Friday, September 5, 2008


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Chapter Two
Inexpensive Child’s Play and Imaginative Times

“The best friend of child’s play is time.”

We can nurture and develop a preschooler’s imagination and awareness of the world around them by giving our preschooler time for play. On the following pages you will find some ideas for your child’s time for free play. They also need plenty of time to just make stuff up by themselves. Watch creativity come out of nothing, but it all takes plenty of time. Make things available, suggest things, and even play with them at times. Just make sure they have plenty of time for puttering and idling. For it’s when they are dawdling, inspiration may hit for some new play.

Birthday or Anniversary Party for a Favorite Someone. Have a birthday party for a favorite someone or something – like Winnie the Pooh, your favorite teddy bear, or the anniversary of the completion of Mount Rushmore. Let the child put together the ideas for the theme. If you don’t know an anniversary or birthday, you can always make one up.

Build a Home for a Doll or Stuffed Animal. Have the child go outside in your yard and gather sticks, leaves, and grass to build a home for their doll or stuffed animal. The preschooler might even want to build a shelter for themselves. While they should take the lead on this, you can help them discover supplies and building materials in the yard. Suggest to your preschoolers they get some of their construction ideas or building material ideas from the homes birds or animals build in God’s creation.

Drive-in. Pretend your home is a Drive-in Restaurant. Have Mom and kids sit in the car while Dad comes out (perhaps on roller skates) to serve hot dogs, drinks, and fruit. Play your favorite CDs in the car. Make sure you give Dad a big tip!

Gone Fishing. Take pictures of fish (cut from a magazine or made and decorated by hand) and attach a magnet. Make a simple fishing pole from a stick and attach a string to it. Tie a magnet at the end of the string to catch the fish. Then put the fish in a large tub or bucket and have the child “go fishing.” Even better yet, have the child help make this game. When you are done, you can go around and see what else your magnet can pick up in the yard.

Have a Halfy Birthday Party. Hold a “halfy” birthday party for each preschooler in your family (to determine the date it’s exactly six months after their real birthday). Make sure you remember each preschooler’s halfy birthday and serve half a birthday cake. Sing “Halfy Birthday to you.” Give the child a half dollar for a present. (Half Birthday cake recipe: For the cake, you use a 9 inch round pan. Cut it in half and stack it using frosting between layers and all over the outside. For candles use their birthday number plus one half of a candle.) (The idea is from Ginny McMillan.)

High Rise Treasure Hunt. Hold either a treasure hunt or a scavenger hunt on a set of bleachers. You should restrict their climbing to the first few rows of bleachers for safety’s sake. Sometimes you can find a small, low set of bleachers at a Little League field. For a treasure hunt, you can hide several small surprises on different levels. For a scavenger hunt, you can have picture coded clues which lead to one treasure.

“I’m Proud to be an American” Parade. Pour through your local thrift shops in search of old dance costumes, vintage clothes, and funny looking hats for a dress-up chest. Invite other kids and parents over for a kid performed parade down the sidewalk or cul-de-sac. (The idea is from Lisa Hemmingway Harris.)

Mud Pies. Whatever happened to making good, old mud pies? What’s wrong with getting a little dirty now and then? Give your child some disposable pans and dishes to play with. Dress them in old clothes that you don’t mind getting muddy. Allow your preschooler to mix up some good old fashioned mud, pour it into molds or pans, and produce some imaginary pies. This free play teaches some elementary chemistry (water plus dirt produces mud), shapes, sizes and quantities, and creative baking concepts.

(Whatever happened to other basic skills such as bubble blowing and learning how to blow bubbles inside of bubbles? Lessons from older siblings and friends are allowed! My sister Carolyn taught me. How about snapping fingers and whistling? These talents are fun to learn and make a preschooler feel on top of the world.)

Post Office Delivery. Set up a room in your home like a local post office. Make a hat for the postmaster by taking a baseball cap and turning it completely inside out. Use shoe boxes as the mailboxes for each member of the family. Decorate other shoe boxes differently for the “in” and “out” boxes and sorting files. Revive the lost art of letter writing in your household and send letters to each other through the “post office.” Even if your preschooler can’t write they can draw pictures and “sign” their name. Even the family dog can make a “paw” signature.

Silverware People. Knives are the dads, forks are the moms, and spoons are the babies. Allow your preschooler to use your silverware, if they are old enough. Otherwise use smooth children’s toy silverware to form imaginary families that talk to one another. You can show your preschooler how to make a “swing” for their baby spoons by using the belts attached to the high chair. Let the belts hang down below the seat for a swing. Whee!

Skating Rink. Set up a room, without carpeting, like a skating rink. For skates allow the preschooler to wear the cover-ups for shoes that doctor’s use. Cover the room with aluminum foil and tape it down. The preschooler can make tickets, sell tickets, and have ice skating shows. Even if it’s in the summer, dress in a winter coat or sweater for fun. Make a muff by rolling up a scarf around your hands or cutting the end off of a lunch bag. Play Christmas or Hanukah music, while the children skate.

Swiss Alps Day. Set aside a day for a pretend trip to the Swiss Alps. Make the Swiss Alps out of your family room couch cushions. Serve Swiss cheese or yogurt for lunch. Have a yodeling contest. In fact, you could yodel your way through your day. If you have your “Swiss Alps Day” on a day after a fresh snowfall, you can make Snow Ice Cream: Start with 2 tsps. vanilla extract, mix in 2 well beaten eggs, 1 cup milk, and 1 cup sugar. Beat together the vanilla, eggs, milk, and sugar and set it aside. Go outside and collect a bucket of clean snow. Mix cupfuls of snow into the cream mixture until you achieve the right consistency and dish up to serve immediately. (Idea is from Alice Craig,

Winter in July. Cover a small blow up pool with whipped cream (won’t sting a preschooler’s eyes). Fill a bucket with white balloons (made into water balloons) so the preschoolers can have a summer snowball fight. Your preschoolers can make snowflakes out of paper ahead of time and you can hang them in the trees. Set up a dome tent and cover it with an old sheet that has ice blocks drawn on it. Insert a 20 pound block of ice inside the tent and you have an igloo on a hot summer day. The ice block will last for days, by the way. (Idea is from Lisa Hemmingway Harris.)

$1 a Day Thrifty Tip: Collect and save up ten or fifteen different sizes of boxes (make sure all the staples and nails are out of them). Have your child stack them from biggest to smallest, then smallest to biggest. Some of the boxes can be very tiny. Allow them to play with the boxes and discover. What child wouldn’t love 15 boxes all at once?

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