So I’m a serious advocate for this kind of play.
I was never the mum who bought ‘plastic fantastic’ articles when Acacia was born. Plastic in general never appealed to me. And I was pretty militant about the level of ‘organic’ that something had to be if it was to enter into my baby’s mouth.
So it was a matter of wooden teethers/rattles/blocks, balls of yarn, blades of grass, flowers, leaves, sticks (accidentally swallowed one once) and squares of silk.
And honestly, the content of play material hasn’t much changed now that she’s almost four.
The days of homeschooling my three year old daughter has mainly consisted of frantic last minute attempts to create ‘educational play’ by using something or anything around the house or garden.
Yes, I’ll go and spend money on puzzles or sewing kits from the op shop when she needs a turn around of hand-eye stimulants.
But on the whole, it’s been re-using discarded cardboard boxes from our recycling room, pounding petals, glue gunning twigs, making play dough, painting leaves, sewing scrap fabric, mulching junk mail and potato stamping packaging paper.
I haven’t come up with these ideas on my own (see end of post for resource links).
But here are a few of my favorite go-to items of play:
You honestly can’t go wrong with this one.
In our apartment we have a ‘refuse room’ where almost every other day someone places a fresh cardboard box into it.
And there are a multitude of things one can do with this simple household item of ‘waste’.
- MAKE A ‘SCENE’ – Simply cut out off the top and one side of the box, decide on a theme (jungle, doll’s house, farm) and begin assembling your little world.
If it’s a jungle; grab leaves, blades of grass, moss, twine, woodchips and a glue gun and get happy (parent only using glue). Include animal toys from bedroom and you have yourself a scene from Jungle Book!
If it’s a Doll’s House; a marker to draw furniture on walls, paint, scrap material as wallpaper or carpet.
Farm; using the discarded cut off parts of box, create separating walls for ‘stys’ or ‘stable’ sections, dry grass for pigsty, woodchips for horses, soil for the pigs etc.
- BLANK CANVAS- a plain square piece of cardboard is their canvas to paint, draw, and stick material onto to create their own work of art!
It might not be the thing you hang on your living room wall, but it can be the temporary work of art that sits in their room or the dining table for all to admire for a few days.
- GAMES AND SKILLS- I’ve had Acacia practice her ‘sewing’ skills by punching holes in the shape of a heart or around the edge of the cardboard, then giving her a child’s needle with yarn attached.
I’ve also drawn a numbers board with a marker and given her beads to correctly count and place in each section.
Dotting out shapes and pictures using a marker and having her dot on top of them with an earbud dipped in paint. A homage to Aboriginal work as well as practicing some good old fashioned fine motor skills!
Never did I imagine all the things one can do with petals.
- FLOWER POUNDING- Self-explanatory.
One takes some scrap fabric lying around the house, a smooth rock, a multitude of colorful petals collected from the ground around the block and begin pounding them onto the fabric.
Take your beautiful work of art and repurpose the fabric into a quilt, doll’s dresses, rice heat pack or cut into triangles and dangle on twine in their bedroom.
- FLOWER COOKIES- Make a batch of ‘sculpey clay‘ have them press into flattened shapes then place petals of choice on top. Voila! Petal cookies for ‘tea time’ play or hang on a branch with twine and hang in their room.
3. JUNK MAIL
I never thought I’d be that person that actually got excited about junk mail. But since testing out these wondrous crafts I can’t wait to get the next load.
- BOOKMARKS- It’s pretty cool. Have your kids rip up all kinds of junk mail into pieces and soak in water. After some time wring out and lay flat on a tea towel to dry out. You can press petals and the such on top for extra elegance.
After a few days cut into strips and there you have it. Give away as gifts to neighbors and friends!
- COLLAGE TIME- Give your child a pair of child-friendly scissors, let them select and cut away objects and photos to then glue onto their cardboard canvas and make a wondrous collage story!
A sure way to create hours of fun.
I’m not great with a screw driver, or any electric tools for that matter, but I do LOVE me a good glue gun. The things one can make with just a few twigs, a ball of twine and a glue gun is incredibly liberating…especially when you’re not ‘handy’.
Such things as; miniature wardrobe for your kids doll, a fairy house, racing boat etc..
Now I recognize that this means a lot less ‘kid crafting’ and more ‘parent making’ but it’s great learning for them, quality time for you both and tremendously fulfilling for the parent who doesn’t do ‘tools’.
5. THE POTATO
Ah, the potato. A staple root vegetable in most households and a great devise in conducting child play.
This made my list because of it’s simplicity and it’s more common presence within a family home.
- WRAPPING PAPER STAMPS – So simple, yet so genius.
Cut a potato in half then chisel a pattern or drawing into it, carefully. Grab some scrap packaging paper, a bowl of paint and let the kids stamp away!
It’s really so much more personal and fun when you wrap a gift in ‘handmade’ wrapping paper.
Let it dry out and store away until the next birthday!
And now for the RESOURCES!
Here are a list of links I’ve used in the past to help with ideas, given me step-by-step guides and had me think outside the box. All SPECIFICALLY geared around recycling and using natural materials to create play with your kids.
- THE MAGIC ONIONS– Nature Mobile
- SPROUTING WILD ONES– Twig Fairy Boats and Junk Mail bookmarks
- KIDS SPOT– Potato Stamps
- INSTRUCTABLES– DIY Sculpey Clay
- BE A FUN MUM– Dot painting
- RECYCLE AND REMAKE– Junkmail Bookmarks
Join the Conversation by commenting below!