Save all your empty grocery cartons for a week or so and you’ll soon have a shop any aspiring grocer would be proud of. Gluing down the flaps makes cereal boxes, jelly packets etc. look unopened. Clothes, shoes, and toys can all be used as “stock”. Paper bags and real or play money add to the fun.
When the kids keep arguing suggest that they throw something at each other! Paper balls are easily scrunched up from torn out magazine pages to make “ammunition”. When it’s time to tidy up, stand the waste paper basket in the middle of the room and see who can throw the most in. A rolled up magazine makes a good “bat” too.
A roll of white toilet tissue makes this game much more fun as Dads, Grans, teddies or dolls are mummified before your eyes. Plastic medicine spoons and cardboard box hospital beds for toys are extra props that make the game last longer.
Cardboard tubes from kitchen roll or foil make instant telescopes for sailors or pirates, or tunnels to roll marbles through. Babies love to watch things disappear then reappear out of the bottom. Don’t leave them alone with the cardboard tube though as they will probably suck it.
Cardboard boxes must be about the best free toys you can get hold of. Push in the ends of large ones to make tunnels and caves to crawl through. Draw on windows and doors with felt tip pens to make a house, add a flag and portholes for a boat or paper plates and a steering wheel for a car.
The foil trays that pies and prepared foods arrive in make lovely containers for miniature gardens. The children can enjoy hunting around the park or garden for twigs to make trees, moss for a lawn, stones to arrange as a rockery or a waterfall. Keep twigs or stones where you want them with a little blue tack or plasticine. Add toy people or animals and maybe a little water if the container is watertight. This can be a very creative and enjoyable exercise if you have children of very different age groups to entertain. A variation is to use play sand (not builder’s sand – it stains everything yellow) to make a beach scene, maybe adding shells, stones and a blue paper sea.
A picture of anything – colourful bird, clown’s face, animal or cartoon character, carefully cut out by an adult and stuck to the top of a strip of card about five inches long and one and a half inches wide becomes a very easily made puppet. These give such pleasure and are so easy to make that you will probably end up with dozens of them. Magazine pictures can be stuck on to folded card to make theatre set background and wings.
After cutting a potato in half, draw on a simple shape. A triangle, circle or star perhaps. Cut away the rest of the potato, leaving a shape to dip into paint and print on to paper.
Skittles can be improvised from large plastic cola or lemonade bottles. A little sand or water in the bottom makes them more stable. A good game for learning to count.
Building a den must be one of the most memorable parts of childhood as we all seem to recall the bliss of blankets draped over the airing rack in the garden or over the backs of chairs indoors. Even today’s sophisticated kids seem to find the thought much more exciting than just erecting the shop bought plastic play house. I think the secret is to give structural advice about making the thing stay upright, but let the children do as much as possible themselves. Really large boxes of the type that washing machines and fridges come in can be had for the asking from the big electrical goods retailers and are useful for rooms within dens. Indoors, one of the simplest dens can be made by throwing a large sheet or duvet over a table. Cushions, torches,biscuits and comics or books will all be needed at the housewarming.
Children find a million uses for string, from tying up toy “baddies” to making a washing line for doll’s clothes. It can be tied to chair legs to make a jump, dipped into paint and twirled on to paper, plaited, knitted with, made into a parachute or mobile, used as a measuring aid or for learning how to tie shoelaces and bows. It need never linger in the kitchen drawer again.
Stick a picture on to a postcard or draw a simple duck, car or teddy shape. With a bodkin needle push holes around the outline of your design about one inch apart. Using brightly coloured wool in the bodkin or a long bootlace, thread in and out of the holes.
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