PLAY: Budget-friendly and DIY play ideas

15 March 2017
Reading time3 minutes

While there is a myriad of toys on the market, letting kids build their own toys and play spaces using only household items and their own imagination is a fantastic, budget friendly option.

We’ve all seen how young children often gravitate to the wrapping paper and boxes that toys are packaged in, rather than the actual toy inside – so why not harness this innate curiosity by encouraging them to create their own toys and play spaces.

A good starting point is gathering cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes and see what your child decides to create. This style of self-directed play allows children to explore their own passions and interests and can have amazing results.

An example is when five years ago, nine-year-old Caine discovered the boxes in the back of his father’s auto part store and then created his own arcade, becoming an internet sensation in the process.

Caine’s Arcade then inspired a global movement – The Cardboard Challenge – which encourages childhood creativity by inviting kids across the world to build anything they can dream up using cardboard, recycled materials and imagination.

Most of the items that we add to the recycling bin make ideal craft and building supplies for creative youngsters – think egg and milk cartons, cereal boxes, bottle tops and rinsed out disposable coffee cups. Then just give them access to sticky tape and watch what they come up with – don’t be surprised if your house if soon overtaken by dinosaurs, robots or a fleet of trucks.

If your children are toddlers, it’s a great opportunity for the whole family to get involved to bring their vision to life. It’s amazing how when armed with boxes, tape and a creative problem how quickly we become transported to our own childhood!

If you’re looking for inspiration for building cardboard play spaces, Pinterest is a great starting point, but leaving it completely up to your child is a great way to watch their imagination unfurl.

As well as using recycled objects, First 5 Forever offer the following budget friendly play ideas: 

  • Have magnetic letters and words on your fridge for your child to explore
  • Play their favourite games frequently
  • Let them play dress up
  • Make cubbies and forts with sheets, pillows and blankets
  • Scribble, draw and write with chalk, or water and a paintbrush, on the cement or fence
  • Give your child containers and toys to play with and talk about in the bath

Another idea is to borrow toys from your library. Kids can grow out of toys very quickly and borrowing can not only save you money but can give children access to different toys without them cluttering up the home once they’re sick of them.

The Sunshine Coast Toy Library is for ages 2 – 12+ and there are also family games for loan such as Cluedo, Harry Potter Scrabble and Monopoly. The library’s goal is to ensure families have access to a wide range of toys and swap them over frequently – and most of all enjoy playing together!

Written by

Belinda Peters

Belinda is a journalist, blogger and editor with more than 15 years’ experience in print and online journalism. As our digital editor, Belinda immerses herself in scanning the web for the latest in parenting news, products and opinion for the Kids in the City/Kids on the Coast online community. When she’s not kid wrangling two energetic boys, Belinda lives for trying out the ever-expanding array of cafes, restaurants and bars in her home town of Brisbane. While her caffeine addiction remains strong, she also finds her Zen with yoga and attempts to find her balance by stand up paddle boarding.

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