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Inexpensive Home Made Toys and Activity Ideas

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      14.04.2009 13:53
      Very helpful



      Some great ideas to develop your kids creative side whilst saving yourself a fortune

      With the credit crunch hitting everyone hard, I've made an even bigger effort to find things to do with my 18 month old daughter and 5 year old nephew rather than buying them toys when they tire of the old ones. Here are just a few cheap ideas that should keep you going for a while.

      ~~ Craft Type Toys ~~

      Always keep your empty boxes, cartons, envelopes and newspapers as they will come in handy at some point and it will work out a lot cheaper than constantly buying craft materials or new toys.

      It is possible to make almost anything from cardboard or a box, bits of paper and cartons of various sizes and shapes. Here are just a few ideas that you can try. Make an aeroplane - Start with a box or fold cardboard into a box and cut out holes for the windows. Rather than just leaving the windows blank, try putting different coloured pieces of paper over the holes to give it that great look. You can also sit and make the tail and wings and add your own little bits to personalise - much better than buying an aeroplane that your child will tire off after minutes. We've also made cars, lorries, buses, trains and even a digger using a variety of old materials that would have otherwise gone in the bin! Not only do you spend time building it, but you have plenty of time to play with them too - perfect if you're trying to waste away some time in the holidays!

      If you really want to save money then make your own glue - just a bit of flour and water to the right consistency can work a treat and means you don't have to buy pritt stick or similar glue.

      ~~ Collages ~~

      Ever wondered what to do with all those catalogues that are out of date or the junk ones you seem to receive through the mail everyday? We used to bin ours but now safe them for sticking and gluing to make pictures for when daddy comes home from work. He has so many that he doesn't know what to do with them - but it's his problem now and not mine!

      ~~ Old Bottles ~~

      My daughter has always loved playing with bottles and chocolate tins (it's my excuse for eating chocolate!) so I try to make them a bit more interesting by adding things to them. I get different sized bottles and add a different thing into each one so they make different noises and we create our own little band. Things that I include are lentils, pasta (different shapes make different noises) water (different colours interest her so add food colouring to them) seeds/nuts for the birds (you can have fun feeding them afterwards) paper clips, pins (though make sure that lid is on very tight!) and rice. These are all things I have lying around anyway so it's no added expense to me and my little girl still loves it. We sit shaking the bottles and hitting the chocolate tins or sauce pans like a drum and she giggles for hours (no I'm not completely nuts!)

      ~~ Painting ~~

      Most kids are fascinated by paints but when the weather is nicer why not do more with it? Instead of using a paintbrush and being careful, why don't you let them outside for some hand and foot painting and see who can make the best picture without a brush? If you're not keen on the hands/feet thing then you can always use potatoes, sponges or other bits and pieces to make different shapes and textures. All of these are great ways of introducing shapes, colours and textures to your children.

      Why not include things like pasta and then make things out of the pasta? For example, you can make a little necklace from pasta for a girl or a pretend watch for your little boy. Paint the pasta, add glitter, add paper and so on, each one will be unique.

      ~~ Water Fun ~~

      Why not fill a washing up bowl or something similar with water and let your little one splash about with different utensils and just generally make a mess? This is best for the garden but a laminate floor wipes easy enough and it allows you to do your dishes in peace without a little girl clinging to your legs the entire time!

      ~~ Playdough ~~

      My daughter loves playing with playdough and because she's so young I tend to give her one colour at a time as it gets mixed up very easily and you end up having to go out and buy more. Having let me nephew plays with all of the colours together and finding a lump of multicoloured goo, I decided it was time to learn how to make my own rather than dashing out to the shop every week. The recipe is very simple and it doesn't take very long to make at all. You can change the measurements depending on how much or how little you want to make - it's entirely upto you.

      You need:

      400g of plain flour (I use Asda's own)
      600ml of cold water (do make sure it's cold, you don't want to see the finished mess warm water makes!)
      150g of salt
      a tablespoon of oil
      3 teaspoons of tartar
      And finally food colouring of your choice.

      Now to make it:

      First, add the food colouring of your choice to the cold water. Then put all of the other ingredients into a bowl and gradually mix the coloured water in. Put the bowl into the microwave with a lid over the top and put it on for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, take it out and stir it and put it on for another 3 minutes. Do the same again and put it on for another 3 minutes. The mix should come away from the bowl and if it looks the right consistency then you need to let it cool down before using it. We store ours in old pots that previous shop bought playdough came in but I've been informed that you can store it in a zipped freezer bag. It does keep for about a month so this isn't something you should need to do every week!

      ~~ Picnics ~~

      You can have a picnic whether the weather is nice or not and the kids will enjoy a change from the routine - you just have to watch they don't want one every day! If the weather is awful then put a blanket down on the floor and have different plates with different foods. If you want to make it more interesting then have your children close their eyes and guess which food they are eating - just make sure they like it or you can guarantee an end to that game very quickly!

      If the weather is nice then go along to your local park with a blanket and some food and let the kids eat and play whilst you sit and relax! At the end of the day, the kids will be tired and you'll have had a nice change of scene that doesn't cost the earth.

      ~~ Dens ~~

      Building a den is simple and a lot cheaper than buying a tent or tunnel for the kids to play in. Simply make your own instead out of blankets, chairs and whatever else you might find lying around. If you make it dark enough inside then you can give your child a torch to play with and they'll love you forever! (well, until you tell them no to something else!)

      ~~ Bug Hunt ~~

      If it's a nice day, then why not take your child out on a bug hunt? They can have great fun lifting stones and rummaging around, even if it isn't something you want to see! It's a learning experience for them at the same time as having fun and if you have bug books at home then you can sit and look at the ones you found.

      ~~ Conclusion ~~

      This is what we get upto on the days we have nothing planned to give her a change from her toys. Hopefully there's an idea here for everyone and it will waste away some of those long holiday hours!


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        31.03.2009 21:46
        Very helpful



        A very fun activity to try

        As I work in a nursery and have done various placements in schools, I would like to share with you one of the activity plans which I have found very enjoyable to do with reception aged children and upwards (or even more advanced pre schoolers)

        Decorative stones

        Resources -

        Stones collected from a trip/brought from home and washed, paints and paintbrushes, serviettes and/or napkins with patterns on, scissors, PVA glue
        Health and Safety considerations Supervision when using scissors

        Explain to children that you will be painting and decorating stones to use as paperweights, show example and let them choose designs from serviettes to decorate their stone with.

        Children will start by cutting out pictures from napkin, may need adult support. They will then paint a stone with a light coloured paint. When the stone is dry the napkin image can be pasted on with glue. Ask what shape is your stone? What does it feel like? (smooth, bumpy) Have you got a big stone or a small stone, Who's got the biggest stone? Who's got the smallest stone. Which colour are you going to use?

        Children can put their stones somewhere to dry and decide/ talk about what it will be used for when it is dry (paperweight or pretty decoration for their bedroom) explain that it will stop things from blowing away in the wind outside or stop papers from getting mixed up or knocked over on desks. Talk about the colour they've chosen to paint it, is it bright? What else is this colour? Has the texture changed now it is painted (after it is dry). Children may want to give it as a gift to someone in their family.

        Supporting lower achievers or for use with Special needs children -

        May need more support cutting, perhaps encourage them to cut out larger, less complex shapes from the napkins.

        For Higher achievers?
        Allow much more independence, perhaps encourage the mixing of paints to create new colours, use more pictures and encourage the choice of intricate shapes to cut out.

        Take a note of the descriptive words children use about the colour and texture of their creation, watch children's use of scissors and levels of precision (fine motor skills)


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          23.03.2009 10:16
          1 Comment



          As for activities walking is fun and free

          I think that children's imaginations especially when they are tiny are amazing! They really don't need to to have the latest toys - there is plenty of time for that later when they are on their teens. Thinking back to my favorite childhood memories it it things that were relitively inexpensive and allowed me time with frineds and family that i really enjoyed.

          Now i have a duaghter myself, I make teddy bears out of my daughters clothes that she has out grown and as any one with a child will know this happens very quickly. If it is a nice fabric i think it is a shame to throw it away and i think that they make nice keep sakes - as does a patchwork quilt that i have made with bits of her outgrown clothes.

          One of the things my friend did was to paint the box the tv came in and her son had it as a little house that he played in.

          As for activities walking is fun and free. We get to explore whatis happening and see the changing seasons. Another thing that we love to do is have picnics - inside picnics in a den if the weather is bad but best of all outside with a frisbie and some lemonade if it is at all sunny.


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            03.03.2009 11:23
            Very helpful



            a really good play dough recipe

            Over five years of parenting I think it would be fair to say that I have learned the hard way that the inexpensive things are sometimes the best for having fun with your children. I read recently that many parents are not doing art and craft things with their children as they don't like the mess and that this is a bad thing. Whilst I always take these articles with a pinch of salt (there is an article every week to make you feel bad about your parenting), I do think that it is a good idea to share ideas that work and that are cheap and fun, so here is one of my favourite ideas!

            Playdough recipe:

            This recipe is one that I often use and is worth sharing as actual playdough is a lot more expensive and also gets mixed up. Homemade playdough might seem a bit "knit your own muesli", but trust me this recipe is really easy, if you give it a try you will be converted- and it is fun! I have passed this on to few people and they all use it regularly, or so they tell me!

            400g plain flour (buy the cheapest you can)
            200g salt
            600ml cold water
            4tsp cream of tartar (essential, costs about £1.29 a tub but goes a long way
            1 tbsp oil
            food colouring (29p per bottle usually)

            1) Add the food colouring to the water.

            2) Put all the other ingredients into a bowl (or saucepan if you are going to heat on the hob, see 3)). Gradually add the water to the bowl and mix.

            3) NB this step is for an adult to do - too dangerous for a child.
            Microwave for approx 9 minutes (stopping and stirring every 3 minutes). Also remember to put a lid on the bowl. Once the mixture starts coming away from the side of the bowl and appears to be the right consistency take out to cool (IT WILL BE VERY HOT). This recipe can also be cooked on the cooker hob, I actually prefer to do it this way as I find it makes for a better texture.

            Useful information:

            - The more colouring you add the more intense the colour - you can mix colours too to make orange or pink.
            - add glitter for fun, or rice/lentils for texture
            - if you get the made up playdough on your carpet (well if your child does) fear not, it dries and is relatively easy to scrape off with a knife
            - you can add vanilla or almond for a different smell
            - This is a good dough to make for playgroups or preschool, if doing so make sure all ingredients allergy free

            Storing your finished dough:

            The dough can be frozen or will keep several weeks in a ziplock bag or tub.

            Ideas of what to do with the dough:

            It is best probably to let the child lead play, provide a rolling pin or cutters if you have one and let them work out how to roll a sausage shape or little balls. My child had great fun making a pretend pizza and a birthday cake; if possible choose a place where you are not too worried about mess (outside in Summer) and let your child have fun.

            If you get bitten by the making cheap activities for your kids bug:

            Other things to try that we enjoy are; making hand/footprints in paint (outside), making a mini garden, putting lots of different foodstuffs such as bits of lentils, rice, past in a muffin tin and using a spoon to mix and transfer (hooover up at the end). We also enjoy potato printing, playing with cornflour and water and generally making things. There are some great books for inspiration.

            I hope this recipe is of use to someone, playdough can be great fun!


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              02.03.2009 21:24



              make a mode of transport and play in it and have some fun!

              My son once got so upset with his toy aeroplane so much so he was in floods of tears. This toy barely measured 20 cm and about 7cm wide. He was so desperate to sit inside it and when he couldn't he was just beside himself. The weather was awful and it was a day where you knew you were going to be in the house. I took a large box that I had in the house cut is apart, took coloured paper , and made an aeroplane with windows and people looking out the window. It was complete with wings, tail and all. My son helped me make it and drew the faces for the windows. When it was complete we had fun singing (leaving on a jet plane) and playing in it. He cheered up and we had great fun.

              The same idea can be used to make a bus ( can also use paperplates for the wheels), a car, train or boat. the kids will have fun making the mode of transport and then have fun playing with it.


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              24.02.2009 13:14
              Very helpful



              Days out for next to nothing are possible

              If like me you get to the Summer holidays or Easter break and wonder how you are going to keep the kids entertained for what seems like months, not weeks ;o) and without spending a small fortune then hopefully these few ideas will help... and hopefully you will post some of your own on the comments page.

              As a single Dad with two girls, 12 and 10, my girls are getting to the age now where simply giving them a few toys to play with or an empty box isn't going to keep them entertained for long.(Always amazes me how toddlers find an empty box far more interesting than a toy) :o)

              Also I don't like to just sit them in front of a TV or games system for hours on end, I like to do things with them or at least find things which mean they are not sat down in front of a TV screen all day.
              But working from home and not wanting to spend a small fortune on activities has meant that over the past three years I've had to come up with other ideas to keep them entertained in the holidays.

              Of course you can go for a meal at Pizza Hut, McDonald's, to the cinema, theme parks, etc and these don't cost huge amounts of money, but they do if you have to do them every day for 2 or 6 weeks.

              So what do you do? A lot of people I know really struggle to find things to do with their kids during holidays, simply because they don't have the money to do things every day. You can stay at home but this won't keep children entertained for long.

              So here are a few things we do to keep the school holiday's entertaining without spending a fortune.

              Unlimited bowling -
              My girls love bowling but at around £30 for the three of us, for 2 games it isn't exactly cost effective to do this very often, especially as 2 games can be played in less than an hour. Then they want food, drinks and to play on the games machines, etc. So before you know it you could spend £50+ in little more than a couple of hours.

              We found a way around this was to get in touch with friends and arrange a day to go bowling during the day. Our Bowling centre whacks up the prices during school holidays which is a bit cheeky but we can still get an unlimited bowling pass which will last from 12pm until 6pm for around £20 for the three of us.
              Sounds simple to go with friends but I'm surprised how many parents, especially single parents don't think of this.
              The reasoning is simple.... the more people you can get on a lane the longer the games take, the more people there are to chat and the children don't get bored as quickly.... My girls start to get bored after 2 or 3 games of bowling.
              We always try and get either 6 or at least 10 of us to go, including kids, as this way we have at least 5 on each lane, and the games drag out longer which means nobody gets bored and has just the right length of time between goes without getting bored.
              We eat before we leave and when we get home so even with buying a few drinks and snacks we can have most of the day on not much more than £20.

              Picnics -
              My girls love picnics, especially when we meet up with friends. Despite living right in the centre of a big town we are lucky to have a park and gardens within 10 minutes walk of our house, and whether we go by ourselves or meet different friends, it is always nice to get out and about, catch up with friends and fill a day without spending hardly any money.
              I never tell the girls what food or drink I have packed, so it's always a nice surprise, and I always take enough so we don't have to spend money at the cafe or shops.

              Sleepovers -
              Not a surprising idea I know but nevertheless it's something that is cheap, cheerful and children love.
              Our house is not very big so we only have one or two friends over at a time but they always have a good time and it helps fill up the holidays on days/nights when we are not away or have nothing planned.

              Games nights -
              When possible we invite as many friends over as possible (Adults and kids) and have a games night, which ranges from board games to PS2 games like singstar and Buzz. This is always popular as the kids have loads of fun and actually the adults have even more fun. Nobody gets bored and apart from drinks and a few snacks you don't spend a penny.

              Days out -
              Days out can be expensive if you go to theme parks, arcades, etc, etc but quite often we tend to simply go to the beach, a lake, etc and take all food, drink and everything we need with us. Apart from the cost of the petrol to get there and back we rarely spend anything else in shops or arcades, etc. And above all everyone has a good day out.
              Not to mention that these days out really tire the kids out which means they sleep better at night, don't drive you quite so mad by arguing and as they feel they are doing more they don't moan so much that they are bored on days when you are stuck at home when it's raining.

              The big day out -
              There's not really a name for this and I've not heard of many others that do this to such a big scale. Admittedly I only arranged one of these last Summer but it was so popular I'll certainly try and arrange another this Easter break.
              Basically you choose a date, I check Google weather for what looks like the best date. Pick a park, gardens, or anywhere else nearby that has huge grounds to run around.
              Email, text, ring all your friends and family who you know are running out of ideas to entertain the kids, tell them all to meet up at the place you've chosen at around 10am, bring whatever food they want, drinks and something to play with.
              Then quite simply you spend the day there. There's always too much food, too much drink and loads to play with and nobody has spent much more than about £10 (Food, drink & petrol).
              When I organised one of these last summer I contacted about 30 friends and family and with kids, about 40 turned up. It was a fantastic day which lasted until about 8pm before people started going home.
              If you send out a message to everyone and tell them this is the date, I'm not chasing around for you to come, and especially if you leave it later in the holiday when parents are running out of ideas for things to do, and running out of money then it's really popular.

              Football/Netball days -
              When I was about 13 years old I had an idea to organise a 5 a side football tournament, but obviously it was difficult while school was on. So a week before the Summer holidays I checked with my Mum what day we had nothing planned during the first couple of weeks, and then gave out notes to just about every boy I came across at school in the last week saying that there would be a free 5 a side football tournament for anyone who wanted to come and play on 'this' date.
              I wrote out a fixture list/tournament plan and how best to organise it and expected about 20 or 30 kids to turn up (As we regularly played football at the local park with 20-22 of us), to my amazement about 80 kids turned up from all 5 years.
              So after about an hour of organising we managed to get together around 16 5 a side teams which consisted of a boy from each year, where we could... and we had a fantastic day of football.
              Even now I get friends reminding me of that day and what a great time we all had.... and it was all organised without spending a single penny and with no help from any parent.

              I only add this because a friend of mine recently told me her son of 14 was so bored and no longer wanted to hang out with her and her young daughter all the time, so I suggested he did this with his mates.
              He organised a day of football last summer holiday and had 50 kids turn up, then did another one in October and had 60 turn up, and I hear he is still doing them.

              It's a great way to get older children organising and planning something and then having a great day. The whole process will keep them entertained for days, if not weeks, and there's no reason why girls can't do the same, or organise a netball/hockey day.

              I find, chatting to friends that if you go on holiday during the school holidays sometimes you just don't have the money/budget to spend out a lot more on activities for kids, but there are a lot of things you can do, and not always in the home that don't cost the Earth, but will keep both children and the adults entertained. Meaning neither of you drive the other mad with stress and/or boredom :o).


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                14.01.2009 00:25
                Very helpful



                Chances to create special moments with your children

                A friend of mine lent me a book she got in Australia. It was called something like 'Cappucino Moments for Kids' . The gist of it was that in the same way as sitting down to drink a cappucino makes us as an adult feel for those moments luxurious and as though we were being treated to something, so children should have the same special moments treated for them.

                I read it years ago, and then only briefly, but the ideas in the book and the thinking behind it have really stayed with me. Here are some of the things it recommended, and then some of my own. I like them, because they create special moments and memories, even when you are strapped for cash and time.

                1. Candle light baths and bowls of fruit and/or marshmallows. Try this on your 4 year old - they will think they are the most special things ever. The candles create a special atmosphere in the bath and the whole thing is great fun.

                2. A picnic in the front room. Sort out the drinks, sandwiches and biscuits together before hand and then set up the picnic with a sheet on the ground. We would sometimes pretend we were in a foreign country - usually somewhere with dangerous animals.

                3. Build a den in the house - chairs and blankets do the trick, and read stories in it. This is especially great if you need a torch.

                4. Lavender massages - this is one of my own and we still do this. It is very handy when they get over tired and can't sleep. The body shop do a great lavender massage oil. Rub their neck arms and back with the massage oil. When children are babies, we never stop cuddling and kissing them. As they get older, this gets less and less, and yet is still important. The smell of the lavender is a great relaxer.

                5. Hot chocolate and home made short bread when its wet and cold. We did this just yesterday - short bread takes 5 minutes to whip up and put in the oven. Or failing that, just hot chocolate and any old biscuit. Its the cossetting and treating them that counts.

                6. Popcorn and film afternoons. Again another one that is great when they are older. Popcorn is dead easy to make, and very cheap, but very impressive. Get the front room set up and watch it together.

                I suppose its a bit like romancing your children. But the treadmill of work, school, clubs, homework, housework can be difficult to get off. Its just a case of ring fencing a bit of time and making it special.


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                  28.10.2008 16:52
                  Very helpful
                  1 Comment



                  Making toys out of everyday objects, what fun!!

                  We all know the one about the expensive Christmas present that just sits on the side and the child plays with the box!!! Well this is something that I wish we all embrased a bit more. I have a son who is nearly one year old, and he will play with anything. Sure, I went through the fussy parent phase, where only the best would do. I spent alot of money on expensive toys, but that got me nowhere. He loves playing with my kitchen utensils the best. I remember back to my childhood, and playing with big cardboard boxes was something which I love to do. I intend to do the same with my son. I want to teach him to make things from old packaging, and recycle at he same time. Toys can be whatever your child will play with. You do not have to spend the earth on them. I also found that an old Roses tin makes a good toy, or another favourite of my sons is a water bottle with a little bit of water in it. Also he loves to play with socks. You really don't have to spend alot to give your children the play time they need.


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                    27.10.2008 23:28
                    Very helpful



                    There is always something to do with your children if you really put your mind to it

                    I am a working mummy as you can see if from my other reviews I hate it, but unfortunately there is nothing I can do at the moment or can change about the past, but I try and make sure that the time I spend with my children is quality time and that they remember these times for the rest of their lives.

                    As a family we are ok for money as in we can pay our bills, buy food and clothes etc but we do not have lots of surplus money in order to do a lot of outside activities, so I have to think of things to do that do not cost a lot of money.

                    Here are some of the things myself; my husband and my children have done in the last few months.

                    ***** Sam I am Day******

                    We love the Dr Seuss books, and one his books Green eggs and ham shows children how you may say you do not like something but if you tried it you may like it.

                    So I spent 5 gbp on lots of little bits and bobs like colouring books, pens, bubbles, yoyo's, a little car, some cards etc all from the pound shop and Tesco value etc. I then wrapped them in some brown paper I had left from wrapping my eBay stuff, I then drew a picture of a particular fruit or vegetable that my children had not tried before or would not try.

                    I read green eggs and ham and then went on to explain the meaning. For tea I made a chicken and did a platter of veg, and put it in the middle of the table, for every different vegetable they tried they could have the present which had that picture on, I then did it for pudding as well with a platter of fruit with ice-cream.... they loved it!!!
                    My daughter tried every single thing and now actually eats all of the things she tried apart from kiwi.
                    My son tried all of them also apart from sprouts which I think he probably would have if it had not been for his daddy not trying them and calling them Satans testicles!!!!
                    But this was a cheap and exciting thing for the kids to do and they also tried new things and ended up liking some of them - Win Win situation for a fiver!!!!

                    ****** Cookery*******************

                    My children love cooking like most children I suppose, there favourite is chocolate crispy cakes.... and they love to put white chocolate mice in the middle to make it look like the mouse is in his home..... Silly idea I had, that they seem to love and it's sort of stuck.

                    But even things like letting them make their own lunch, they love, my daughter and son love to make up their own lunch and put a blanket down in the kitchen and have a picnic...my son makes me laugh though as he always puts too much butter on and ends up heaving...but he'll never say that they are horrible. I like the fact though that this gives them a really good sense of responsibility and independence.

                    My daughter loves these types of things, she always gets a plastic knife on a Sunday as well and helps me peel the veg's and potatoes.... takes her all day but keeps her happy and quiet!!!

                    ******Making a dolls house****************

                    My husband and my son often go and watch our local football club on a Saturday (they are rubbish so it's well cheap!!hehe!!)
                    So myself and my daughter have some really nice girly mornings, one of my favourite things was a few weeks ago we made a dolls house out of an old cardboard box.
                    We took off the flaps and made them the sections of the house, we used a cut off bit of caret to carpet the rooms, some old wallpaper and border to decorate the walls and then used some oxo boxes, match boxes, cotton reels, bits and bobs to make furniture, then we made the people from pipe cleaners and pom poms..... was great great fun and she is still playing with it.

                    *********Get involved in local charities/churches**********

                    I want my children to grow up with good morals and I also want them to realise how lucky they are to have such a great family and although we do not have lots of money compared to some children they are very rich.

                    My son has helped out loads with the local dance school he attends, he has helped me sell raffle tickets, sponsored walks, shows, cleaning windows, cleaning cars etc, and he has loved it, I'm am very proud of him as he always feels a great sense of achievement from doing this and he understands a lot for a boy his age about the local community and some of the under privileged children that are around.

                    Even my three year old has helped out, we have been involved in a few fundraising activities with playgroup and church and she may be a little young, but I think she understands as much as she can that she is doing a good thing and I always explain to her why its important to help people less fortunate than yourselves.

                    I think more and more these days people hide behind their front doors in fear of being a busy body, or getting attacked etc etc, and we need more people to help our community and to get involved with local projects, its great activity for kids and its free!!! And you are not only helping other people but helping your children gain some really important life experiences.

                    Again I could go on and on with ideas and activities people could do with their children, but I think if you are a pro active parent, then you will find a way to do this by any means necessary whether that be take them on trips, look at the internet, read books, cook with them, read to them etc etc.
                    More parents need to do this as you only get once chance to do it right, and to me this is my most important job in life.

                    hehe...sorry to rant, but I feel so passionate about these types of topics.

                    Hope some of my ideas may help someone.


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                      22.10.2008 23:39
                      Very helpful
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                      Just something I thought someone might like to try

                      My baby is 10 months old, and his favourite toy is my keys. This would be ok, except that sometimes I need to use them - to drive the car, that sort of thing. Also, they have an electronic door-opener on them and I was worried about all the drool going into it!

                      I tried giving him the spare keys for a while but he tends to lob things over the side of the pram so I was worried about losing them.

                      Then I had a brainwave, and lots of friends have been impressed so I am posting it on here! I went to the local key-cutters and asked for some key blanks, which they very kindly gave me.

                      I bought a key ring with a leather fob, to put them on. I chose leather because it's another material that babies love chewing on, and they don't get very often, like metal too I suppose. Its all plastic or wood if you're a baby, isn't it?

                      Anyway, my baby now has his own set of keys with a leather keyring, and he is very happy with them!


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                        12.07.2008 20:24
                        Very helpful



                        Its always nice to set aside a bit of kiddie/parent time

                        My daughter is 4 years old now, and over the years ive spent quite alot of time doing home made activities with her. Not only are the tasks cheap and enjoyable, they are also full of bonding moments and a great opportunity to get to know your childs creative side. My little girl is now pretty good at artwork, and even her nursery teachers mention her pictures as being full of colour and imagination- Im quite artistic, so genes perhaps play a part, but I do believe that those early years of development were crucial in her acquiring a love of all things creative. You dont need to be a great artist yourself; kids just love the company a parent can give, and the chance to get messy! Heres my list of things you could try:

                        *Toilet Roll Parrots*

                        I actually saw this on the Cbeebies program Doodle Do, and it was an early hit with my little girl. All you need is:

                        -Some toilet rolls (excluding paper)

                        -A packet of colourful feathers (try The Works, ELC, or Wilkinsons for cheapish supplies)

                        -Pritstick or PVA Glue

                        -Circular/Dot shaped stickers (for eyes)

                        -A little triangular bit of paper (for the beak)

                        Just let your kiddie go wild gluing feathers onto an upright toilet roll. Cover the entire length of the roll in glue and feathers, all around the circumference. Let the parrot's body dry. Then stick two dots for eyes at the top of the toilet roll. Cut out a triangular beak from yellow paper or get your child to colour white paper yellow.

                        *Pasta Necklaces*

                        These are pretty funky to do with a preschooler (upwards of 2 years old). I made some necklaces from painted, and glittered pasta shapes that were threaded through with wool/thick string.
                        Heres the necessaries:

                        -Dry Pasta that has a hole through it, ie rigatoni or penne

                        -Poster Paints

                        -Paint Brush/es


                        -Wool/String cut to necklace or bracelet length

                        -Newspaper/a tray

                        1) Line a table with newspaper and put aprons on! Firstly take a piece of pasta and hold it end to end with your index finger and thumb. That way, as you paint it you wont get your fingers too mucky.

                        2)Paint the pasta any colour you fancy. I did each pasta shape a different colour so that Amelia's necklace would be really bright.

                        3)If you want to add a bit of sparkle and pizazz, dip your painted wet pasta shape into a dish filled with glitter. Alternatively, let your pasta dry, and dot/line it with stripes of PVA glue- then dip it into the glitter. You will have colourful pasta with glittery patterns over it then!

                        4)Let the shapes dry either on a plate or tray.

                        5)When the shapes are dry, thread them onto a piece of wool and then tie both ends together. There you have it, pretty little necklaces/bracelets for you and your little one to play with.

                        CAUTION: Dont do this activity unless you supervise your child with small pasta shapes. Or unless your child wont put things in their mouth. Little ones could be confused about the dry pasta being edible.

                        *Old Magazine Puzzle*

                        This puzzle I made up on a rainy day. If others have done it too, I apologise for claiming its my idea! This puzzle involves cutting up an old argos catalogue/household magazine and getting your child to do a collage. Its a collage with a difference though- you need to draw on a separate page a house (2D) with all the main rooms of the house, ie: kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, shed etc...., and get your child to put each cut-out item in the correct room. They could even arrange a room the way they would want it. this way they learn the rooms, object names, functions and so on....What you will need is:

                        -Old Argos/kays/Additions Catalogue



                        -A3 paper

                        -Felt Tips

                        1) Cut out lots of images and items from your catalgoues. For example: baths, irons, cookers, wardrobes, toilets, rugs, kettles, clothes, sinks, lamps etc...

                        2)Draw on a piece of A3 paper a simple outline of a house in 2D. Include the main rooms of a house.

                        3)Write the name of the room at the top of each square drawn for a room. Place one appropriate item in each room so your child can tell which room is which.

                        4)Ask them to name and choose items they fancy. Let them place and glue them into the correct room. Tip: Let them choose from different types of sofas/cookers/beds that exist so that they can imagine a room of their own design too.

                        This activity also gets kids and parents discussing safety in the home. If your child picks up a kettle, you could mention the importance of being careful with boiling water. Or with the iron, you could ask them why an iron can be dangerous.

                        So, I hope this gives you some ideas for the up and coming Summer holidays! Enjoy!


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                          22.03.2007 14:01
                          Very helpful
                          1 Comment



                          Lots to keep your child occupied

                          Here are a few inexpensive ideas that have been tried and tested on my daughter (22 months) that are popular enough to keep her quiet for a 30 minutes or so!

                          - selection of different sized and shaped plastic bottles filled with different bits and pieces eg water/cooking oil, seeds, leaves, pasta, lentils, rice, paper clips etc. When she was younger she shook them and tipped them and watched the contents move. She also stroked and licked the different textures and shapes of the bottles. Now she is older she still does this but we also use them with her friends to make a mini orchestra of funny noises, and make music with saucepan lids and tubs to bang. Its a good idea to make sure that the lids are sellotaped/glued on tight though!

                          -Currently she enjoys simple handmade lotto games. I draw 8 pictures on a piece of card and cover it with sticky back plastic. Then I cut out 8 squares with the same pictures on and she spends ten minutes or so matching them up. We have a box of these and they are requested at least once a day. I also make jigsaws in a similar way-a picture onto card, sticky back plastic and then cut into interesting shapes. Or you can stick/draw pictures of people and cut them into three and enjoy mixing and matching heads, bodies and legs.

                          -Any empty suitable packets and tubs from the kitchen are put in a box for her and she spends ages pretending to cook with them. A wooden spoon and a plastic spatula add to the fun!

                          -If you can bear the mess a washing up bowl or high chair tray full of water, with a selection of different beakers/spoons/cups etc is hours of fun!

                          -I cannot recommend a cheap chalkboard or easel enough. We have the IKEA one and the other side has a magnetic surface for letters/board pens.

                          -All our junk mail isnt wasted, its becomes a cheap picture book to look at together and then we cut it up and put it in a box. We have made some super collages from this scrap paper and some of the nicer ones have been covered in sticky back plastic for cheap decorations for her bedroom wall. I quite often find her looking at the ones next to her bed in blissful silence in the mornings!!

                          -I culled the scarier items of clothing from our wardrobes and added odd bits from charity shops, old credit cards, old wallets and bags and a few cheap (but safe) bracelets and made a dressing up box. I also added some left over material from making curtains which makes fantastic cloaks/ shawls/blankets/veils etc

                          -Finally a bit of simple cooking never goes amiss-this biscuit recipe is really easy to make with children and its fun to cut out different shapes and decorate them after baking:

                          115g/4oz soft margerine or unsalted butter
                          45ml/3 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
                          150g/5oz plain flour
                          few drops of vanilla essence

                          Oven to 180C/ gas4. Lightly grease baking sheets

                          Cream together butter and sugar and then stir in flour and essence

                          Roll mixture out to thickness of 1 cm, cut out shapes (stars and things with points burn a little at the end when cooked but you can dip the ends in melted chocolate)

                          Cook for 10-15 minutes until light gold colour

                          Decorate with mixture of more icing sugar and water or dip in melted chocolate.


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                            01.08.2006 10:59
                            Very helpful



                            Easy free way to entertain your new baby

                            Babies are little money pits and soon enough they won't want to know about a toy unless it's the latest thing but while they are too young to have reached even the most eager advertiser's target market take advantage of it! Yes, sometimes the best things in life ARE free (but usually they involve copious cash)

                            The things that have fascinated our wee baby have in some cases been unintentional and in others been make shift toys. The information here is for a tiny baby as Jack has only just reached three months. I will probably add other things as he grows up a bit.

                            So, what is a baby is up to in the first three months. Before Jack turned up I pretty much thought a baby popped out and grabbed a rattle to shake but that isn't the case. In fact newborns don't do a lot! While they have most of their brain cells already at birth only 15% of the connections are in place. They have to develop the rest slowly by building on what they have and 'play' is simply doing that. Toys are anything that encourages them to. Here's some things that have been toys in the context of Jack's development.


                            For a brand new baby their idea of a night on the town is staring at a bit of sunlight on the wall! Maybe a bit of music and the sounds of your voice and it's a regular party - so much so they'll quickly start to wail from overstimulation!

                            Moving on from bright lights they like to look at black and white patterns. So, my first tip is to download and print out 16 A4 pages of black and white patterns from :http://www.envisagedesign.com/ohbaby/smart.html
                            (try the 'free infant stimulation graphics' link.

                            We put these in various places and propped them up in various ways (a cork board on the wall near the cot is one option). We also put them on the floor where he can look at them while on his tummy (although not uniformly recommended we've given Jack 'tummy-time' from his first week and he's always seemed to enjoy it and now has great head and neck control).


                            The next developmental step is batting and it happens in the second month sometime. This is when your unco-ordinated little bundle of synapses discovers they can actually affect the world.

                            The best toy for this has been those same baby graphics I mentioned before. We hung them on a bulldog clip from a picture hook screwed into a coffee table for him to look at and suddenly discovered he was batting away at them. Batting them can hold his undivided attention for half an hour (that's a long time when your life is measured in weeks). I think the size helped as he could hit it before he was co-ordinated enough to hit other toys.

                            You can see how we set it up here: http://s105.photobucket.com/albums/m236/babygraphics_2006/


                            This is the next step along - not long before three months the baby can finally hold the rattle. The only problem is that a lot of them are too big for his tiny hands. I made a makeshift one out of a silver pen (the type that make a sound when you shake them) by just taping the lid on for safety. I can put that in his hand and he'll shake it but once again he needed something that he could develop grabbing on that was big enough that he couldn't miss.

                            This turned out to be our duvet. I've started to bring him in our bed in the morning - I figure he's 'up' even if I'm not... And so it was cuddling up in bed that he found something right in front of him that he could develop grabbing on. The duvet is both big enough to grab and thin enough to fit in a little hand. Not a toy from our point of view but it is from his.


                            OK this one isn't chronological - wriggling starts from day one lasts well in the teens! This is another area where we inadvertantly discovered that something practical served as a toy for Jack. Not having bought a change mat we made a makeshift version with a hand towel or nappy on top of an opened out rubbish bag.

                            We were later given a change mat but haven't used it as this unglamorous arrangement allows us to give him 'bare bottom time' (which he loves) without worrying too much about the washing. However, it was only recently around at someone else's place when I realised that Jack's love of pushing off things (e.g. my hands) and wriggling around has a great deal to do with his change mat. Put simply, without the slipperiness of the rubbish bag he can't move much.

                            At three months (today) he is still much too early to be mobile but this surface gives him the ability to turn around on his back or tummy or push off my hands or the floor and slide upwards. He seems to get a lot of fun out of it so in my books that makes it a 'toy' as well as a change mat. I mentioned before that he is strong for his age and while I think he is naturally a wriggler it has been helped by having an extra way to play.

                            ~~~~~~~~~~Making sound~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                            Babies love toys that make a sound when they shake, kick, bash or squeeze them and guess what? Our 'change mat' (yes the same one I just wrote about) does that too. I've also noticed that Jack loves kicking away at the bunched up rubbish bag (it's bunched up due to all his wriggling) and he's actually started to be able to grab handfuls of it when on his tummy too. The only downside is his photo album will make it look like for most of his baby hood we were threatening to leave him out on the street for collection!

                            ~~~~~~~~~~More later~~~~~~~~

                            Well, that's three months in the life of Jack so far. I think he's due to move onto jars full of beans next. I'll see what grabs his imagination and add it in....


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                              06.12.2002 00:28
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                              UPDATE!!!!! From the moment your child is born you swear to yourself that you are going to look after them ,love them and of course do all the things that you feel a parent should do with them.You say you will influence them and help them develop.and as they get older they get to the age where you can sit and do things with them but for the majority of parents out there just give them toys that advertise the aid of learning etc.Todays life is that hectic that we never seem to give our children the time and enthusiasm that they so badly need.So instead of just buying them toys why not save some money and space in your house!Instead of buying them a toy but them some crayons and paints. I have two little boys who are both at toddler age.Like most kids today they have too many toys and as christmas is approaching i am slowly but surely running out of ideas about what to get them.I looked for the alternative.My youngest son loves to watch the Smarteenies on Cbeebies so i thought i would give some of their ideas a bash.Although i was not expecting it my son is not too bad at it all.A very talented 3 year old! To try and show his creative side i brought some childrens paint and a couple of paint brushes and just set him up on the table and left him to it.Although he got paint all over him it easily washed off and now paint time is a regular thing. To give my kids something new to do i brought some safety scissors and coloured card and some glue,the kids had a great time cutting up the paper and sticking it all over and it made a great card for grandma!!If you want to give them a helping hand cut out some shapes and let them do the rest. Another great thing is play-do,although my kids have the tendency to mix colours and try to eat it but when they have been given some shapes or sqeezy tubes they have a great time. So,you see not all kids think about is toys,they have a creative side too,nurture it..do some baking,some painting or drawing and
                              if all else fail s....give them a cardboard box!!!! As holidays are always around the corner i thought i would add some recipes and things to do for your kids,it will keep them quite and hopefully keep us our sanity!!! im going to put some ideas in another review but seeing as its popular i thought i would put the recipe for non toxic safe play doh on here aswell...go on ...give it a go!!! Ingredients: 1 cup flour 1/2 cup salt 1 cup water 2 tsp. cream of tartar 1 tsp. cooking oil food colourings Directions: Mix together all ingredients and cook for 3 minutes over low heat. Stir well. Add food colouring for different colours. Store in a plastic container. Easy cheap and lasts!!i made some months ago and the kids still have it!! ONE WARNING!!!!THIS RECIPE WILL MAKE A GOOD AMOUNT OF PLAY DOH,FOR BETTER USE MAKE IT UP AND BEFORE ADDING THE DYE SPLIT IT AND USE DIFFERENT FOOD COLOURINGS!!!


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                                04.12.2002 22:23



                                Not many people can afford to buy expencive toys for their children. And if they can, it is obviouse that not all toys can keep a child "busy" for a long time. So parents in my area came across with the idea to make a Toy library. Now people can get lovely toys for just 2 pounds a year membership fees+ 0,25p per toy you are borrowing for two weeks. Toys are all new - dolls+ acsesories, buggies, table games, cars, baby toys, big slides etc. For ages 0- 7 years. As well as borowing the toys, you can also just come and play with your children absolutely free, meet other parents and all of this in a very friendly enviroment. Now the Toy library is almost two years old, gets support from the goverment and local church (which helps with rent) and very popular between local parents. This is the perfect example of how some ideas can work. Wish there will be more of the places like this. I recently moved and now it is quite far for me to go there. But I glad that lots of people enjoying the opportunity to please their little ones with long wanted toy.


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