Friday, February 11, 2011

Frugal Fun at Bathtime

I was supervising the kids' bath last night, and it cracked me up how much fun they were having with the simplest of bath toys!  No fancy store bought toys here!  No, siree!  Well, maybe a couple little plastic animals and a stacking/pouring toy, but mostly their toys consist of repurposed items from around the house and a set of toys that I made for them very cheaply.  Some of their favorite bath toys are things that we've found around the house that can squirt or pour.  Things like empty Parmesan cheese containers, ice cream topping squirt bottles, plastic cups, or empty liquid soap bottles can entertain the wee ones for oodles of baths at no cost. 
Children painting the walls with a paintbrush and homemade bath paints.  Kids can use brushes or fingerpaint for their washable creations.
But the fun doesn't stop with squirting and pouring for free.  What kid doesn't love to paint?  What parent doesn't hate cleaning up said paint?  This problem can easily be solved with some thrifty fun of homemade bath paints.  One of the main ingredients of them is soap, so you actually can get the kids to have fun washing themselves (and the bathtub) by painting everything in sight!  Simply mix together 1 part cornstarch, 2 parts liquid soap (another great use of Dr. Bronner's soap!), and food coloring in desired colors.  I usually make three small cups of it, using primary colors, so it becomes a preschool lesson in color combining as well. 

Craft foam can also be used to make inexpensive bath toys very easily.  I have made several sets of foam tangrams for my kids and they absolutely love them.  They are starting to get worn out now, since the baby has bitten them a few too many times (Warning--Choking Hazard:  Contains small parts.  Not for children under 3), but since I only paid a dollar for the package of craft foam and manage to make enough for my kids to have several sets and for them to give several sets of these to a friend for her birthday (the favorite gift she received at her party as measured by hours it was played with, her father later reported), I'd say it was definitely a worthwhile dollar!  They can be used as actual tangram puzzles using sites like this for printable puzzles to try to solve or strictly for creative play, like my kids like to do. 

"A scientist looking at the night sky through a long telescope" according to my 6 year old

Craft foam tangrams are very easy to make following a template like pictured below.

1)  Measure and draw a square the length of the short side of foam, if it isn't a square already.

2)  Draw a diagonal line from the bottom left corner of the square to the top right. 

3)  Mark the midpoint on the right side and the bottom of the square and connect those two points.

4) Starting at the top left corner, draw another diagonal line toward the bottom right corner, but stop when you come to the line you drew in step 3.

5)  Measure and mark the center point on the top of the square.  Then, starting at the midpoint of the right side, draw a line from the midpoint of the right toward the top midpoint, but stop when you get to the line connecting the corners.

6)  Measure and mark the distance a quarter from the bottom on the left side and draw a line from the intersection created in step 4 to the diagonal line created in step 1, using this mark as a guide to keep it level.

7)  Cut along all lines.  Repeat as desired on as many pieces of craft foam as you'd like.

The leftover rectangles from this process can be included in the foam shape fun, if you aren't interested in being a tangram purist, or you could even use them to cut out circles for additional creative play fun.

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