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Holidays on a budget: spend less, play more

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Holidays on a budget: spend less, play more was written by Amber Doughty at Rose Garden Hub, a guest contributor to the Homeschool Bundle + the Create Your Homeschool Blog! Enjoy!

‘Tis the season for very clever marketing! It’s the time of year when so many mass-produced toys and play resources are almost essential if you want your child to thrive and develop. These toys offer limited uses, reducing the imagination required to play. It happens every year. We are so excited to gift our child such a toy, only to find that actually more time is spent playing with the box it came in.

I’m going to share some ideas and inspiration to help you resource some enriching play opportunities for your child this festive season! Opportunities that are not only free or low cost, but are environmentally conscious too.

Holidays on a Budget: Spend Less, Play More is a guest contribution from Amber at the Rose Garden Hub! Click through to read her tips!

Einstein describes “Play as the highest form of research”. Children are ‘THE’ experts when it comes to play. With it being so important to their development and well-being, it is indeed one of the United nations rights of a child.

Having taught, studied, parented, observed, and engaged with children in the Early Years and beyond for more years than I care to mention, I have learned that play is not only innate to children, but it is essential in their processes of learning, developing, and growing. Yet, we are still seeing so many marketed products and services that really inhibit the ‘play’ experience.

The focus of this article is to delve head first into the concept of ‘Play’, and share with you a couple of low budget options to enable our children to engage in meaningful and nurturing play, in its highest form. Also, I want to give you permission to stress less about financing the high-cost resources and get back to the basics of enjoying your children, watching them grow, and have fun.

| Related: Free Christmas Challenge for your homeschool

There’s enough guilt involved with parenthood, without the financial impact of wanting the best things for your children too.

Here are two key ideas to launch your own version of the best play opportunities for your family.

First, one of my happiest childhood memories was at my Gran’s house. The cupboard under the stairs was transformed into a playhouse for me using household items but mainly structured from cardboard boxes. I had an oven, sink, cupboards. I loved that house so much.

Throughout my career I have been known as a ‘box hoarder’. My classroom always had a box project on-the-go. And my partner has now developed a twitch every time he sees a parcel being delivered. I can almost hear the groan as another box enters our home and my eyes light up!

Empty boxes. Different sizes, types, and shapes. They can easily be a brilliant starting point to launch an amazing play experience, or more often, an ongoing activity that develops in time.

The processes that the children go through to create from a blank canvas (or in this case box) are extensive. The planning, the teamwork, the communicating, the resourcing, and the problem solving. The physical motor skills, the mathematical skills, it could tie in with a celebration and enable the child to process and reenact situations to make sense of such.

Every age group can engage in meaningful play using a box. From cutting a door for a baby to play peek-a-boo, to older children designing and modeling a structure of their interest. Perhaps a sleigh to ride in, a house to build, a car or train to drive. You can really let their imaginations run wild with a box and some other basic crafts materials.

Especially around this festive season, keep hold of those boxes, cardboard tubes, etc. They can all contribute to a wonderful learning experience, and they cost absolutely nothing. You will be amazed what ideas they come up with themselves!

Lastly, I remember my Gran having a big jar of buttons and a sewing box with ribbons that I absolutely loved. My daughter now loves exploring my own ribbon box!

You may have heard of ‘loose parts play’, which is something that is quite the thing in educational circles these days. It is pretty much a term that depicts enabling children to design and create their own play through the use of a variety of age-appropriate loose parts!

These can include buttons and ribbons. Or you could take a family walk to collect nature treasures such as leaves and acorns, shells and twigs. The options are endless, which is the magical thing about loose parts! You are only bound by your imagination.

You can support your child to collect these in a basket or tray so as to revisit! You can also add them to homemade playdough or clay, or the younger children may like to explore filling and emptying a variety of your pots and pans with the items. Almost every area of development can be nurtured through these processes of exploring! Describing the items as well as the process of implementing them into their play is so great!

A fantastic resource we have here locally in the UK is ‘scrap stores’. At a really low cost, my daughter loves to go and fill a bag with materials of her choice to incorporate in her play. This cost supports a community resource, is less than it would cost for a magazine with a plastic toy that usually comes with them, and we can donate materials back when we are finished with them. Perhaps you might find a similar resource in your area!

I hope these suggestions have inspired some exciting play opportunities for you and your family this festive season.

If you wish to learn more about ‘Play Opportunities’ check out my Facebook page or drop me an email to share your success stories! I am launching a Facebook-based workshop and community group called ‘Spend less PLAY more’. So keep an eye on my page, ‘Rose Garden Hub’, for further launch details!

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