Frugal Ideas that Parents and Teachers may find of Value.
Forget the Budget, and Think.
When I was younger my mom did as much as she could to keep us entertained. With not much money to work with she would often make things for us, crochet little toys, and even inspire us to come up with our own ideas. Going to the store to buy a board game, or a new figurine was not something we were able to do any time we wanted. Christmas and Birthdays was pretty well the only time we ever got anything store bought. My parents were super frugal, and a lot of their habits rubbed off on me when it comes to providing children with entertainment, and lesson plans. In my personal opinion you don't have to have brand new, shiny, sparkly, and cutting edge gear to grasp a child's interest. The only thing you need is imagination, and a good sense of what resources you have to be able to use your imagination to it's fullest. There are so many more resources available today than what was available when I was a child, and making a list of what you can use as resource is a great start to becoming more frugal.
Using your Resources.
Learn to ask. We constantly teach our children how to ask for something instead of taking, and we teach them how to create, yet as we get older those skills fade away, and we simply buy everything we need. Here's my own list of resources that I'd like to share with everyone to help you build your own ideas, and create your own list.
My #1 favorite resource. Recycling depots can provide many things like bottle caps, egg cartons, cardboard, newspaper, empty containers, empty bottle, jars, and many other things.You don't have to pay a dime, and it encourages your children to learn about re-using materials.
Learning about plants, and exploring what you can do with plants is always a fun idea to work with. Every flower shop has a time when they throw hundreds of flowers away from being partially wilted, or out of season. Simply asking a shop if you can take their cut-offs is always a great idea for getting some free materials to work with
Almost every town has a place where people recycle old paints, and liquid recyclables that they don't need anymore. Find out where your local station is and you might be able to get free paint to add to your art supplies.
Every fabric store has a place where they put cut-off materials, and fabrics that will eventually be thrown out by the end of the day. These small scrap pieces can be used to make all sort of things. From puppets, to dress-up clothes. If you have a knack for sewing this is a great resource to add to your list. Again all you simply need to do is ask for their scraps.
Blocks are a great toy for children to explore and invent things with. Local Lumber mills are a great resource for their wood scraps, and products that they toss out or burn. All you need is a bit of sandpaper to turn a bunch of those little scraps into blocks for the children to play with.
Some Libraries will throw or recycle their books when they've become too damaged. Asking a library if you can sort through their damaged goods before they toss them out as a great way of acquiring some new literature for you children to read.
Parks, Beaches, and Local Farms
These are great places to get natural materials like feathers, shells, pine cones, sticks, rocks, and many other things. At the beach you can even collect some of the water, and ask children if they notice the difference between the water from the beach and the water from a tap. Farms, are a great place to get things like old horse shoes, or broken egg shells. Most places would be more than happy to give this stuff to you rather than figuring out how to get rid of it on their own.
...There are so many places that are willing to provide a bit of charity, and all you need to do is ask. This is only a small handful of places that I personally use, and I'm sure you'll find plenty more in exploring your own local resources.
Some Frugal Crafts and Activities.
Here's a few ideas in using the resources you can find for free to make toys for your children or implement in a lesson plan.
Use scraps collected from a local fabric store to sew a cloth puppet. Use cardboard from a recycling depot to paste some printed cutouts on for cardboard stick puppets. Use small lumber scraps by sanding them down and wrapping them in scrap fabric or yarn, and drawing faces on them to make wooden puppets.
Sand down some lumber scraps and simply draw some windows on them. Attach some bottle caps to the sides for wheels. Use paint from an Eco station to decorate the cars further. You can even let your children design them using crayons or soaking them in warm colored water.
Grab a cardboard box, and decorate it using whatever you like. Label it with a big Dress-up sign and start filling it with things. Maybe you have some old clothes you don't want anymore. Jewelry, sunglasses, hats, shoes and anything else that might fit the theme. Use fabric scraps to sew together into a cape, or patchwork skirt. Instead of placing these things in the garbage it's more fun and creative to add it to the dress-up box.
Fill some empty bottles with different things. Clear ones make a great visual to the sound it gives off. Used small stones, marbles, sand, crushed pieces of pine cones, and anything else you can fit in the bottle. Glue the lid onto it so it doesn't pop open, and start shaking.
Bouquets, and Flower Art
Make some bouquets using flowers you've collected from a local store, or even go out and pick some, but be careful not to pick anything endangered or protected by law. Use the petals to glue down to a piece of paper, and make a collage. Even try replanting them, and encouraging them to sprout roots.
Make a Ball
There are many ways you can make a ball for children to kick around and play with. One simple way is placing tons of shopping bags inside of one another until it's big enough to cover in tape, and start playing with as a ball. Another way is to sew one using the fabric scraps and then fill it with cotton, newspaper, or bags.
...There are so many ideas that can come from the various materials available to you. Tap into to your imaginative side and start creating. Children might even have some ideas of their own to add to the fun, but don't let a budget hold you back in whatever you do. Think of what you need, what can be used in replacement, and places you might be able to find it for free before spending your paycheck on store bought materials.
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