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Children's Activities

Creative Child's Play

When my kids were young, I was always looking for creative ways to entertain them without spending a lot of money. At the time, this was purely because, like most young families, we had more kids than cash. Later I realized that my children learned a valuable lesson from my creative thinking. They learned how to make lemonade when life gives them lemons. I must personally thank my mom for serving as a model and passing this important lesson from generation to generation. You can be such a mom – your mission, should you choose to accept it – to provide your children with creative, stimulating play while spending little to no money.

As we approach the end of winter, your children are so sick of being inside the house but with reality pressing in on all of us, the following ideas will be limited to inside play.

TRAVEL TO FARAWAY PLACES – This game sounds expensive but isn’t. It’s educational, but don’t tell the kids – they’ll just think it’s fun.

Give each child the name of a place. If your children are older, give them another country. If they are still quite young, perhaps the name of another state or city. Tell them just a little about the place each has been given, but not too much. Give them some old magazines, paper, pencils, crayons, whatever comes to mind. Have them draw or cut out and lay out on a table or the floor a path, telling:

  1. how they plan to get to the location,
  2. what they will wear for travel,
  3. what they will do when they arrive, and
  4. a treasure they will find once there.

Take a lemonade break during this activity – all of you sit down together and have them begin describing what they have done so far. Make it fun! The talk gives them the chance to ask questions and get excited about their ‘trip’.

Keep this game fairly short so as not to have the children lose interest. Once the kids have finished, let each lay out and present their special place. Encourage their imagination to run wild. You will be amazed at how your kids have been entertained and now YOU are being entertained. Once finished with the game, have the children put all their memorabilia together in a stack. Store all of this in a folder, envelope, binder, etc. and label it with the name of the place. Put it away for a rainy day when you and your child can look through it and talk about it together or use it for bedtime stories.

THE TENT – What parent hasn’t built some sort of tent for their children? They even make these things commercially to fit on top of a child’s bed. I have it on personal authority from my son, that my tents were always better.

Using old sheets, blankets, quilts, towels, curtains, etc., clothes pins and furniture – build an elaborate tent for your children in their rooms or, better yet, in the living room or den. Move dining chairs into place and drape the sheets and other items across them using clothes pins to help hold securely. Use existing heavy furniture to hold one side of the sheet or serve as the ‘back’ of the tent. Use towels to make flaps for the doors, partition rooms off using other sheets and blankets. Fold up blankets or quilts to make ‘beds’ and throw a few pillows in there. Plan to leave this tent castle in place for a couple of days or a weekend. (If the indoor family pet just happens to be missing while this tent is in place, you can bet this is right where they’ll be.) Allow the kids to take naps, play and eat inside the tent. Position the flaps so they can still watch TV and enjoy their snack inside. Kids love their own special place and they will give you suggestions when you’re making the tent. Incorporate their suggestions. Pretty soon, they will be asking permission to build their own tent palace!

A SPECIAL TENT – A variation on the theme above – when I was a little girl, I used to love to watch the popular TV show ‘I Dream of Jeannie’. (I’m telling my age here aren’t I?) I used to dream of having my own Jeannie bottle just like the one Barbara Eden had. I would arrange my surroundings inside a sheet tent to match those of Jeannie’s bottle. I made a circle of pillows on top of a blanket on the floor inside the tent and gathered up costume jewelry and just placed it around the tent floor. Among the comfort of my pillows and the sparkle of my ‘jewels’, I would have a cup of ‘tea’, lounge to my heart’s content and even invite my sister into my bottle once in awhile. This idea might just appeal to your daughter too. ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ is enjoying quite a come back on cable channels. Encourage your daughter to watch then help her build her own bottle.

Enjoy teaching your children that video games are not the only method of play. You’ll be giving them a lesson in life that will serve them well!