The toys that little kids love the best are very simple. You can repurpose things around the house into hours of free kiddy entertainment! Here are a few of my favorites to get you started:
1.) Shakers – This is a great way to multipurpose old plastic jars, plastic spice containers, and plastic Easter eggs (Isabella’s favorite). Add uncooked rice, dried beans, or stale cereal to the containers. If it doesn’t close tightly or you’re worried about your kids opening it, add a strip of packing tape around the opening. Note: Watch small kids closely! They could choke! Even with the tape they could get this open. (6 months – 5 years)
2.) Junk Mail – Instead of tossing your junk mail, allow your kids to draw and color on it. Glue it, tear it, fold it, and so on. You can still toss it in the bin when they finish. (1 yrs +)
3.) Used gift wrap – Rip it in small pieces and let your kids use a glue stick to attach it to an index card or piece of paper. This is a great post-holiday or birthday party craft. Save a little of each type for a colorful end result. (This has kept Isabella occupied for over an hour!) (2 yrs +)
4.) Old Books – Books in bad shape can be reused as a memory book. Glue decorative paper, photographs, tickets, postcards, and other memorabilia to the pages. You can paint the pages before or use paint and glitter to decorate after. Let your kids create a custom cover by painting or covering with paper or other items. They can add their own art work to the mix. If the spine is peeling, use packing tape to repair it before they start. A ripped page can be removed, you can glue paper to it as a repair, or you can leave half a page for visual interest. This project is for the older kids or small kids with the help of an adult. Makes a great gift! (5 yrs – adult with emphasis on the 9-12 year olds)
5.) Paper Towel Rolls – Decorate with crayons or construction paper for a fun day of playing pirate! (2-5 yrs old)
6.) Out Grown Baby Clothing – Baby clothing can make the best baby doll clothing! Kids are also very forgiving of stains. Try to find a doll roughly the size of a newborn and save the clothing this size and small 0-3 months. Place them in a drawer or container for the best doll wardrobe around! (1 – 7 yrs old)
Here are 5 ideas for spending time with the kids on the cheap:
- The Local Park –Kids of all ages (including 29, Wink, Wink!) love to swing and play on the monkey bars. The park is a timeless outing! Depending on where you live it is either free or very cheap. It is a fun way to pass the afternoon. I love to bring a picnic & plenty of drinks to make it a whole day event.
- Historic Site – Be it a small town or a big city something important happened within a short drive. Everywhere we have lived we have found cool historical sites. Some are locally important but many are important on a state or country level. Many sites are free or under $5 to visit. The best way to approach a historical outing is to learn a few key points before visiting. It is very hard for a child or even an adult to get excited about seeing the childhood home of a President if they do not know who they are.
- Art!- Be it a museum, a local exhibit, or a public piece, art is just plain cool. Art can spark all kinds of questions and interesting conversations with your family. The only rule to this is to make sure the place allows children (Many art galleries allow kids during the daytime.) and that the art is child appropriate. I once took my kids to the Contemporary Photography Museum in Chicago. The place was great and Free! The only issue was a large photo collection depicting murder that was a little disturbing. Consider a walk through or ask the front desk if you are concerned of what your children may see.
- The Public Library- Any of you that follow my writing know how much I love a good library! We have been to so many! Over the years we have enjoyed train tables, block sets, car tracks, puppet theaters, toys, computer games, board games, puzzles, story times, classes (from Origami to sea creatures including a real penguin), a petting zoo, magicians, belly dancers, contests, ghost stories, and a butterfly release, not to mention quite a few great books.
- The Bakery- If you are in a small town there is likely only one known simply as “The Bakery” and everyone I have ever gotten the joy of visiting was amazing! If you are in the ‘burbs or the city then there are many but I’m betting you have a favorite. Take your kids in for a cookie or donut. Sit down with them and listen to them talk. This time with them is priceless. They will be grown before you know it and you will look back on this time as a treasured memory.