It’s no secret—times are hard for everyone if we’re talking about finances. Our money has to stretch farther than ever before, and we need to make wise decisions about needs versus wants. But when it comes to entertaining grandchildren it’s all in our attitude. Maybe we won’t be taking expensive trips to resort destinations, but does that dampen the time with our little ones? Never!
Build your grandchildren’s creativity. Keep an “art box” filled with a wonderful jumble of art supplies: varieties of paper, small boxes, ribbon, pipe cleaners, fabric, yarn, markers, etc. You will always be ready for an impromptu art session. A cereal box becomes a cage filled with lions, a tin can becomes a pencil holder, a water bottle becomes a “bottle buddy” doll, dressed and decorated. Children love the process of creating and are not bothered by a perfect product. It is worth a little mess to allow creative juices to flow.
Right in your own backyard you can find hours of fun. Children love collecting and displaying found objects. Take little excursions looking for a variety of leaves, rocks, flowers or if near a beach, shells. Try saving bottle caps, buttons or cancelled postage stamps. The fun is in the hunt and adding to a simple display. And speaking of hunts, how about making a list of things to find for an old-fashioned scavenger hunt?
Don’t forget old favorites. When my children were little I made batches and batches of homemade play dough. There are many recipes, but the satisfaction is the same. Children revel in the tactile engagement, the squishiness of it all. Older children enjoy using the medium to create permanent figures while younger ones are content to explore, create and be done. Here are two simple recipes for play dough:
No Cook Play dough #1: Mix 1 cup flour, 3/8 cup each of salt and hot water, add food coloring.
No Cook Play dough #2: Mix 2 cups flour, ½ cup salt, 1 T. alum, 3T. cooking oil, and 1 cup hot water. Add fool coloring.
Other favorites include blowing bubbles, cutting old calendars into homemade puzzles, water paints, playing simple board games, making finger puppets to tell familiar fairy tales or folk tales, the possibilities are endless.
Going out. When venturing out into the community we often find ourselves looking to familiar, but expensive fun such as restaurants, movie theaters, and the like. But there are lots and lots of activities and outings to enjoy at no cost at all! Again, it is all in the attitude. Have a nice lunch at home and then head out to a local farm or pet store. Go to your library or bookstore’s free story hour, or visit a toy store to enjoy their play area. Set clear expectations beforehand concerning any treats to be enjoyed. Cookies and milk at home are just as tasty as expensive store-bought goodies.
Make shopping a quest for bargains. When money is scarce it is ridiculous to pay full price for name brand clothing and accessories. Get into the mindset that shopping can be an adventure in bargain hunting. Garage sales, thrift shops and rummage sales are available in every city and town. If children are along for the fun, allow them to have a small amount to spend on found treasures too. A motivated, careful shopper will find excellent bargains at a fraction of department store prices.
How about bartering? In addition to careful planning and wise shopping many people are discovering the benefits of bartering. Can you trade car repair for car pooling? Can you trade babysitting to save the fees? How about trading home cooked meals for music or foreign language lessons. Here again the possibilities are endless. What do you know how to do? Offer that skill or ability to someone who has a skill you need.
Yes, times may be hard, but we can all live a rich, fulfilling life. Fun times with family members—what could be better? It really is true that the best things in life are free!