8 Simple [and Cheap] Activities for Kids

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Have you ever looked around at all of your kid’s toys and thought…why aren’t they playing with all of this? Or how do they have this much junk…I mean stuff?

My son is 22 months old and is actually really good at playing with toys. He has quite an imagination and is already so creative. I have been able to “work” on this by playing with him intentionally since he was young (around 6 months old).  I myself have always had a creative imagination so it’s fun and easy for me to sit down and play with him.

Even with all of his amazing playing, he still has SO much stuff that a lot of it sits around most days going untouched.  My minimalist-loving self wants to donate a lot of it already, but we keep it and are teaching him to play with one thing at a time to avoid: making a mess, and stimulation overload.

A lot of parents joke how a child’s favorite thing is usually the packaging/boxes/paper right? So why not use those Amazon boxes you have coming out of your ears to create opportunities for play, adventure and creativity.  I love watching my son’s eyes light up when I create something for him that wasn’t originally there.  You can see his brain learning and growing, all while enjoying the simple things.

If you are someone who desires to purchase #allofthethings for your child you aren’t alone, but why not create an opportunity for imagination to soar in your little one and save some money too? Win, win!

As Mr. Rogers so adequately pleaded, the world is constantly bombarding our children with so many harmful, negative, alarming things, and as parents we have the privilege to guard their hearts and minds while we still can. Let’s take advantage of the safe space that is our homes and utilize what we have at our fingertips. We can show our children that having the next best thing isn’t really the goal, the goal is having fun with what you have at the moment!

Besides, you know what I noticed almost immediately about all of those fancy electronic toys that do so many “cool” things: they can be very overstimulating for young children, they leave out the creative part of the brain that has to work harder to think, they are VERY expensive, they don’t require adult interaction (meaning you can leave a child unattended with it for a long time), they usually have obnoxious sounds and children begin to crave that stuff the more it is offered to them.

*Side note: there is absolutely NO JUDGEMENT here if you have and utilize these toys. So do I! I’m just highlighting the fact that a lot of parents struggle to give their children everything they never had (or go into major debt trying to), but maybe if we step back and take a different perspective  we can begin to realize that they might be better off not having all that new, fancy stuff and that it’s actually good for them to just sit and play with an empty container for a half hour! #parentsaresuperheros #youareagoodparent #youknowyourchild

Here are a few ideas for you if you have 1,000,000 Amazon boxes piling up in your home (and a good reason to save a few before you recycle them!):

*[I will probably have to put a disclaimer on this post that a lot of these suggestions require parental supervision. Please don’t leave your child unattended with small objects such as uncooked rice, pasta or buttons]* 

  1. Create a sensory experience! I love following those IG accounts that promote sensory play. With all of the video game playing/TV watching and iPad using children have gradually lost their fine motor strength. What to do? Get an empty box, fill it with rice and/or pasta and put vehicles in there as a construction site or little figurines for a beach setting.  Find other items around your house to use in the play scene and VOILA a free toy that stimulates your child’s brain in a healthy way!
    1. Took an empty Amazon box, fitted some leftover green felt inside, cut it up to look like grass, put uncooked rice and pasta inside, added in some circular cardboard cutouts, a cup, taped the box to the table with strong tape to keep it from flying off and then let my boy play with his vehicles in there! He had a blast and it kept him occupied for quite a while. I did have to continue reinforcing that the rice needed to stay in the box, I taught him how to brush his hands off (just like we do with sand at the beach) and then I just vacuumed up all of the stuff he dropped on the floor (and trailed throughout the house on his feet LOL) 🙂IMG_0906Cutie boy having fun in the sensory box! [He has shorts on!]
  2. Draw a scene You might be thinking you have zero skills in the drawing department, but it doesn’t matter to kids. Children are remarkably good at not being critical. Take that empty box and draw on it to be a farm for their stuffed animals, a rocket ship for them to be an astronaut, a car, a town with trees and a lake, or even a learning box (write their ABCs, numbers, shapes and colors). So many fun ideas! You can have them decorate it with stickers or even use other objects around the house as part of the scene. Bonus: cut out shapes to create a dollhouse, car or something they themselves can play in!
    1. This large box was from something that shipped to us for the house. I immediately saw it and thought to turn it into something for our little guy.  I used a razor blade to cut it open and taped the sides to stabilize it for when he sat inside and leaned against it to play. I used my Crayola markers to decorate it. As I decorated it we discussed what belongs in a town. I let him use 1 marker at a time to help me color it.  Then I took out my teacher stickers to let him decorate the rest of the box.  We placed his vehicles inside and had fun driving them through the town.img_3583.jpgA village I drew for my son to play in. It included a lake, parking lot, train tracks & an airplane!
  3. Think Simple: (Cheap items can go a long way, search the Dollar Store for some good buys) Pom poms are a go-to for me.  My son and the toddlers I work with LOVE these. You can just play for fun, throw them around, pretend to ‘Achoo’ them out of your hands, use them with vehicles as objects to be pushed/pulled/picked up, or you can utilize them as a learning activity for sorting by color, counting, matching to colors in the environment, etc. These can also be used as a great fine-motor sensory activity by placing them into empty tissue boxes or paper towel rolls taped to the wall. You could even have your child blow out the end of a straw in a race to see who gets theirs to the end of a track first (put masking tape down on the floor – one row per person). The possibilities are endless and a pack goes for $1!!!IMG_3826.jpgOne of my cases & I using pom-poms as “blue water” and blocks as boats for the toys!
  4. Save the Empties (boxes, paper rolls, plastic containers etc.) these can all serve multiple purposes for life with children! Organization, sorting, using for homemade products (slime anyone?), musical instruments and more. My son enjoys using the empty paper and toilet paper rolls as horns. Once they get too wet or torn I just recycle them or throw them away! Empty containers are perfect for holding paint (especially homemade paints) and paper rolls make great painting utensils – if you’re worried about a mess in the house take it all outside in the warmer months and just hose them down when done!_storage_emulated_0_DCIM_Camera_0404181537My son putting Pom-Poms through the roll to land in the basket!
  5. Go Outside! Beach/Park/Grassy area (Look around in the environment for sticks, leaves, bugs, birds) – this is always so fun for my son and he loves to watch (and touch) the ants around an anthill, collect leaves and sticks or just listen to the sounds while identifying the animals that made them. The ground has tons of bugs for them to observe. Get out that magnifying glass (also sold at the Dollar Store) and get exploring. For children that need more support print out a nature scavenger hunt with real pictures so that you can check off the items as you collect them or see them. If you’re looking to make something more educational have them identify or collect items to match by color (leaf=green), number (5 rocks) or even shape (flower center=circle). Possibilities are endless and fresh air is always good!
  6. Same toys, NEW play! Sometimes children get “bored” because they keep looking at the same things in the same way.  They struggle to see a new opportunity to play so they stare blankly at their room full of toys all while screaming there’s nothing to do (I know plenty of ladies, including myself who do the same thing staring at our too full closets…persepective, right?).  🙂   Sometimes children just need an exciting idea to get them going that we can offer to them (and sometimes physically show them to get their imagination going). For example: have them combine two toys together (vehicles and people) to make a whole city all while utilizing the empty Amazon boxes, take the toys outside or to a new room, allow them to play on furniture as part of the setting, give them objects that aren’t “toys” but can be used as part of play (q-tips, a plastic cup, buttons, a tissue box, tape etc.), or just show them how to play in a way that excites them! Creativity soars when we can get them to see that they don’t need a dollhouse to play dolls and they don’t need a store-bought track to race cars. They can make their own and still have a lot of fun!
  7. Shake it off! Have a dance party in the house. Get moving together to a playlist: if you have Apple Music or Spotify you can easily create a list of songs you and your child love.  Even better, if you have Alexa or a Bose you can play that list even louder.  Be silly and have fun, sing along and be dramatic. My son loves when I belt out songs, especially from ‘The Greatest Showman’ soundtrack.  Sometimes I pick him up and we mimic Zac Efron & Zendaya during  ‘Rewrite the Stars’. It’s a good break for both of us to let out some energy and take our minds off of other stuff going on.
  8. Take Advantage Your district library offers a ton of programs for children.  We are fortunate to live in an area with a great library.  We have utilized many of the programs there, gone to play when it’s too hot or we need a change of pace, and taken out a lot of books to read.  Our library has a backpack system for young children where they can read 1,000 books before Kindergarten and we are making our way through each one! We also got to attend an event called ‘Touch-A-Truck” that my son loved because he could walk onto each vehicle and sit in the chairs. Check out your local library’s events! (They even have nice programs for adults too)

I hope I inspired you that you don’t have to “have it all” to impress your children.  I’ve worked with a lot of different age groups and on a Monday morning at school, when I would ask my students what the best part of their weekend was, MOST of the time it included an activity with their family members….not the stuff they so quickly forget about.  They really do just want to enjoy time with us.  Even now, as an adult, I really cherish one-on-one time with my parents.  For one, it’s not very often that I get to be with just them and it really helps to solidify our relationship, I also feel as though I’m heard and seen more than when everyone is together. There are SO many distractions in this world. Some of my favorite moments with my son are when I put all of my electronics away and just sit and play with him. These are the good old days and I am soaking them all up like a sponge because before I know it he won’t be needing me quite as much.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these, done something similar with your kids or have another awesome idea! I love to learn from others!

Be well,



4 thoughts on “8 Simple [and Cheap] Activities for Kids”

  1. Amber , this is done so beautifully. Brayden is so lucky to have you as a parent. I wish I had these suggestions when I was raising my children.


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