Believe it or not, children can have fun without watching TV. Take out some sleeping bags and let the kids pretend to camp out in the middle of your living room. They will enjoy building this imaginary campfire and pretending to roast marshmallows. Later they may tell each other stories, pretend to hear nocturnal animals lurking about, and imagine they are falling asleep under the stars.
How to make a pretend campfire:
Gather enough rocks to make the fire ring. Clean them off before bringing inside. We ripped up a brown paper bag and then twisted the pieces to look like firewood. You could use real twigs and sticks but paper is cleaner. We used scrap pieces of felt for the flames. To make the flames, the kids and I cut up yellow felt scraps (you could use a mix of colors) so that they were a bit like irregular triangles. Then we pulled at the edges to soften the look. Arrange the rocks in a circle and build your fire.
How to make pretend marshmallows:
You will need one-sided office paper, a stick about 2 or so feet long and a little white glue or clear tape.
Take a piece of one-sided office paper. One-sided paper means that only one side is blank. Why use a new sheet of paper when you can reuse another?
Fold the paper in half long ways. You should have the printed on side hidden on the inside.
Fold in half again.
Roll the resulting strip of paper around the stick.
Fold another piece of paper as before. Then add a little glue to this new piece before adding.
Add more layers (strips of paper) until the marshmallow is the size you want it to be. You will want to save the piece of paper with the least amount of stuff on the other side to allow for the whitest marshmallow. Use a piece of clear tape or carefully glue the end of the strip in place. If you choose to glue instead of tape, you will need to put something on top of it to hold it in place while the glue dries.
For a roasted look, be creative. We used watercolors and a sponge to apply paint around the edges.
Here are some snapshots. These clever girls inspired me to do this post. They came up with the marshmallow idea. They used shorter sticks for their dolls to use. The sticks were held on with elastic bands.
Second-hand salt and pepper shakers come in a wide variety of styles. When my children were small, they played with a cute set of lemon and lime salt and pepper shakers that we found at a yard sale. They enjoyed using them when pretending to picnic. See what you can find. Be sure to place a piece of paper at the top to prevent the contents from really coming out. In addition, glue the covers on them. Now children can act it out without the mess.
Donate a few out of date spices to the play kitchen’s pantry. This cinnamon shaker smells so good that kids will want to “make” cinnamon toast. You will need to put a piece of scrap white paper under the plastic piece that the cinnamon would normally sprinkle out of and glue in place.
Empty spice jars can be filled with a variety of items such as rice, popcorn, or tiny pasta… Just choose something that will not fit through the little holes at the top when your son or daughter is cooking up a pot of soup. Also, choose something that makes a nice sound when shaking; it’s just more fun that way. These glass jars have great sound but use your own judgment as far as safety.
Imaginary sprinkles can simply be made by adding colorful beads to an old spice holder. What kid doesn’t like sprinkles?
*Be aware that beads and other small objects can be a choking hazard. This project is meant for children who are old enough for imaginary play.
What can you do with a broken toaster?
Teach your little Fix-it some repair-person lingo.
Broken Electric Can-opener
Are the kids looking for something to do? Suggest Mr. or Mrs. Fix-it. Save your broken small appliances such as a blender, toaster, iron, electric can opener, hair dryer etc. Children love pretending to be a repair-person even if they aren’t really fixing anything. This kind of imaginative play can also be a time of learning. Let them explore what is on the inside and they will begin to see how things work. You might want to point out the parts that you know. Ask what things are connected to what other things. Older kids might want to look for loose pieces, worn out parts or missing pieces- anything that might be a clue to why the appliance doesn’t work anymore. Bonus: using a screwdriver improves muscle dexterity!
How-2: Look for inexpensive small appliances at garage sales, thrift stores or where-ever. Ask around: someone will have a broken something they would be happy to donate. This project should be done with adult supervision. Have some tools on hand such as screwdrivers, wire cutters, pliers, and needle-nose pliers. Younger children may need an adult to loosen tight screws. (Note: Modern electronics (computers) may or may not have dangerous/ toxic components and I do not recommend children play with these sorts of things.)