While looking around for easy-to-make, lovely-to-give Christmas goodies last week, my eyes fell on something that is-- in our house at least--so mundane as to go completely unnoticed. Our Cup Keeper Charms!
What on earth is a Cup Keeper Charm, you ask yourself? It's my answer to the endless frustration of trying to fit half a bazillion little plastic cups into the top rack of the dishwasher. It's my way of stopping the bickering over who had what cup before it even starts. And, most importantly, it's my way of never, ever having to say, "Who had the Red Robin cup? Old Spaghetti Factory? Come on, guys ... think!" again.
The sheer joy of it!
Several years ago, I decided to commit to the color coding scheme for my growing brood. Everyone was assigned a color: Jo is purple. Atticus is blue. Logan is green. Oliver is orange. Manolin is yellow. There, easy enough. Now all I had to do was locate cups and plates in these colors, and we were good to go.
I found the necessary items, set out the rules ("Use your color.") and went about my business. Cracks began to show right away, however. Sometimes the plates were in the dishwasher. What to do then? And the cups were too tall for the table, really; nary a meal seemed to pass when someone wasn't accidentally toppling over a cup they'd filled too full of water. It was a great system, but one that didn't really work for us. So I slowly abandoned it, and we went back to trying to jam the 50 cups a day that my kids seemed to go through into the dishwasher.
Ugh. Back to square one.
Then it occurred to me: several years ago, my mother had purchased a set of wine charms for Mr. Blandings and I. In case you don't know what a wine charm is, it's a small wire loop decorated with beads or charms that helps guests claim their glass in a sea of look-alike stems. These were a pre-kids gift, and one that we used on fancy occasions. But for the most part, there they were--a dozen or so little loops, just waiting to be attached to the delicate stem of a wine glass. But what if---?
I grabbed one, snapped it onto the handle of one of our little tin cups (favorites of the kids) and sighed happily. YES--they worked perfectly. With almost no effort, the cup was labeled and claimed for an entire day by one person. Praise God for the little things, I tell you!
I immediately divested our shelves of anything bearing dancing birds, happy trains or other corporate logos. I filled the kids in on my plans, brought out all of the camping cups, and never looked back.
Our Cup Keeper Charms all feature various world monuments. Each one is different; it's a close-your-eyes-and-draw surprise every morning to see who gets to go visit what amazing site for the day. The kids easily remember who has what charm, and we never have to do a roll call on abandoned cups left on the table. Here's the Taj Mahal:
As you can see, it's a very, very simple little thing. Just a loop, a couple of beads, and a charm. You can also easily make them without charms--just adding a single colored bead would be enough to mark a cup. As a matter of fact, Oli uses a Cup Keeper with just one bead as a way of learning his colors. Today, he's BLUE. Tomorrow, he might be GREEN. He thinks this is very, very cool.
These work with any cup that has a handle, so there's no need to go out and buy a whole new set of mugs just to use this little system. That might make a nice touch if you're making some to be gifted, however. I have a family in mind for a set this Christmas, and I'm planning a jaunt to Ikea for some plain but pretty mugs to fill with goodies, then we'll be presenting each child with a Cup Keeper as part of his/her gift.
Here's what you need:
Charms (ours were $3.99 for a dozen)
Jewelry Hoops ($1.29 for a dozen)
Double rings ($1.99 for three dozen), if needed
Beads (we had some already)
How to do it:
If your charms don't have the kind of hole that allow them to face forward, you'll have to slide them onto the double rings first. This was actually the trickiest part, and requires you to kink them open a bit with the pliers. Once you've done that, the rest is so easy that my two year-old was able to do it. Simply open a hoop and slide a few beads, a charm, and a couple more beads onto it. Using the pliers again, bend the end of the wire hoop slightly so that the decorations don't slide off. Hook onto a cup. And that's it!