5 Ways to Make Your Kids’ Toys Interesting Again

kids toys

Guest post from Katie of Embracing a Simpler Life

It’s the same old story; a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear.

My kids, and most kids I presume, have an over-abundance of toys. Nonetheless, they eventually lose interest. There they stand, bored, surrounded by a room full of delights. We’re left wondering what else we could buy to keep them entertained.

Over the years, I’ve resisted this temptation out of both necessity and principle. Instead, I’ve experimented with how to re-interest them in their toys.

Here is what I’ve found helpful:

1. Give toys a sabbatical.

This tried and true method is one of the best I’ve found. Box up toys and stick them in closet. After a few months, trade them out for others. This takes only a small effort and works wonders in reestablishing interest.

2. Pretend play with your children.

Kids need new ideas for old toys, not new toys for old ideas. Fifteen minutes of fully engaged, imaginative play on your part will likely produce hours of new material for your kids.

They never imagined that basket as an oven or those blocks as cake. They never saw the afghan as a picnic blanket or the stacking cups as teacups. Open their eyes to new possibilities through pretend play.

3. Assign toys to various different spots around the house.

Restricting toys to certain areas allows children to change environments throughout the day. My daughter plays dress up in her room, cars in her brother’s room, puzzles in the family room, coloring and stickers in the kitchen, etc.

Also, feel free to switch toys from room to room every so often. Seeing them in a new environment gives toys new life.

4. Reinvent them.

Figure out which toys would work in the bathtub, even if that’s not their original purpose. Which would work with play dough? Allow children to explore new applications of their existing toys.

5. Make accessories for toys together.

One of my fondest memories of my grandmother was when she and I made a baby doll bed from an empty oatmeal canister. This was a special memory, totally free, and it piqued my interest in baby dolls for months to come.

My dad tells stories of taping cardboard boxes to his Radio Flyer wagon and decorating them to look like race cars. Simple paper and cardboard accessories can be a great way to expand the use of toys without buying new ones.

How do you build your kids’ interest in old toys?

Hi! I’m Katie. I’m a young-ish, stay-at-home mom of two adorably-fun little ones, and I live a life devoted to Jesus. I love to write, and I focus my energy on living simply and well. My husband works for our church as a tech guy, I blog at Embracing a Simpler Life, and together we have a photography business. 

Share This:

35 Things to Do Instead of Spending Money

35-Things-to-Do-Instead-of-Spending-Money

I loved this article on 35 Things To Do Instead of Spending Money. Go read it now.

Just for fun, I tried to come up with some additional ideas — things that I love to do instead of spending money. So here were 17 of my own ideas:

35 Things to Do Instead of Spending Money

What about you? What do YOU love to do instead of spending money?

Share This:

52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Develop Contentment {Week 52}

Contentment

Every week for 52 weeks, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

Can you believe it? We’ve made it to the end of this 52-week series. It ended up taking me a few months longer than 52 weeks, but I’m just going to celebrate the fact that I followed through with writing all 52 weeks! :)

For our final installment of this series, I want to talk about contentment. Because truly, this is the heart of frugality.

I’m slowly reading through In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day (it’s so good!) and this section challenged me at a deep level:

Man’s Search for Meaning ranks as one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. In it, Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl writes about his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp.

Everything was taken away from the Jewish prisoners. They were stripped of their clothing, their pictures, and their personal belongings. The Nazi captors even took away their names and gave them numbers. Frankl was number 119, 104. But Frankl said there was one thing the Nazis couldn’t take away: ‘Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.’

The most important choice you make every day is your attitude. Your internal attitudes are far more important than your external circumstances. Joy is mind over matter.”

-In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, page 68

When you learn that stuff doesn’t buy happiness, your life suddenly becomes much richer. As I wrote about in this piece on contentment (stop right now and go read this post, if you haven’t already!), when we were first married and our budget was so tight, I quickly learned that contentment is a choice.

You can choose to be contentment — whether you are in the middle of a feast or a famine. Why? Because contentment isn’t about what model of car you drive, how big your house is, what brands of clothes you wear, what kinds of foods you eat, or how much money you make.

Contentment is first and foremost about your heart. It’s an attitude you can get up and choose to have (or not have) every single day.

Contentment

If you struggle with contentment, I encourage you to read my post on 16 Ways to Become More Content and 6 Things That Will Help You Have a More Positive Attitude.

Also, here’s a snippet from a guest post published in 2012 on How to Be Content With Less by Tessa who blogs at The Recreational Word Slinger:

3 Ways to Be Content With Less:

1. Expect less.

Stop expecting to buy something every time you run an errand. I was so guilty of this before we switched to using cash. I would think that I deserved a little treat for having to get out and grocery shop or run errands. Direct your thinking towards expecting less.

2. Ignore the urge for more, more, more.

This is easier said than done in today’s society. We are constantly bombarded with different advertisements telling us that we need more. We have to retrain how we listen to or pay attention to such ads. When you become immune to advertising, you might find that your desire for more decreases.

3. Look at what you do have.

This idea is by far the one that has helped me get over my obsession with stuff. One way to do this is by verbally thanking our Creator for what He has given us. When I am more mindful of the blessings that I have been given, then I find that I am less mindful of my humanistic desire for more.

Read the full post.

What practical suggestions and ideas have helped you become more content? I’d love to hear!

photo credit

Share This:

Homemade Cough & Cold Syrup

Untitled

I tried my hand at making Homemade Cough & Cold Syrup last week.

Untitled

It was really easy to make (ignore the fact that I didn’t use raw honey or fresh lemons — I’m all about using what I have!)

Untitled

The end result was a little less syrup-y than I expected, but I warmed it up a bit and then it looked just perfect.

Overall, I was really happy with how the Homemade Cough & Cold Syrup turned out and am anxious to try using it the next time someone has a bad cough around here!

Share This:

52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Stay Home More {Week 51}

Stay Home More

Every week for 52 weeks, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

My number one tip for keeping things simple and saving money is to stay home more. Staying home is one of the easiest ways to have more time, spend less money, accumulate less clutter, and well, to plain just live a less frantic lifestyle.

Staying Home = More Time

A lot of times I’m asked how I get so much done. Let me tell you, I’m no wonder woman, but I do know that one of my “secrets” to efficiency is that I stay home a lot.

I love quiet days at home and I find that we function best when we have at least a few days every week where we are home all day. It’s not always possible for this to happen every single week, but I do my best to make it a priority that we have at least 1-2 full days at home every single week.

I’ve purposely said “no” to a multitude of outside activities and opportunities because I know that running around with three children not only wears me out, it is a surefire way for me to spend more money (i.e. trips through the fast-food lane while we’re out, swinging by to check out a sale I see signs for when I don’t really need anything, or ordering carry out for dinner because I’m exhausted and didn’t have time to make anything for dinner) and get less done. It’s just not worth it, folks.

Now, am I saying you need to cut out every outside activity and commitment and never step foot outside your doorstep? No. What I am encouraging you to do is to carefully evaluate all outside commitments and see if there are some that are really necessities or if they are just cluttering up your life for no good reason.

Save Money By Staying Home More

Staying Home = Fewer Expenses

It’s pretty much always true that the less you shop, the less you buy. Stay out of the stores and you won’t be tempted to purchase things you didn’t know you needed in the first place!

Challenge yourself to stop spending money for a period of time — whether that’s a day, a week, a month, or longer. {Well, start small if this is a brand-new idea to you!} You’ll likely find that you begin to have a whole new appreciation for what you already have… and you’ll realize that you spend a lot more money than you need to.

When you think that you need to buy a replacement or just something new altogether, see how long you can make do without it. I’ve sometimes gone for years without replacing something that I once that was a must-have!

When you feel like you “don’t have anything to wear”, shop your closet before going shopping at the mall. See if you can come up with some new outfit combinations that you hadn’t put together before. It will feel like you went shopping — and you didn’t leave your house or spend any money.

Not only are you less tempted to spend money on things when you don’t go out shopping, but you’ll also spend less money on gas and have less wear and tear on your vehicle. It’s a win all around!

Staying Home = Less Clutter

One of the nice side effects of shopping so rarely is that we don’t have a lot of clutter. In fact, some would probably think our home looks really bare, but I’d much rather have only things we need, use, and love taking up residence in our home, than to have our rooms bulging with stuff we don’t need, haven’t used in a long time, and don’t like in the first place.

And when you have less clutter, you don’t need as much space and you will save money by being more organized.

100_0479

I want to end this post by sharing a post I wrote back in 2008 on how much I learned from our law school years when we didn’t have money to spend and I spent almost all day, every day at home:

A lot of you know that my husband and I spent the first three and half years of our marriage with him in law school and us living on a part-time income. We never went hungry and we always had a roof over our head and clothes to wear, but it was a very lean time.

During those years, we lived in a little basement apartment that only had four windows on one side. I could plug the vacuum cleaner into one outlet and vacuum the entire apartment without ever switching outlets.

We only had one old vehicle almost the entire law school tenure and Jesse usually used it for transportation from work and school. We knew hardly anyone in town we lived in–in spite of many efforts to try and make friends–and there were really not any safe places I could walk to from our apartment.

It would have been easy to have been swallowed up in despair and I won’t pretend there weren’t moments when I felt sorry for myself or wished we could be living in a little better circumstances. However, I decided, with God’s help, to try and make the most of what might seem like a less-than-ideal situation.

Maybe we didn’t have money to go out, but I challenged myself to think up creative ways we could still have fun without spending money. We’d check out a movie from the library and have homemade pizza. In the winter, we’d brew some coffee, pop some popcorn, and play a board game. Sometimes, we’d go to the park with a picnic or we’d browse the book selection at Barnes and Noble.

We didn’t have money to spend on decorating our home, but I still found ways to make it homey and inviting. For starters, I tried to always keep it clean and clutter-free–even if it wasn’t very pretty, at least it could smell nice and look clean! We tried to have music playing in the background and that always spruced up a rather bare home, too.

We couldn’t afford fancy foods or restaurant meals, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t eat well. I had fun trying new recipes, searching out good deals, and stretching our grocery budget as far as possible. I discovered AllRecipes.com and enjoyed using their ingredient search feature to come up with new recipes to use what I already had on hand.

Instead of going out and buying things, I’d go to the library and check out a stack of books. Sometimes we’d check out CD’s too, so we’d have new music to play in our home throughout the week.

It was also in this little basement apartment that I first began blogging and tinkering around with online entrepreneurial things. Had it not been for the free time and lack of friends, I would have never even considered pursuing blogging or had the time to learn about basic web design, online marketing, or producing an ebook or ecourse. Little did I dream that in a few years, those same skills would allow me to help supplement our family’s income by doing something I very much enjoy while keeping my priorities as a wife and mother first and foremost.

And guess what? It was holed up in this little basement apartment with sometimes only $20 to spare for groceries for the week that I was searching grocery deals online and came upon this store called CVS that everyone in a now-defunct savings forum was raving about. I could never have imagined what that simple search would uncover for me that day, nor how many thousands of other individuals I’d have the opportunity to introduce to CVS, as well!

Yes, living in that little basement apartment in an unfamiliar town barely squeaking by financially would never have been something I would have chosen for myself, but I’ll always be grateful God allowed me those three and half years of learning to be content, learning to love simplicity, and learning to make the most of what I had.  And I hope I never forget those lessons.

A cheerful attitude can go a long way in less-than-ideal situations; you can either complain about the thorns or you can savor the roses which bloom in the midst of those thorns. Choose to bloom where you’re planted–even if it seems like it’s among thorns!

How does staying home more save you money? I’d love to hear!

Share This: