I love coffee, but I don't love waste. And while I could toss my used coffee grounds into the garbage can, satisfied that they fulfilled their purpose in making my mug of deliciousness, I like finding further life and uses for my coffee. The internet is full of lists that detail the numerous ways in which we can recycle coffee grounds. However, as easy as it would be to compost or fertilize or deter pests with used coffee, I just never get around to actually doing any of these things. After making coffee, I toss the grounds on a piece of foil to dry on the counter and promptly forget about them until the next time I make coffee.
A few months ago, I finally found a practical way in which I can put these oft-neglected coffee grounds to work: I can use them to entertain children.
It all started when I was babysitting a couple of my friend's kids. My toddler was showing them a book we own about coffee, and I heard the five-year-old boy declare, Mommy's coffee doesn't look like that. I glanced over, and saw his puzzlement as he gazed at a picture of whole coffee beans. In his few years of life experience, coffee was tiny sand-like grains that came from the store-so the idea that the popular drink came from beans was a bit crazy to him. I scooted over to where the boys were huddled around the coffee book. Do you guys want to see some coffee beans? I asked.
As they nodded, I pulled out my bag of while beans, and poured some into a little bowl. I brought it over, letting them smell, hold, and observe the beans. They were still puzzled though, asking, How do these make coffee? I explained that there was a way to make these beans look like the ones their mom and dad have, to grind them up small. I pulled out my grinder and we each took a turn pushing down the lid, watching the blades whirl and chop the beans into small pieces. I poured the ground coffee back into the bowl, passed it around, and let each boy smell, touch, and observe how it had changed, and how it had stayed the same.
All was going well, until one of the boys enthusiastically declared, I know what we can do! Let's make coffee and we can have a coffee party! The idea of a five-year-old, a four-year-old, and an almost-two-year-old hyped up on coffee did not sound good to me, so we quickly switched to the next activity.
Weeks later, my toddler was throwing a bit of a tantrum. He was tired, but it wasn't late enough that I could put him to bed. As he stomped around and I searched for ways to help him, I suddenly remembered the the babysitting incident. I looked at the pile of used coffee grounds that were piled by my sink, and I realized what their next purpose would be. Filling a bowl with them, I placed the coffee grounds on a short table and let my toddler smell, touch, and play with them (I stayed nearby to make sure that he did not eat them, because that would be the last thing I needed!). His grumpiness evaporated as he delightedly explored the textures and smells of these coffee beans. Plus, coffee naturally exfoliates one's skin, so the coffee was benefiting my toddler physically!
Once it was finally bedtime, my toddler could help sweep up the coffee grounds and throw them in the trashcan. It was a fun, practical, low-maintenance activity, and it was a great way to reuse those coffee grounds. So if you're ever trying to redirect an energetic toddler or entertain a group of young children, you don't necessarily need to invest in a sandbox or find some fancy toys. Instead, I recommend that you pull out whole coffee beans and a grinder or grab that pile of used grounds. It may be just the way to get some peace and quiet while you drink a steaming cup of coffee nearby ;)