Toys can certainly be expensive and some donít encourage the use of a young childís imagination. Some toys amuse for a couple of weeks and then lose their appeal. There are also those toys which hardly got played with in the first place. How can a Mum provide enough variety on a budget?
Join a toy library Joining a toy library will give your young child access to a wider range of toys. Some will provide educational value as well as entertainment. It can also be a good way to access larger toys which would be difficult to store on a permanent basis.
It does not matter if your childís interest wanes after a few days. On the other hand if there is a toy your child particularly likes, that could be a good gift for the next birthday or Christmas.
Make toys Some toys, such as hand puppets and kites, can be home made. Ideas for simple puppets can be found in library books and online. If your child is old enough to help, making something together can be a great experience. Keep to simple toys, if it is a joint effort, to avoid frustration. For a sock puppet, add eyes, a mouth and ears to an odd sock. Then the only extra thing you need to add is imagination.
This felt owl puppet was sewn by an adult and given to a child as a present. Image:Marie Vonow
Buy second hand Op shops, garage sales and fetes are good places to look for second hand toys. Gumtree and community notice boards often have bargains. Check (if possible) that no pieces are missing from jigsaws and board games. If you are worried about germs, soak washable items in hot water and disinfectant before drying in the sun.
Small bikes at The Salvos waiting for new homes. Image:Marie Vonow
Free toys Friends with older children may give you items when their children have outgrown them. Another possibility is swapping toys with other children of a similar age.
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Put some toys in storage for a while Pack up some toys (not favourites) and hide them away. When your child is bored or the weather is unsuitable for playing outside, unpack a few toys. They will have new interest.
Cardboard boxes Never underestimate the appeal of a big cardboard box, the larger the better. If you have space for a large box from a stove or similar, your child will have hours of fun. A back verandah is a good place to create a dollís house, car, space ship or whatever from an empty box.
An adult may need to help with cutting cardboard to avoid injury. However, leave as much of the project as possible to the child. It doesnít matter if things are crooked or painting is messy. Your child will be learning and you donít want to damage a childís self esteem by taking over.
Speak to someone at a store like Spotlight or an electrical store to see if you can score a large box or two. Once interest in the creation wanes, put the box out for recycling and start over with another box.
A house made from a cardboard box encourages using other toys for imaginative play. Image:Marie Vonow
There are ways for your child to have access to a good variety of toys even if you are on a budget. In fact, restricted finances may encourage creativity within the family and better use of a child's imagination.