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19 thrifty kids' playtime tips your grandmother used that still work

By Mums At The Table 3 min read
Thursday, December 17, 2020

Can't keep track of your kids' jigsaw puzzles? Want a mess-free paint time? How about the secret to larger, stronger bubbles?

These simple tips—collected wisdom from The Country Women's Association of Victoria—will save you time and money . . . and your sanity.

  1. If a teddy bear has suffered too much love and is starting to come apart at the seams, use dental floss instead of cotton to sew it up. Floss is stronger and more pliable than cotton and can handle the toughest love.
  2. If you own a number of jigsaw puzzles, the pieces can often get mixed up, which can be exasperating and hard to spot. So the first time you complete a new puzzle, turn it over and colour the back of the pieces with coloured felt pen. Then mark the box with the same colour.
  3. Save the screw caps from toothpaste tubes to use as counters in children’s board games. Little fingers can manage them more easily than the usual small, flat counters that come with the games. You can watch out for coloured ones, or colour them yourself with pen.
  4. Coat new boards for games with clear self-adhesive book covering. They will last longer and can be wiped clean after playing. The instruction books can be covered as well, for a longer life.
  5. Cut the legs off a pair of laddered tights and use them to store children’s wooden jigsaw puzzles, assembled. The stocking hugs the puzzle and keeps it intact, and you can easily see which puzzle is which.
  6. If your children love books, why not make some. Glue different pictures (cut from old magazines) into a scrapbook and give each page a different heading, such as: Colours, Animals, Shapes, TV Characters and Alphabet. Not only is it educational, but you can get your children involved by getting them to sort pictures and suggest their own themes.
  7. Cut the numbers from old calendars and store them in a small cardboard box. Small children can make a game of matching numbers, while older children can learn their times tables by racing to group numbers.
  8. A good idea for keeping young children amused on a rainy day is to make a photo album especially for them. Use duplicates of your favourite shots of family, pets, outings and so on. The children will get hours of fun from it.
  9. To entertain children indoors, put a tennis ball inside an old stocking or tights leg, hang it from a hook in the ceiling and give them room to hit the ball with tennis racquets. It will keep them amused for hours.
  10. A game of Snakes and Ladders played with young children can be a long drawn-out affair that loses its appeal. Use two dice instead of one. It moves the game along and teaches them to add up.
  11. If your small child loves undressing their dolls but sometimes can’t get the tight-fitting clothes back on, sprinkle some talcum powder over the doll’s upper legs and you will find that the difficult clothes slip on easily.
  12. Make a toddler’s disposable painting apron from a plastic grocery bag. Cut across the sealed bottom, then split up the back. Put the child’s arms through the handles and tie at the back. Make children’s cooking aprons by cutting head and armholes into old pillowcases.
  13. An oven mitt makes an excellent blackboard duster. Children love using it, it can be hung from a small cup-hook on the blackboard and it can easily go in the washing machine.
  14. Pre-schoolers love painting when the paint is put into cleaned, refillable, roll-on deodorant containers. Mums love the lack of mess!
  15. Add a few drops of glycerine to soapy water when children are blowing bubbles. The bubbles will be larger, stronger and more brightly coloured.
  16. A good sandpit for children is a large truck tyre filled with sand. Cover the tyre with a weighted board at night.
  17. Plastic trellis makes an effective cover for a child’s sandpit. It discourages cats and other inquisitive animals, yet is light enough for children to remove by themselves.
  18. When children are still playing at the end of the day, set a timer bell to give them a 10-minute warning that teatime or bedtime is near. When the bell rings, they need to wind down their activity and pack up. A 15-minute buzzer might better suit older children.
  19. Balloons make great, cheap bath-time toys for playing with your toddlers. Buy the new compostable brands now available. Fill a balloon with water until it fits in the palm of your hand, tie a knot in it and you have a semi-floating toy that toddlers love. You can also fill a balloon with air—it makes a great sound when slapped on the water and will burst to the surface when released from below. They last for weeks without going mouldy.

Thrifty Household book cover

Text from Thrifty Household by Country Women's Association of Victoria, Murdoch Books, RRP $24.99.