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Fine Art :: Homemade toys and free activities for kids

Homemade toys and free activities: why they’re good Homemade games and free activities at home are a great way to keep children entertained, and to help them learn and grow. They needn’t cost a cent. And they can really fire up your child’s creativity. It’s easy to come up with ideas for children as they get older. There are lots of toys and games that you and your child can create together. You can also give your child open-ended play materials from around the house – children usually love containers and lids, for example. The only thing is to make sure the bits and pieces are unbreakable before letting your child use them. Newborns You’re the ‘toy’ that your newborn most enjoys. Your touch, the sound of your voice, being rocked in your arms, and staring at your face is more than enough entertainment for a new baby. Your newborn will also love being outside in fine weather, feeling the wind, hearing the sounds of birds, and soaking up new outdoorsy smells. Splashing in shallow water or in the bath is also lots of fun – so long as you keep your hands on to ensure your baby’s safety, You could play gentle music to soothe your baby, or make bath time relaxing with a calm atmosphere and warm water, and a warm massage afterwards. Hold your baby, sing, talk and make eye contact. These activities will keep your baby entertained, and help your baby learn and get to know you all at once. All babies are unique and some babies take more time than others to enjoy new sensations, so watch how your baby responds, and see what she enjoys and is interested in. Babies Once your baby is starting to move around and is more robust, more active play will be a winner – and you’re still the best toy your baby has! Your baby will love to clamber over you, exploring and trying out new movement skills. All young children need periods of quiet play too, so watch for cues that your baby needs some downtime. Here are some play ideas for babies: Make time for one-on-one play every day – for example, talking with your baby or counting his toes. You can make this part of routine activities such as nappy-changing. Blow raspberries on your baby’s tummy and tickle little toes. Make a toy shaker with an empty juice or milk container – washed, dried and filled with rice, pasta, peas, dried pulses or even old buttons (make sure the lid is secure to avoid choking hazards). Sing songs and nursery rhymes. Babies really love these when you repeat actions such as clapping hands or doing twinkling star fingers. Read books. Visit your local library or toy library to get really good, free resources. Fill a bag with interesting textures such as wrapping paper. Make a drum by stretching strips of paper soaked in glue (create your own glue with flour and water) across the top of an old tin (without the lid). Once it’s dry, give your child a wooden spoon to bang the drum with. Toddlers Your toddler probably loves to ‘post’ things – often into the front of the CD or DVD player! Make your toddler a post box by cutting slits into the front of an old ice-cream container or cardboard box. You could also try the following play ideas for toddlers: Give your toddler some pegs and a peg container. Your child will happily move pegs in and out of the container – over and over and over again! Cut pieces of cardboard into small envelopes and decorate them. Make some playdough and build towers, pancakes and trees – whatever your toddler likes. You can make shapes and cut out shapes. You can even just squelch the playdough between your fingers. Visit the Western Australian Play and Learning website for a playdough recipe. Use an ice-cream container to make a fun dress-up hat. Cover it with foil, and your toddler is an astronaut. You can also paste material, fake flowers or pom-poms onto a container to make a fancy hat. Preschoolers Try some of the following play ideas. They’re fun and will also help the development of your child’s fine and gross motor skills: Show your child how to stuff old stockings with paper or material scraps to make all sorts of creatures. Make a sock puppet with old socks and buttons. Fill a box with old clean clothes for dressing up. Fold newspaper into a pirate’s or magician’s hat. Let your preschooler paste on coloured pictures cut from magazines. Let your child turn old cardboard boxes into toys – a car, cubbyhouse, milk bar, kitchen and so on. Visit the local park or a friend’s house, or just take a walk in your local neighbourhood. These are all sources of adventure and fun for your child. Make a simple book with your child – let her create the story and decorate the pages. Check out our article on encouraging preschoolers’ creative and artistic development. It has lots of ideas for using everyday objects to make fun new homemade toys. School age Keep your child entertained and stimulated with the following play ideas: Try a family bike ride or camping in the backyard. Pick up some old fridge boxes from your local electrical retailer and see what your child can do with them. These could be a great cubbyhouse, rocket ship or hide-out. Cook with your child – start with some simple family favourites. Let your child invite a friend over for a playdate. Turn old sheets into a tent by draping them over the backs of chairs, or make a cubbyhouse by draping a sheet over the edges of the table. Your child might even like to have a picnic.
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