synthetic sponge, barely damp, and dragged it across the "grain" of the fabric. Use rubber gloves that you would wear for washing up the dishes. Dampen lightly, and rub firmly across sofa. The hair sticks nicely to the glove, which I then rinse off over the toilet. -- Karen J., England

ORNAMENT STORAGE: I'm collecting old suitcases. I use them for Christmas ornaments, so they're stored in a single layer and in a shallow container that protects it and can be stacked. -- Margery, Canada

STREAMLINING THE LAUNDRY: I finally bought a laundry-sorting hamper, and it only cost $20 from Wal-Mart. It has three hanging mesh bags that are stiff and stay open (I don't like wrestling with soft mesh), with Velcro hangers on a sturdy metal frame. One for dark, one for light and one for delicates. I also bought an extra stain stick for the bedroom, to live right beside the sorting hamper, and that was an extra $4. Presort clothes as they come off. Pre-treat clothes as they come off. -- Margery, Canada

BATHROOM DECOR: When clear glass ornaments go on clearance, buy some and fill with bath salts. Display them in an open basket cushioned with washcloths as a pretty decoration in the bathroom. -- Heaven, e-mail

BUTTON CRAFTS: I used a hot-glue gun to glue buttons all around a picture frame. It turned out really cute. I also bought a fancy saucer at a thrift shop and cut a picture of our granddaughters to fit in the center. I added buttons around the outside and then added a hanger. I have them hanging in our living room. -- Kathi S., California

STAIN REMOVER: I use dish detergent to get out a lot of the stains my family brings in. It's good on grass, tomato sauce and blood. Pour your detergent onto the stain, and rub in. Launder as usual. I use Ajax dish detergent that smells like red grapefruit or Dawn for grease stains. -- Holly, New York