Everywhere I go, I see stores outfitted with summer toys — water guns, kiddie sprinklers, wading pools and more line the aisles. And from Target to Wal-Mart to Walgreens, no summer store aisle seems complete without a cardboard box of foam pool noodles.

These brightly-colored, lightweight floaties made for fun in the pool are something my kids can't live without during the summer. But I've found I can't live without a few myself. Why? Because these noodles are just so darn versatile around the house! Here are some alternative ways to use these summertime staples:

1. Toddler fireplace bumpers

While baby-proofing my house, the raised brick fireplace in my living room caused some real problems. I thought about buying a fireplace bumper pad like this one from Sears, but I couldn't justify spending over $100 for it. Thankfully, I didn’t have to — pool noodles did the trick, instead! I bought two, cut them to the sizes I needed for the front and sides of the portion of my fireplace that jutted out into the room, slit them down the center with a boxcutter and — voila!  My own "customizable" pads for less than $5! Note: Remember to remove the pads prior to starting a fire.

2. Concrete step softeners

Just as I was nervous about the exposed bricks around my fireplace with my toddler, I became equally nervous about a series of three, slick concrete steps in the backyard off my porch. Have a similar conundrum? Well, fear not! I used the same split pool noodle trick as above to create bumpers for each stair, which allowed my toddler to better manage the steps and minimized my fear of him catching the sharp edge of a stair in a fall. To make them last longer, I kept these homemade bumpers in a patio storage container and only placed them on the steps when my toddler and I played outside. That way, they weren't exposed to the elements on a daily basis. They work great and give me much-needed peace of mind!

3. Bridge the bed/wall gap

Have a squeaky headboard? Or does the toddler bed you have pushed against the wall still have a 2-4 inch "crack" where toys, clothes, and little hands and legs can accidentally slip through? Add a clean pool noodle in the exposed area parallel to the bed to make the annoying crack disappear!

4. Boot shapers

My stylish knee-high winter boots cost too much to let them get droopy and lose their shape over the summer when I'm not wearing them. I wanted to buy some boot shapers like these, but I realized pool noodles would do the trick! Slice a noodle in half, stand one half up in each boot, and your boots will retain their shape all the way to next season!

5. Backyard games

Pool noodles can be poked, soaked, cut, connected and tied for some fun, inexpensive backyard water games and activities. Make circles by connecting the two ends of a noodle with duct tape. Then, use them for a game of giant ring toss or for an on-ground target for footballs, Wiffle Balls, or Frisbees. Place an assortment of cut noodles on the ground for a customizable hopscotch or “street” for remote control vehicles. Or, better yet, just give an armful of noodles to the kids and see what they can build!

6. Post-run foot roller

Foot rollers like this one are a staple for distance runners, but an 8-12 inch cut portion of a pool noodle can work just as well to soothe tired tootsies after a run — and it's not nearly as hard (or as expensive) as rollers sold in sporting good and fitness stores for this "sole" purpose!

7. Headband organizer

A 6-8 inch cut portion of a pool noodle can be put to use in a bathroom or bedroom to hold girls' headbands. Simply slip each plastic headband over the cylinder, and the foam will create a grip so they don't slip off, making them easy for you to find and use when getting ready in the morning.

8. Toy car race track

Cut a pool noodle in half lengthwise with a box cutter to expose the hollow inside cylinder. Now, each noodle can be used separately (or the two can be combined via duct tape) as race tracks for toy cars, like Matchbox and Hot Wheels. Kids can "race" the cars along the tracks in a hall or prop the noodles up on a raised surface (like a countertop, coffee table, couch, or the edge of the bed) to create derby-style tracks.

 

For some of these uses, a new noodle might work best, but in other cases, you can repurpose last year's noodles that might be a bit worn or faded. At around $2 apiece, pool noodles might just become your next summer stock-up item!

8 Innovative Uses for Pool Noodles