So I’m working on an electrical plug, just trying to get the cover to sit better, nothing fancy, when I ask my 5-year-old daughter to get me a screwdriver. She returns a few seconds later with a dime and I thank her heartily, possibly even tussle her hair or something equally Norman Rockwellish.
My wife, however, who is sitting on the couch, begins to chuckle.
“No honey, a screwdriver. Does that look like a screwdriver?”
My wife shoots me a look, as if our daughter is weird for not knowing the difference between a coin and a screwdriver. But a split second later, my daughter and I exchange a glance that clearly says: Mommy is insane.
“What?” she asks.
I guess she doesn’t know the power of coins. I guess she’s never had an official course in the Stay-at-Home Dad’s Guide to Teaching MacGyverisms.
The other day, when a UPS box arrived for Christmas, my daughter cheerfully ran off to retrieve a box-opening implement and returned with a quarter. Again, coins: probably the most useful and overlooked tool in the at-home MacGyver training program. But oh, are there others. Although I haven’t started a real course, it has occurred to me over the years that there are plenty of household items you can call upon to get you out of a fix without resorting to a trip to the hardware store.
So here they are: The Top 7 Dad Tools You Can’t Find at Home Depot:
Coins 1 of 7OK, so you are now already aware. We use them for everything from opening boxes to turning tiny screws to emergency splints for home projects -- you name it. Plus, you can stack and roll and use them as toys or, gasp, teaching devices about their first order of use: money. Coins rock. You should get a few.
Gift ribbon 2 of 7Out of tape? Can't find the glue? In need of a quick pinch-hitter for your child's latest school craft project, or just need to tie two things together or maybe make that emergency gift bottle of wine more presentable? Aww, yeah. It's gift ribbon time. I find myself using this stuff more than I ever imagined, hauling it out once to secure two pieces of wood together for a gluing project my daughter and I were working on. It provides all the advantages of, say, rope or twine — with more sparkle.
Children’s books 3 of 7No, not to head off a tantrum, learn something amazing or as a go-to for when you're killing time at the doctor's office. For a hammer, silly! Those little hard cover jobbies work almost just as well for pounding nails if you need something fast and don't feel like trudging upstairs to the tool box. (Guilty.) I used a children's book to put together an Ikea shelving unit once, using it to push rather than pound. Thanks, Sandra Boynton!
Paper clips 4 of 7Ahh, the universal electronics resetter, makeshift finger football and art project supply .... The simple paper clip can accomplish a lot more than you expect, whether stretched out and used as a picker or bent and used as a bookmark, or jewelry, or quick zipper fix or ... you name it. Who hasn't used a sturdy paper clip to unclog a glue bottle?
Bicycle tubes 5 of 7I usually keep one old, flat one around somewhere, because these are not only fun giant rubber band toys -- another highly useful tool, by the way -- but you can also use them to wrap around jar lids for better grip and easier opening.
Credit Cards 6 of 7I've never been successful trying to pick locks with credit cards, despite numerous attempts for fun and when in real jams, but I do use them as rulers and spreaders and straight-line devices when needed for projects.
Diaper wipes 7 of 7Did I really need to tell you this? Probably not. Practically every parent figures it out after a day. But man, I love these things. From cleaning bums to cleaning dashboards, they can basically do everything. I usually stuff a few into a Ziploc bag if we are going to be out for the day. Diaper Wipes for President. That's how I'm voting this year.
Main photo: Wikipedia
Slideshow photos: Morguefile
Unfortunately obsolete: 10 Tech Relics I’ll Have to Explain to My Kids