Have you ever noticed your child having more fun with the box or wrapping paper than the gift they just opened? If you have, you’re not alone. A cardboard box lets your child’s imagination go far. Is it a cave, a boat, or a robot? The wrapping paper or tissue makes wonderful noise when it’s scrunched or torn. It can be squished into a ball or thrown in the air to watch it float down to the ground, again and again. Items like boxes and paper offer open-ended, “loose parts” type of play. There is no single purpose to them, and they can be used in a variety of ways.
Taking a cue from the excitement of these spontaneous play opportunities is a reminder that parents don’t need to spend lots of money on the latest and greatest toys. Sometimes the most fun is right there at home. If children seem bored, maybe it’s time for some “homemade play”!
Pots and Pans Band
Break out the pots, lids, and some metal and wooden spoons and get ready for some noise. Experiment with big and small sizes, lids on or off, and the different sounds between tapping with wood or metal spoons. Even if the band only plays for a short amount of time, it will bring smiles and fun memories. Don’t forget to turn on some tunes and sing along!
Have some contact paper on hand for this fun creative activity. Cut and tape a large piece of this sticky paper to the fridge door or down low on a wall with the sticky side out. Offer some cotton balls, pieces of grocery store flyers, feathers, bread tags or whatever small light objects you can find to create a masterpiece.
Muffin Pan Play
Get out your muffin pan and make some fun games with items around home. Your infant may enjoy placing a small toy or ball in each of the holes, then dumping or taking them out and repeating. A toddler might like to sort pom poms by colour. A preschooler might like to take it outside and find nature items like pinecones, rocks, grass, or small flowers to put in each compartment. An older child could sort and count different coins into each hole.
Wash out plastic containers with lids that were destined for the recycle bin and create some sensory bottles for a fun activity. There are many inspirations on the internet for different types of bottles. Try mixing water and oil, hair gel and beads. Add food colouring, glitter, small toys and more. Sensory bottles help us learn about simple science such as how oil and water don’t mix, or that some items float and some sink. Watching colours mixing, or glitter swirling can have a mesmerizing, calming effect on children and adults alike!
Water play isn’t just for bath time! Do you have a little one who always wants to help wash the dishes? Spread a towel out on the kitchen floor, put some water and toys, scoops, and bottles in a container. Use a cookie sheet for baby, a shallow bin, tote or even baby’s bathtub, for more water. My favourites are some toy whales and big rocks with some recycled scoops from formula or protein shake powder. Supervision is key for this activity for safety and spillage!
It’s so much fun to take the cushions off the couch, grab some blankets and kitchen chairs and make a fort in the living room. A simple fort could even be a large blanket over the kitchen table to create a small hideaway. Whether you go for simple or elaborate, grab some favourite story books and a flashlight, and spend some time inside with your children.
If one box is fun, more is even better! Save up boxes to use to make cardboard blocks. Tape them shut and they are ready to stack, build and create. Extend the fun and wrap them in fun, sturdy paper or let your children decorate them with paint, markers, or crayons. When the fun wears off, they can easily be recycled.
Some more ideas for homemade play are the recipes below. These are often even more fun than store bought versions as you can make them your way with favourite scents and colours!
Homemade slime can be made with only a couple of ingredients. You’ll need a bottle of school glue, clear or white, some Borax, found in the laundry aisle at the grocery store, and warm water. You can then add glitter and/or food colouring to make it even more fun. Empty the glue into a large bowl. Add glitter or a couple of drops of food colouring. Mix one teaspoon of Borax into one cup of warm water. Add a small amount of the Borax mixture to the glue and start stirring. Don’t use all the liquid! You’ll notice it changing, keep stirring and add a bit more if needed. Touch it with your fingers to see if it’s ready. It shouldn’t be sticky and will form into a ball. Stretch it, roll it, pull it for slimy fun!
Favourite Play Dough
½ cup Salt
2 cups. Water
2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 tbsp Cream of Tartar
2 cups Flour
Boil water and salt in a large saucepan. Add 5-7 drops of food coloring. Remove from heat and add oil and cream of tartar, stir. Add flour and stir until the mix forms into a playdough ball. Let cool for a few minutes and then knead until soft, 2-3 minutes. Store your play dough in a ziploc bag or in an airtight container.
Mix cornstarch and water, that’s it! Here is a link that explains the “science” of this experiment well: Oobleck – The Cornstarch And Water Experiment – ScienceBob.com