Pool noodles are amazing things. They are lightweight, colorful, inexpensive... and they have a vast array of uses other than just keeping one afloat. Like many things in our warehouse, we don’t really use pool noodles the way they are supposed to be used. The other day, Freda suggested that I share some of the various way we use our pool noodles, since the winter months are now upon us and some of you may be tempted to either chuck your summertime floaties in the trash or store them away in some forgotten closet.
Now, before we get started, I just need to say that although there are both solid pool noodles and hollow ones, I prefer the ones with a hole in the center! Also any time it mentions cutting a pool noodle, the best tool I have found for doing so is a bread knife. (And only adults should use a knife when doing this or any other project!)
Here’s just a smattering of what we use them for. Let me know if you want me to get more descriptive with any of the following...
#1. Obstacle courses: this is the number one use for our pool noodles! We bend them and slide them over dowels hammered into the ground to make tunnels, jumping walls, weaving barriers, you name it... They are the ultimate obstacle course tool.
#2. Dummy arms, legs, and necks: a few Halloweens ago, we discovered that if we threaded heavy duty wire through the center of a noodle, that we could actually make poseable arms, legs, and necks for our fabulous ghoulies, ghosties, and tableau characters. Once clothed, the noodles look like real arms and legs -- they are awesome!
#3. Knee pads: Freda does a ton of kneeling when she’s working in the warehouse or at a party. In fact, the main inspiration for this blog came recently when my Mom was working with us. She was downstairs working in the warehouse, and Freda was in the loft painting. For some unknown reason my mom yelled up, “Freda! Are you on your knees again? Are you wearing knee pads?” A sheepish, “No...” was heard from above. Within minutes, Stephen, our warehouse manager, was seen bounding up the steps, pool noodle in hand, and Sue (my mom) was satisfied. (Although I don’t think any of us will ever erase the image of Steve, pony tail flying, racing up those stairs, waving the noodle like he was trying to flag down a train!)
#4. Marble chute: by cutting the noodle in half lengthwise, you can make a cool marble slide.
#5. Hobby horse head: all you have to do is cut a 12” length of noodle, cut a 90% notch out of the middle, fold the noodle in half to connect the pieces. Then you duct tape it in place, and slide onto 36” long dowel or broomstick. It’s totally cute once decorated!
#6. Neck stretcher: every now and again my back acts up. Some people lie flat on the floor with a rolled-up towel under their neck... I use a pool noodle.
#8. Padding between artwork: this is great for keeping some of our nicer signage from scraping against one another.
#9. Bumpers for lawn bowling and golf: this is always fun! Using 8 inch wire bent into a U-shape to keep the noodles in place, all I have to do is line up the pins, and hand the kids a ball. We use this for soccer bowling (where the kids kick a soccer ball to knock down pins) and for mini golf (to keep the balls from flying all over the place).
#10. Entry arch: by using a dowel to connect two noodles, I can simply create a larger tunnel like we use in our obstacle courses. When decorated up with balloons, tulle, and flowers, it makes an awesome entryway.
#11. Edge protector: by slitting one side of the noodle lengthwise, you can slide it onto almost any sharp edge. It’s especially great for things made out of plywood that could have splinters.
#12. Decor: we’ve used it to create all sorts of tube-shaped decor: giant candy canes, the edges of a Wurlitzer jukebox, the antennas on an oversized TV, the bars on a jail... there are countless uses.
#13. Treasure keepers: we cut the noodles into 3-inch pieces, slit them up one side, and then hide treasures (like gold coins) inside. You can make a fun pool game out of it by throwing a bunch of them into the pool and have kids jump in after them, seeing how many they can get, or have one special coin hidden in one of the noodles, and whomever finds that special treasure wins a prize. Although, technically, yes, this is a pool activity, it’s still a fun way to reuse a noodle, so cut me some slack!
#14. Shim: every now and then something is crooked and needs a shim (a small wedge, usually wood or cardboard, that is used to take up space under a wobbly table leg or other such item) . Pool noodles work great -- especially in the car when I’ve got a cake that needs to stay upright.
#15. Volleyball net: you can make it as long as you need by just placing fitted dowels in between lengths of noodles. Secure them to two stools or poles hammered into the ground. If you are playing pool volleyball, thread a piece of rope through a noodle, with however deep the pool area is extra on each side (so if it’s 3 feet deep, leave about 3 ½ feet on each side). Tie a weight to each end of the rope and throw into the pool. It makes the perfect divider line.
#16. Clue holder: roll up a clue and hide it in the tube... can you say “treasure hunt”?
#17. “Beaded” curtain: I actually saw this on OhDeeDoh... it’s really a cute idea.
#18. Headrest: I usually end up on the floor when I finally have some time to relax, and my sister steals all the couch pillows, so this works great.
#19. Goal: again, use our beloved piece of fitted dowel (about 6 inches should do) to join both ends of the pool noodle together and make a hoop. You can hang it and shoot through it, or lay it on the ground and toss thing into it. If your lucky, and you’ve got a big guy like our Walter, you can make it into a basketball hoop!
#20. Giant tiddlywinks: which work great with the above goal in #19! Slice your noodle into 1-inch pieces, pinch them in half towards you (so the open ends face you) then let them fly! They really do take flight, and with a little practice you can make them go where you want them to go.
#21. Javelin: they actually fly pretty well, and if you set up a series of hanging goals from above, you can really test your abilities.
#22. Pin holder: depending on how many pins you have, you may want to cut the noodle into little slices, like the tiddlywinks above, or cut to any size and slice in half lengthwise.
#23. Boot shape holder: stick an 18” length of pool noodle into your soft boots to keep them from toppling over and losing shape.
#24. Mitten dryer: use 6-inch pieces to hold mitten open for easier drying. Slip the noodle over a bottle of soda to keep it from falling over.
#25. Paint spreader: this is great for little hands -- perfect for making big rainbows! You can also slice off pieces to make giant circle and flower stamps. The patterns they make can be really fun. Great for making homemade wrapping paper.
#26. Tic-tac-toe: young ones can use the squishy shapes to play this simple game.
#27. Tub toys: cut into various pieces (circles, half pipes, pipes) and they can spark a child’s imagination to become everything from a floating island to a pirate ship.
#28. Little hands art base: great for youngsters for developing motor skills. The foam bases are perfect for inserting pipe cleaners.
#29. Water sprinkler: punch holes into a length of pool noodle, cap one end of the noodle with a wine cork, attach to a hose, and watch out -- you’re gonna get wet!
#30. Limbo stick: how low can you go...?
I’m starting to feel that this can be a challenge for me -- as I’m writing these down, another ten ideas are knocking at the door of my cerebral cortex! I might need to do a follow-up post, “30 more reuses for a pool noodle...” Or even a book! “101 Things To Do With a Pool Noodle.” Hmm... I think I need to get my noodle working on this one. Stay tuned -- I’ll keep you posted!