Creative play is important for kids’ development—and you don’t need expensive plastic toys to inspire it. My preschooler really wanted this for Christmas ($199 on Amazon—out of our budget so I didn’t even check stores):
But what she got was this:
It was a two-step process: First de-cluttering the closet and getting rid of a lot of things we didn’t use. Second, building the door. It took a few hours one Saturday, but the cardboard was free (We order a lot from Amazon.com and save with their Amazon Mom account) and have a lot of boxes around), and the pink duct tape only cost $3 for the roll (we already had the silver and black). The doorknob came from extra parts in my garage.
We love building with cardboard--one of our Amazon boxes lasted a month as a Thing-a-ma-jigger (a “car” inspired by the PBS show The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That) and then got transformed into a puppet theater before getting recycled.
I built my older daughter a Barbie dream house from boxes and pink and purple duct tape (Cost: $7 for the tape, of which we still have half the rolls, vs. $150 for the actual Barbie dream house). The best part is that when we build these things, the kids help design them and often think of things I wouldn’t. My daughter’s Barbies have a massage table and striped columns holding up the balcony.
My basic mantra is: Reuse everything (not just cardboard boxes!). My daughter’s corrected schoolwork gets saved in a folder and I give it to my preschooler so she can write on the back and have pretend “homework” to do while her older sister is doing homework.
When I switched jobs, my old business cards became play money with a green marker and some dollar signs written on the back.
We recently had a Phineas & Ferb themed birthday party for my oldest daughter, and the decorations were cut from boxes of fruit snacks and macaroni and cheese that featured the characters.
String elastic used to keep pairs of shoes together in the store can be used for beading. I turned a tin of Christmas chocolates (after eating them, of course :) into a bead organizer. Tape tin cans of varying sizes together and you can quickly mimic a plastic art supply organizer you’d buy in a store.
Just be creative and have fun with your kids… the time spent playing and creating will create lasting memories.