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Simple and inexpensive ideas to amuse young children

Sometimes the simplest "toys" are the best and most imaginative
Sometimes the simplest "toys" are the best and most imaginative
Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

The joys of childhood are sometimes found in the simplest things, like playing with play-dough or drawing pictures. Not only are these activities fun but children learn about muscle control and develop small muscles (and improve those fine motor skills) when they use their hands.

Here are a few recipes that are inexpensive and use those small muscles, yet provide plenty of amusement for young children. They are not only fun, they provide good learning experiences at low or no cost.

Molding sand
4 cups fine sand, 2 cups cornstarch, 4 teaspoons cream of tartar, 3 cups of hot water, vegetable oil
Measuring cups, measuring spoons, large saucepan, wooden spoon
Add sand, cornstarch and cream of tartar together. Stir in hot water with a wooden spoon. Cook on medium heat. Sir until mixture gets too thick to stir. Let cool before using. coat hands with veggie oil before molding. (please note that this cannot be store for reuse!)

Recycled crayons
Ever wonder what to do with that shoebox of broken and "too short" crayons? Here is a good idea:
Broken or used crayons
Muffin tin, paper liners (cupcake liners)
Tear wrappers off crayons. Sort by color. Put paper liners in muffin tins. Place crayons in muffin tin, a different color in each cup. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake until crayons are melted. Cool. Peel away paper liners. Viola!! Ready for drawing!

Coffee clay
1/4 cup instant coffee, 1 1/2 cups warm water, 4 cups flour, 1 cup salt
2 mixing bowls, measuring cups, wooden spoon, fork
Place coffee in a bowl. Add water and stir to dissolve. In second owl mix flour and salt. use wooden spoon to make a hollow in the center of the flour mixture. Pour coffee into hole. Mix dough. Knead until shiny. (after molding clay can either be stored in a plastic bag for reuse or hardened by baking in a 350 degree over for 1 hour)

Have fun trying these inexpensive ideas with your child. For more information check out The Cooking Book by Laura J. Colker.

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