By Nicole Dean
Walk through any toy store and you will see walls and walls of toys that are loud -- toys that require batteries, have flashing lights, or that look like your child's favorite movie character.
But, what about those of us who want to raise children with imagination and curiosity? I'll tell you what we do. We choose to fill our houses with some of the following old-fashioned items.
No house can have enough books. Make sure your house has a representation of great Fiction Books and non-fiction books. A mix of the two is very important. Most homes have a deficit of non-fiction books, so fill your home with Science, History and Art books. Children need to learn to read and appreciate non-fiction books in order to do well in research when they reach higher levels of study.
Children love to tell stories with felt. You'll need a felt board to start. You can make your own board from a sheet of felt or purchase a board from one of the suppliers below.
Once you have the board, let the fun begin.
Go to a craft or fabric store and buy sheets of felt in all colors. Then, cut out shapes in all colors and sizes. (You'll be amazed at how quickly a child will make an alien, ship, house, or person out of nothing but a few circles, rectangles, and triangles.)
Blocks and Legos
Children can play for hours building towers, bridges, cities, creatures, and more with these toys that inspire creativity, patience, and small-motor skills. When the masterpiece is finished, have your child pretend to be a giant and smash through the blocks -- or grab a few small cars and drive around the new city! Be sure to name the city and have your child tell you all about it.
Give your child some crayons, scissors, junk mail, and glue. He or she will be entertained for hours if given encouragement. Please SUPERVISE closely if you don't want your child to have a self-induced bad haircut or attach the dog to her artwork!
Make puppets out of socks, paper bags, felt, cloth, or popsicle sticks. Make a stage and tell stories. Get out the video camera and capture your child's brilliance!
Whether your musical instruments are home-made with a comb and wax paper or store bought, making music is a wonderful way to spend the day. Teach your child that music can be made from anything, from an old oatmeal container, to scratching two pieces of sandpaper together. Go on a walk and just listen to the sounds of the world -- music is everywhere in our lives.
Get out old prom dresses, big hats, shirts and ties, old Halloween costumes (or buy extra pieces after Halloween for year-round fun!). Bring out a box of costumes and watch the shows with your children as the stars. Keep a camera handy to capture the fun. Also, keep an eye on the pets. Cats don't always appreciate wearing a sombrero. Trust me, I have the scars to prove it!
There is nothing more fun than watching your child make up stories as the family members move around in a doll house. Plus, if it is a wooden dollhouse, there is the added benefit of decorating it with some wallpaper scraps and carpet remnants! Your dollhouse could be a family heirloom if you put enough love into it.
In the Kitchen
Kids love to play Kitchen, whether it is mixing air, or getting to play with food. Give your child a great time by giving them safe kitchen utensils to play with in the bathtub. Mixing, pouring, and scooping bubbles and water entertains my children long enough for them to look pruny. Or for a fun alternative, give them puffed rice cereal and some bowls and utensils on the kitchen floor. Just plan to vacuum afterwards as there'll be quite a wonderful mess!
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