Staying Sane: CHEAP creative arts

This past week I was thrilled/astonished/surprised/amazed to find a blow out sale happening at the daycare center where we take Red and now Twin Crazy and Twin Husky.  They are completely renovating the space, and they are going “room by room”, ridding themselves of old, battered toys by selling them at HUGE discounts to the parents.

I couldn’t stop myself all of this week.  If I would have been faster and earlier, I would have wound up with so much more… but alas…

Anyway, I’ve always been a big fan of creative arts activities for the kids.   I’ve done this ever since Big Bro was a baby.   There comes a point where kids just get bored and cranky and they need something to do.   The kids would walk around saying “activity”, “activity”, and I knew I had to grab something to occupy them for 30 minutes or so.  I’ve had bins and bins of all kinds of things for kids – mostly generated from ideas I’ve stolen from daycare centers.

Some ideas:

  • playdough, or even make playdough with the kids to save money and have a different kind of fun
  • stickers (I grab these whenever I see them on sale.  I even save return labels given to you from charitable organizations)
  • water color, finger paint, sponge paints
  • scissor fun, cutting, cutting out shapes or pictures in old magazines
  • planting seeds
  • puzzles
  • blocks
  • stamp sets
  • tattoos
  • glue sticks, glitter, confetti
  • painting t-shirts with fabric paints

But now I also have deep discount toys (e.g., $2 a bin!!!) to add to!!!!  This week I purchased:

  • bingo with “sight words” ($2)
  • pattern wooden puzzle — all of the shapes are the same and fit together, but the designs are different ($2)
  • Lego-like set ($2)
  • plastic shape sticky velcro thingie set ($2)
  • Plastic connector thingies to build ($2)
  • wooden jenga-looking like thingies ($2)
  • 1 felt board ($2).  I’m planning on using this as a big activity for the kids.   Cutting out shapes and objects from colored felt and letting them use their imaginations with the shapes and designs on the felt board

And there will be much more over the next several weeks….  🙂    Yes, the stuff is battered.  Yes, some of the pieces look like they have been chewed on or are missing parts.   But they are new to these kids.   And they are good toys to help them learn how to put things together, create something from nothing, work together, and yes…. negotiate with each other for the right pieces.
I guess the point is that these kinds of things are great for kids and parents alike.  You can sit down with your child and play, or take a break and watch them play with each other, or watch them parallel play.   It’s all good.   I spent time doing a bit of all three this weekend.

  • When the kids arrived for their visit last night, I had some of these new activities set out for them and away they went… immersed.   I played with Big Bro with “sight word” bingo while Twin Crazy and Twin Husky built things and played with puzzles.

  • This morning all of the kids were fully entertained by themselves.  They were building “roads” with the pattern puzzle and cars with the blocks and using other toy cars.   Big Bro was directing the play, of course.  But they were all playing together and there were lots of sounds of pretend cars zooming around the house.  And I got to sleep in a bit and hear them play from outside of my room.

  • And this afternoon, I do not kid you, I had the neighborhood kids over and I’m not kidding, but including mine there were 10 kids here.  All playing EXTREMELY well and using their imaginations and playing together.  And the little ones were learning from the big ones.   And as the kids played I cleaned up the kitchen and did laundry, just watching and laughing at their fun.

It was actually relaxing.  Yes, relaxing.  10 kids.   Believe it or not.   AND CHEAP.

So I guess the recommendations are to 1) buy in bulk when you see things on sale; 2) keep stuff stored away for those times when you need to pull out something new to entertain the kids, either on their own or with you; 3) take advantage of hand-me-downs — a different toy is a new toy to your child, whether it is opened from a new box or taken out of a recycled bag; and 4) take advantage of the daycare blow out renovation sales, when you are lucky enough to stumble upon them….  🙂

Where do you ladies find good deals on creative stuff for the kids to do?  

Have a great weekend everyone.

– Mama K

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