Baby and children’s toys can really get expensive. Kids’ attention spans are short. So, trying to keep them in new and interesting toys can get to be a very expensive proposition.
My goal for this newsletter is to provide you with some ideas for free or inexpensive ways to keep your kids playing and learning. These are not ‘babysitters,’ but rather ways families on a budget can still give their kids the advantage of stimulating creativity and learning.
Choose a drawer or box that your little one can find new toys in every few days.
- If your drawer is in the kitchen, you may put a small pot and lid, plastic bowls that nest, a wire whisk, wooden spoons of different sizes, colored plastic cups, measuring spoons, chopsticks, a muffin pan, cookie cutters, etc. Keep changing what’s in there to keep them interested in exploring.
- A box in your sitting room may have a stuffed animal, a net ball, scraps of fabric with different textures, elastic and string, a small pillow, a picture book, a box of blocks or dominoes. Replace these with new things often.
- Girls love a box full or old clothes, hats, shoes, and scarves to play ‘dress up.’
Make an obstacle course out of chairs, tables, sheets, and pillows for indoor fun. Take walks outside and use curbs for balance beams, stepping stones or cracks in pavement for agility in skipping, jumping, and hopping. Use sidewalk chalk to make a path that will challenge your child’s large muscle skills.
Kids love to make a fort out of old packing boxes. The boxes appliances come in are their favorites.
Make a busy board out of things around your house or bought inexpensively from dollar stores or hardware stores. Here’s a great example: Handsonaswegrow.com
Read a book to your little ones. They may want you to read one book every day for months or read a new book every day. Buying new books is good when your child is still putting everything they hold in their mouth, but as they get to be toddlers and preschoolers, you can use library books or used books. It is helpful if you can trade kids’ books with friends or play group buddies. eBooks are an option too, but don’t have the added benefit of teaching how to handle books nicely.
Finger plays and action songs are a great way to teach pre-reading skills and cost nothing. Here are some great resources for these fun songs and rhymes.
- EarlyLiteracyLearning.org not only has a number of good songs and rhymes, but explains to you why and how to use these materials.
- For videos of a few action songs see: ReadingIsFundamental.org
- For printed pages of rhymes see: Parenting Ideas Songbook And for rhymes with different themes see: PreschoolRainbow.org
If you cannot afford an expensive erector set, you can challenge your child’s building creativity with popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, wooden clothes pegs, and rubber bands.
You can keep a toddler busy with an empty water bottle and cut drinking straws or small pompoms to put in and pour out. Pompoms of different colors and sizes can be sorted, picked up with tongs and put into containers.
You can make a homemade version of many of the fun stuff kids love to handle:
- Playdough that is safe to eat and cheap to make. For playdough that can keep for up to 6 months, try this recipe: fun.familyeducation.com
- For recipes for homemade foam, water beads, fizzy slush, pretend snow, colored melting ice, slime, sand foam and more, see my Pinterest board for sensory activities.
For more on toys and the importance of play see: Toys and Play here at Your Child’s Journey.
Please share your ideas by adding a comment to this post.