Wednesday, August 08, 2007

10 Ways To Entertain Young Children For $1 Or Less


I found this "news" article today and just HAD to post it here .... we are in the process of making an I'M BORED box (details later) and these are JUST the sorts of ideas we were looking for. So, since we know that our children are not the only ones that occassionally are at a loss for something FUN to do ... we thought it might be nice to share. ENJOY !

"Are you sick of paying hundreds of dollars for toys your children don't play with? Tired of the latest toy catching your child's attention and having it turn out to be something you consider offensive (Bratz) or impossible to acquire (break dancing Elmo)?

Never fear. These classic toys and activities can be created with stuff you probably already have lying around your house. Plus, they will entertain your kids for hours and when they are done, you can chuck 'em without feeling bad you spent your Christmas bonus to get them. Plus, studies show a child will remember a toy you both created far longer than a store bought toy.
Here are the top 10 ways to entertain your young child for $1 or less:

(1) Large cardboard boxes - Perfect for making houses and small castles, rocketships, racecars, and so much more. A large cardboard box can entertain an imaginative child for hours. Make sure you are nearby to take pictures and plenty of door knocking. Hint: look for an appliance store in your area. They often have many of the large boxes they are willing to give you as opposed to putting in the trash. Maybe some crayons or paints, and IMAGINATION does the rest.

(2) Rubber band and pencil crazy bot - A simple toy you probably remember from elementary school. Take two unsharpened pencils and wrap a rubber band around the center. Twist the pencils lengthwise against each other (as you would wind a propeller on a toy plane). Set down flat on a table and let the jumping begin. Teach your child not to twist the rubber band too tightly or it will break. Make sure to have plenty of extra rubber bands handy just in case.

(3) Make a paper popper - What do children like more than birthday cake? Noise of course. Here's a little noisemaker you may remember from grade school.
Fold a sheet of copier paper lengthwise down the middle - open the sheet back up and lay flat
Fold all four corners of the paper inward toward the center crease
Fold the sheet of paper in half the other way keeping all four corners folded inward - you will end up what looks vaguely like a stealth aircraft
With the point facing away from you, grab the right side and fold it upward so the bottom is parallel with the crease
Do the same with the left side
Unfold so you are back to the stealth fighter
Using the crease as a reference, tuck the upper right hand corner into the popper.
Repeat with the other side. It will look like a diamond.
Lastly, Fold it one more time so it looks like a triangle.
Hold from the bottom and as if you were pitching a baseball, flip the popper rapidly through the air. The inward folded corner will "POP" out making a fun and satisfying sound.

(4) Home Depot Kids Workshop - The huge hardware conglomerate is a great refuge for Dads everywhere, but now they offer kids workshops one Saturday per month (check your local Home Depot for time and location). At the workshop kids learn how to build birdhouses, bat houses, stock car racers, airplanes, wooden flowerpot holders and more. It's a great Saturday morning activity where your kids can learn the skills necessary to fix your roof when you get too old to climb up there.

(5) Plant something - A simple way to teach young children how to take care of a living organism is to plant something. You can use containers made of old plastic cups with holes in the bottom or you can plant outdoors depending on the season. Digging in dirt is great fun for a child. They are also thrilled when the little baby plant awakens from the soil. Suddenly, they have something fragile to take care of. Hint: I find that planting green beans provides the quickest results. Bean plants begin to poke their heads through the soil in just a few short days.

(6) Water sprinkler - While watering the lawn, water your kids too. On a hot summer day, your grass needs 30 minutes of water. Send your kid out in a bathing suit and you'll kill two birds with one stone.

(7) Bubbles bubbles everywhere - Kids and adults alike love to blow bubbles. Mix up your own batch by pouring a teaspoon or so of dish soap into a cup and adding approximately 3 teaspoons of water. Stir and then test. You can make a free bubble wand by unbending a large paperclip and folding it back into a triangle with a small handle. You may need to add a little more soap or water to get the perfect bubble. Hint: pour the bubble solution into a small plate so it's easier to get the bubble film onto the bubble wand.

(8) Catch Fireflies - As a child, I remember fond days of catching fireflies and putting them into a mayo jar with holes punched in the lid. Your kids will love it too. If you don't have wooded areas in your yard, you can find a park. The fireflies should begin to light the sky around dusk. Teach your kids how to gently catch them by letting them land in their hand. You can collect them into a jar, but please be sure to let them go at the end of the evening so they don't die. (This teaches responsibility and respecting nature.)

(9) Paper airplanes - Up in the air with the greatest of ease. Teaching your child how to make and fly a paper airplane is one of the childhood rights of passage. It can foster a love of origami as well as a Lifehacker mindset of building your own toys. Simple airplane instructions can be found online for free, or in library books too. But try this one:

Fold a piece of copier paper in half lengthwise
With the crease closest to you, fold the top right corner down so that it lines up with the bottom crease.
Do the same thing on the other side.
Grab the top corner on one side and bend it downward so the crease on top of the paper is lined up with the crease at the bottom.
Turn the plane over and fold the other side the same way.
Fold it in the same manner one more time, by taking the top crease and lining it up with the bottom crease and folding.
Lather rinse, repeat on the other side.
Then fold the last two creases outward perpendicular to the bottom of the plane.
Fly away!

(10) Tin can and string telephone - You don't necessarily need tin cans for this project. Two plastic or styrofoam cups and some twine will do.
Using a tack or the end of a pin, punch a hole into the center of the bottom of each cup.
Cut a piece of light string 25 feet or longer.
Feed one end of the string through the hole of one of the cups
Tie a large knot on the string so it doesn't fall back through the hole.
Feed the other end of the string through the other cup and tie a knot like you did for the first cup.
Now give the cup to your child and walk away from each other until the string is tight.
Now you can whisper back and forth into your child's new telephone.This project gets your child's physics education off to a great start by teaching vibration and harmonics. Hint: Try the phone under doors and around corners of your house. If you keep the string taut it will still work.

How do you keep your children happy and occupied this summer? We would certainly love more ideas to add to this list !!

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