Trying something new…

15 Apr

I can’t remember our exact ages (maybe 7 and 9 or it could have been 10 and 12), but I remember a family friend (one year younger than I am) teaching various swear words to my brother and I.

My mom was in the kitchen, talking on the phone. The door was closed so she couldn’t hear what was happening in the living room.

What was happening was our family friend telling us all about different swear words.

Somehow my brother got it in his head to go into the kitchen and yell “SHIT SHIT SHIT” over and over again, right in front of my mom who was still on the phone.

I have a very vivid and hilarious memory of Jesse dancing around, smiling like mad and yelling shit in my moms face.

She was livid. And it was Jesse’s first taste of soap.

I’ve often wondered if Jesse would have been punished had my mom known that our friend was teaching him those words and that be was strongly encouraged to go show off these new words.

But I can totally understand my mom’s reaction. She was on the phone after all. Plus she was probably shocked.

For the record, I remember that it was the family friend teaching the swear words to Jesse and I. He remembers that it was both us who were teaching my brother. I guess the truth has been lost over the past twenty years.

The point is, I think (generally speaking) all kids will eventually do something or say something to their parents; kids test boundaries.

I remember, as a youngster, looking for some tape. I lamented loudly that I couldn’t find the “dumb damn tape!” My mom gave me a shocked look and I immediately started crying and saying that I didn’t know it was a bad word. In hindsight I obviously overreacted but I was quite worried about tasting soap!

As you can see, my episodes of pushing boundaries were comparably lame compared to those of my brother.

So even though I know it’s normal for young children to push boundaries and test limits, I was still extremely shocked when I caught RJ giving JP the middle finger!

I think I screamed, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!?”

And my screaming caused RJ to shut down and become unresponsive. He was quite upset because I was upset and his method of self preservation is to emotionally shut down. He just curled into little ball and refused to speak.

We finally convinced him that he wasn’t going to be punished and my strong reaction was out of shock and not anger. After that, we were able to learn that RJ has seen kids hold up their middle fingers at school, knows it’s naughty, and just wanted to try it out.

I understand that all too well. I remember saying a lot of impolite words when I was in grade seven. I’ve never been one to litter my speech with expletives. If I say the word fuck or shit (etc) it sounds forced and quite ridiculous. But at age twelve, I wanted to try out the forbidden words. I never cursed at anybody, it was all experimental swearing. And I’m sure it sounded forced…and ridiculous.

So even though I know my child is just trying things out…

I can’t help feeling like exposing him to outside influences is going to steal his beautiful innocent childhood.

Overreact much?

Have your kids ever said or done anything to shock you?

National Treasure

11 Apr

Do you know who this is?

20140411-122523.jpg

His name is Rick Mercer and he’s a national treasure!

Well…he might not be a treasure…but he’s very smart.

And funny!

And my five year old son happens to think he’s amazing.

About a year ago, my mom played a clip of The Mercer Report for RJ and he was hooked.

Every Report opens with an amusing talk-show-style monologue about current political events in Canada. For US, readers, he could be compared to John Stewart and The Daily Show.

Then Rick goes on location to various locations across Canada where he will participate in a celebrated event or learn a new skill associated with that particular geographic location.

Rick also does ad spoofs, news desk political humour, and his very famous street rants (I love his rants!). The show, material and style-wise, is similar to This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

RJ isn’t fond or the political stuff though. Maybe he will be when he’s older.

This is what first captured RJ’s heart:

20140411-123028.jpg

I don’t know what Rick is doing exactly, some sort of fun water sport. RJ was amazed.

RJ loves when Rick goes on location because of all the fun and interesting things he gets to do. For the most part, you couldn’t pay me to do what Rick is doing as most of it looks too dangerous!

I’m boring and lame. But Rick, obviously, is not!

20140411-123642.jpg

20140411-123721.jpg

20140411-123754.jpg

20140411-123841.jpg

20140411-123924.jpg

20140411-123941.jpg

20140411-124003.jpg

Looking at these pictures, it’s easy to believe that Rick Mercer is a super hero.

At least that is what RJ believes.

For months Rick Mercer was featured in all the games of make-believe. And if we told RJ a bedtime story, Rick Mercer had to be one of the main characters.

When we found out that Rick Mercer would be doing a show in Thunder Bay, I thought it would be cool if RJ got to meet one of his heroes.

I emailed and sent Facebook messages proposing a meet and greet prior to the show. My mom also sent messages, as did Jason. We thought RJ could even interview Rick for LU Radio!

Would that have been a first for Rick, being interviewed by a five year old for a campus and community radio station?

The event drew closer and we never heard back from Rick or anyone associated with him. I can’t say I wasn’t a bit disappointed.

Several months ago I told RJ that we were writing to Rick Mercer to try and arrange a meeting and he was beside himself with excitement. I usually don’t tell him things unless I’m absolutely sure, but I was confident that our request would be granted. I figured it would be hard to pass up an adorable five year old!

But I do realize that adorable children are mostly only adorable to their parents and other adults close to them. I also realize that Rick Mercer is very busy and he can’t say yes to everything.

The show was last night and thankfully, RJ forgot about it. Hopefully Rick will come back to Thunder Bay and we can see him then.

But still, I can’t help feeling that Rick missed out on something…

While watching Mercer Report with his gramma, RJ once said, “I believe everything Rick Mercer tells me.” It’s a good idea to get ‘em while they’re young! Rick could have really taken advantage of this young malleable mind; he could have told RJ to never vote conservative! He could have influenced the state of government for an entire generation!

We’ll never know what could have happened.

But I do know that Rick Mercer cares about this country. If RJ is going to have a hero, I’d say Mr Mercer is a pretty good one.

This is why you have kids, Part Three

10 Apr

Reason number one is here

Reason number two is here

Reason number three is this:

Your child can be your toy; you can pose him like a doll or do stuff to him and it’s very funny!

See what I mean?

You can pretend your tiny infant is helping you get the yard ready for winter!

You can pretend your tiny infant is helping you get the yard ready for winter!

You can pretend your tiny infant is actually playing on the playground equipment!

You can pretend your tiny infant is actually playing on the playground equipment!

Pose your baby with some stuffed toys!

Pose your baby with some stuffed toys!

Pose your baby with your magazine...because really, all babies should have a subscription to Bitch!

Pose your baby with your magazine…because really, all babies should have a subscription to Bitch!

You can pretend your baby is helping you wrap presents!

You can pretend your baby is helping you wrap presents!

You can confuse your baby!

You can confuse your baby!

Some more stuffed toys?  Sure why not!

Some more stuffed toys? Sure why not!

You can pretend your infant is potty trained!

You can pretend your infant is potty trained!

Okay, just a few more stuffed toys....

Okay, just a few more stuffed toys….

You can put your baby on the moving sidewalk at the airport!  Trust me, it's hilarious!

You can put your baby on the moving sidewalk at the airport! Trust me, it’s hilarious!

You can put your baby on a biker's Harley Davidson!  But only if he says it's ok...

You can put your baby on a biker’s Harley Davidson! But only if he says it’s ok…

You can put socks on your baby's hands and watch him be confused for a good ten minutes!

You can put socks on your baby’s hands and watch him be confused for a good ten minutes!

You can put your baby's hair in a pony tail!  He won't get upset at all!

You can put your baby’s hair in a pony tail! He won’t get upset at all!

You can stick a blanket down your baby's pants!

You can stick a blanket down your baby’s pants!

You can put your baby on your uncle's ATV!

You can put your baby on your uncle’s ATV!

See all the fun you can have with your new doll, I mean baby?

What are you waiting for? You better go get yourself knocked up!

Parenting strategies for our highly sensitive child

8 Apr

Over the years Jason and Is have come up with some successful strategies to help us deal with the emotional reactions of our sensitive older son.

Time out:
This is a fairly new technique. I occasionally used time outs when RJ was younger, but it wasn’t consistent. RJ would NOT stay in the designated “time out area” unless I held him there. But I couldn’t hold him in one place when I had to hold a newborn or (later) keep close to my mobile infant.

A friend suggested the time-out method she used successfully with her four children. Basically, if a child does something “wrong” (decided by the parents), then the child gets a time out (always the same place if possible) and the time out is the same number of minutes as the age of the child.

So, if RJ physically hurts his brother or doesn’t listen to our directives, he sits on a kitchen chair for five minutes, timed by my kitchen timer. The key is to be consistent. Hitting JP or ignoring mom and dad (or Gramma) gets a time out, even if we’re not at home. After several months of consistency, RJ rarely gets time outs anymore.

Stop talking:
I know this sounds awful, but sometimes RJ cannot turn it off. It’s like he’s on auto-pilot and nothing can stop the talking. (Talking which is often antagonizing, teasing, and yelling at his brother) Jason and I have started telling RJ (firmly but calmly) to stop talking: all words must cease now. It’s as if he can’t decide on his own to stay quiet and it’s easier to have someone else make the decision. Then he has a few minutes of enforced silence, which he really needs, in order to regroup and press reset.

Warnings about going places and doing things:
For years, RJ has been infamously resistant to any change in his routines, but he has responded extremely well to being warned well in advance about any changes that are coming.

For example, if we want to do something after RJ gets off the school bus, we try to tell him our plan several days in advance. On Monday we will say, “RJ, Thursday after school we’re going to see Santa Claus.” We reiterate our plan on Tuesday and on Wednesday and by Thursday he is excited about the idea. If we had just said on Thursday, “RJ we’re going to see Santa,” he would put up a big fuss and cry and sulk all the way to the mall.

As RJ has gotten older, we don’t need need as much forewarning anymore. Sometimes, we really need to go somewhere after school but it had to be decided last minute so I cross my fingers and tell RJ as soon as he gets off the bus that ALL of us are going to leave in ONE HOUR to go get Gramma. Nine times out of ten, I’m met with an agreeable child.

Warnings about changing activities:
Just like we warn about going places, we try to warn about activity transitions, such as needing to have a bath, eating dinner, and going to bed. There was a time that stopping one activity and moving on to the next would cause half an hour of hysterics.

What we do now, is try to tell RJ the plan for the whole day or the next several hours as a way to get him prepared, “Good morning RJ, today is a busy day! Remember we have the birthday party and then as soon as we get home it’s bath time and then dinner. Then you can play and relax until bed time.” Usually, RJ still whines about going to bed or having to eat dinner (especially if we made him stop playing Lego), but the transition tantrums have been reduced a great deal.

Bribery:
Even if RJ is well aware that we have a plan (family dinner, visit Santa, birthday party), he will often make his annoyance known through sulking and sour faces. He is a child who wants to be at home ALL the time, but that simply isn’t realistic. So I bribe him.

I realize bribery isn’t a great life lesson for adulthood but often my goal is to get through a day or an event as smoothly as possible while maintaining an element of fun. So when we go to lunch at great-uncle’s house, I say, “Uncle is old and his house is very messy. Do not mention the mess at all. Be on your best behaviour and remember to respond to uncle when he asks you a question. Don’t complain about the food. If you can maintain good behaviour, you will be rewarded!” The rewards are Lego mini figures, chocolate chips, or check marks on the good behaviour chart (more about that in a minute). In another situation, I would say, “We are having family photos taken and I need you to be well behaved. You don’t have to smile but you must not whine, sulk, or throw a fit. If you cooperate, you will be rewarded!”

I also dole out chocolate chips or gummy bears if RJ will pose for a “candid” photograph with his brother.

And the food. As RJ has been a temperamental and picky eater for years now, I often bribe to get him to try new foods or to eat everything on his plate. I don’t even care that it might not be a good idea. Trying new food gets you a check mark and eating most of the plate could get you three check marks. I never force it though.

Last year, through bribery, I introduced pancakes, scrambled egg, sausage, carrots, chicken, and cookies that I baked myself. This year, RJ has successfully consumed broccoli, cabbage, bagels, potatoes, and birthday cake. I’m so encouraged by the progress he’s made and I’m totally ok with giving out rewards for this kind of growth.

Bonus points and demerit points:
Jason and I have experimented with several different versions of the “chore chart” and have found the bonus point and demerit point system to be the most effective for RJ. We tried sticker charts but RJ stopped caring about stickers after he was potty trained.

What we’re doing now is giving check marks for positive behaviour and exes for negative behaviour. At the end of a month, the checks and exes are tallied up and the one with the highest total is the winner. A check mark win earns a reward (RJ always chooses Lego. I always buy things on sale and there is always a small set in storage ready to be handed out) and an ex win earns a punishment such as losing Lego video privileges.

***

I realize that the above is a detailed account of what could be considered typical strategies for dealing with various behaviours.

Maybe you think my strategies are great or maybe you think they’re horrifying. Either way, every child is different and something that works for your child might never work for my child.

Having said that, Im very curious about the strategies and techniques you’ve developed over the years. Especially if you have a “high-needs” or “highly-sensitive” child.

Please, share!

Note: I’m open to hearing suggestions about getting your kid to eat. However, I’m not interested in hearing stuff like, “just tell your kid to eat it and that’s that” or “make him sit at the table until he eats.” I’m not interested in turning dinner time into a battle of wills. I’ve already lost that battle hundreds of times.

Getting Our Child Evaluated

5 Apr

When RJ was about 8 – 10 months old, certain noises started bothering him. I once took him out into the yard to interact with the young mom and baby who lived below us. The babies stared at one another for a few minutes and then the one who wasn’t mine let out a high pitched screech and my baby dissolved into hysterical tears. Nothing I did could comfort him and I eventually took him inside the house.

I thought the other baby scared him somehow. RJ didn’t usually make much noise so I figured the high pitched screech really threw him for a loop.

A short time after the neighbour baby incident, my friend brought her son over for a play date.

Her son is approximately two months younger than RJ

We had them dressed in matching outfits (because you know, awwww) and we were filming them as they sat beside one another. Because I was filming, I was able to perfectly capture the moment when my friend’s son made a high pitched screech and RJ lost it. He cried uncontrollably for the remainder of the visit. He was even shaking. After that incident, my “mommy worry” kicked in and I thought, okay, that can’t be a coincidence.

Over the next few weeks, RJ started reacting in similar fashion to more and more noises: a wooden rain stick, a red monster truck that zooms across the floor, my hair dryer, the vacuum, a toy cow that moos. These were the noises in particular that sent my baby into hysterics. And it worried me.

But I also thought my worry was silly because RJ was hitting all his milestones earlier than I expected. He was sitting on his own at five months and that surprised me a great deal. He was a quiet kid, but we was speaking in coherent sentences by 18 months.

Over the years, we observed RJ become increasingly nervous around groups of children (birthday parties were odd experiences) and how he gravitated towards the moms and dads, rather than the kids.

The noise sensitivity continued and there was also the food issues.

RJ stopped eating most food around 13 months. He lived on yogurt, milk, Cheerios, and blueberries for months. Then he lived on black olives and puffs and milk. Always milk. I tried everything to get him to eat (there were lots of tears involved in these attempts, both his and mine) and then I gave up and became a short-order cook. I don’t care what he eats as long as it’s something.

We stabilized with a routine until potty training. After a few days of wearing underwear, any tiny bit of wetness in the pants was abhorent. And no nighttime diapers either because wearing a wet diaper was equally horrible. Thus began years of waking up to pee several times a night and then needing company in bed in order to fall back to sleep.

This is the point where baby brother started crawling and touching RJs stuff. Then the bad behaviour began. RJ exploded in anger and sadness any time JP got near his toys (which were set up in very specific ways) or even thought about touching his toys. Because 8 month old babies are evil and sinister apparently.

I always wonder if the bad behaviour was destined to appear at age three or if it only happened because there was a mobile baby on the loose. Of course, that is something we’ll never know.

Then of course, along with the sleep issues, sensory issues, food issues, and anger issues, RJ also began having difficulty adjusting to change and transitions. Having to stop one activity and do something else or having to leave the house was always met with reluctance, stubbornness, and anger.

After a couple years of being an exhausted referee between my highly sensitive older child and my carefree fun loving younger, I just felt overwhelmed and worn out. I was (and still am) very aware that I have lots of help with child care, but that didn’t erase the feelings of frustration and misery.

I was voicing my frustration to a friend and she said, if you have worries, go get him evaluated.

Then at a later date, a friend told me that her son was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and from our conversation, I was picking up on similarities between our same-aged sons. She was the second person to suggest I ease my worries by seeking an evaluation. Both of these friends told me where to go and who to see.

So that is what Jason and I did.

Two months ago, we had an intake interview at a local facility and two weeks ago, we had an indepth interview with a case worker. The case worker is going to observe RJ at school and then meet with her team and then get back to us.

After our lengthy meeting, she said that she is quite certain she can rule out a diagnosis on the Autism spectrum. She sees an indication of some sort of sensory issue and has referred us to a different facility for occupational therapy (there is a super long wait list).

I was talking about all this with a teacher friend of mine and she said she was proud of me. I was slightly surprised and she explained that often times parents don’t like to admit there could be something wrong with their child (and when I use the word wrong, I’m meaning something that could be helped through therapy or treatments) so they ignore it. My friend said it takes courage to actually make a plan and seek help. I never thought of it that way, but she’s been teaching for many years and I’m going to take her word for it.

If you or someone you know is worried about a child’s behaviour, send me an email (eatingdirt83@gmail.com) and I can give you the information to get evaluation started (in Thunder Bay, Ontario).

RJ is definitely not a horrible child, but there have been countless horrible times. I’m happy to say, however, that many of his “issues” have been getting less prominent as he gets older. Whether that’s because he’s getting more mellow or understanding as he gets older or because he’s learning to better regulate his reactions, who can say?

Jason and I have also incorporated a whole bunch of strategies and techniques for dealing with our sensitive child. Which is what I want to write about in my next post.

Stretching the Budget

1 Apr

In keeping with the theme, here are my Budget Stretching tips from a broke-ass stay at home mom:

1. If you see a piece of furniture on the side of the road, take it home. We have picked up some extremely useful pieces that have been sitting on the side of the road with a “free” sign. In return, we often put out things that we don’t need

2. If someone offers you something for free, take it. Even if you don’t have room. A friend of mine offered me furniture. Four shelving units and two giant dressers and a double bed with the mattresses. I accepted it all. We couldn’t use the mattresses but found someone else in need. And all those storage pieces? You better believe I made room in my house! I moved stuff around, got rid of smaller bits, and made it all work.

3. Second hand shopping. I will buy almost anything second hand. The exceptions are: underwear, pillows, toiletries, and oftentimes mattresses. We took the mattresses from my friend (mentioned above) because I know her, then realized they were covered in cat hair. No cat hair allowed near my allergy ridden body.

4. Bargain shop all year round. This means, I buy Christmas and birthday presents months in advance so I can spread the cost out over the whole year. I especially can’t stand the thought of having to do all my Christmas shopping in the month before Christmas.

5. In contrast, avoid going to the sales. If you see that there’s an amazing sale happening during a particularly tight time, avoid going because “just looking” can be dangerous. On occasion, I’ve gone to ridiculous sales where the lowest ticket price has been an additional fifty percent off. I love those sales because they make clothes cheaper than Value Village. But even though, I once got 200.00 worth of clothes for 60.00, it might have been 60 dollars I needed for the phone bill.

6. When buying new, buy stuff that will last. Once I bought a winter coat for 210.00. It’s the most money I’ve ever spent on an item of clothing (almost triple the cost of my wedding dress) and it physically hurt to swipe the debit card. However, I’ve had that coat for over a decade and it’s still in good condition.

7. Repurpose and regift. Often I will give second-hand (but barely used or never opened or in very good quality) gifts. Most of the time I will inform the recipient that it’s second hand. I would say that most people don’t care and some even appreciate receiving second hand. Obviously I do, and my kids don’t care one way or the other.

8. Keep everything. This is sort of tongue in cheek because obviously you can’t keep everything you’ve ever owned. Some people hate clutter and find it stifling. I myself like clutter and junk and stuff. Often, if I need something, all I have to do is look around my storage areas and I have something at fills the need. And if I don’t, my mom does.

9. Get an allowance. This only works if your mommy loves you. Just kidding. It only works if your mom is an empty nester making more money than when her kids lived at home. My mom helps me pay for my cell phone and my sponsored child. To her it’s a win-win situation because she can text me whenever she wants, plus she is helping a child in need.

10. Use your mother’s pantry as a secondary grocery store. If I’m out of beans or tomato sauce or bread, I call my mom.

11. Go grocery shopping with your mom. If I’m buying things for the kids, like milk, my mom will often pay for it. Or she’ll say she needs at least 100.00 worth of groceries to get 100 air miles. Or there’s a buy one get one sale on toilet paper and she only needs one. Or she is buying a big thing of snow peas and she has to split it with me because she won’t be able to eat them before they rot. Or she says, do you even have money? Whatever, I’ll just get it. No no, just pretend It’s gas money for the use of your car.

12. Free babysitting. My amazing mom is always willing (when she’s able) to watch the boys.

13. Go on vacation with your mom. Yes mom, I would love to use your air miles to fly to Alberta. Yes, the kids would love to see Uncle Jesse. Yes, we would love to go see Gramma/Manitoba family in your rental car and/or hotel room. What’s that mom, you’re thinking of going to Duluth and would like some company on the drive and in the hotel? I think we could make that work for us.

14. Tell your dad that the kids need milk and cookies. If my dad has just finished a job, he has a bit of money. Sometimes I just randomly ask him for five or ten dollars so I can go to the bakery down the block and get bread, milk, and cookies for the kids. He will fork it over if it’s for the kids.

15. Take advantage of your brother’s generosity. When bro comes to town, he often asks if there are any jobs around the house that need doing. He is also an amazing birthday present giver, in that he will supply me with something I desperately need for the house. I couldn’t ask for a better brother and I would definitely do the same for him if our situations were reversed.

16. Pay bills monthly, even if they are charged every second month. Electricity is billed every two months. It’s easier to pay a smaller lump sum every month than be hit with a huge bill every second month. Or every third month in the case of water.

17. Free entertainment. Do stuff that doesn’t cost money. Nature walks, neighbourhood walks, parks, splash pads, back yard fun.

18. Cheap entertainment. Do stuff that doesn’t cost A LOT of money. Provincial parks (they usually ask for a donation)

19. Take advantage of social services. If you fit the criteria, PRO kids in Thunder Bay will pay for your children to attend one lesson (swimming, gymnastics, etc) per season.

20. Don’t eat out a lot…but when you do eat out, go to places like “kids eat free at Montana’s on Tuesdays”. Or “kids eat for 299 on Wednesdays at Applebees.” But if you’re able to use your free babysitter, you can go someplace nicer (and local). Then just order water to avoid high drink prices.

21. If you love to shop and spend (like a Jason and I), keep your credit card limits low.

22. If you have boys, just shave their heads or hack away unprofessionally to save salon/barber costs. Or have a mother who will say, “Come on, give him a “real” hair cut, I’ll even pay for it!”

23. Don’t buy a lawn mower. Just push your dad’s lawn mower down the back lane and down the street a few times during summer months.

24. Don’t hide your financial situation from your children. Lying and saying everything is fine is, in my opinion, not a good idea. You shouldn’t wail and lament about money troubles to your kids because kids shouldn’t have to bare the burdens of his or her parents. But there is nothing wrong with doling out age appropriate information about your family’s finances. My older son knows that our family can’t afford do do or buy certain things but he also knows that we have love and everything we need.

25. Count your blessings. Money can buy things but it really can’t buy happiness.

Please note that these “tips” were posted on April Fool’s day as a way to convey the tongue-in-cheek nature for which I was aiming. Some of these “tips” are real (and possibly helpful) but others are obviously only applicable to the situation I have with my wonderfully generous mother.

Also, ignore any spelling and/or grammar problems and run-on sentences. No time for editing today!.

Entertaining Young Children on a Budget

29 Mar

Remember a few weeks ago, when I outed myself as a stay-at-home mother in a low income family?

Well, it wasn’t really an “outing” because it wasn’t a secret. Anybody who knows me, knows that I stay home with my kids.

It’s also never been a secret that we don’t have a lot of money.

So for fun, I thought I’d throw out a few ideas with which you can entertain your children on a budget.

The best part is, you don’t have to be broke to utilize these ideas; parents often think they need to give their kids everything in order for them to live a full life. While that may be true to an extent, it is also true that young children can be entertained in very simple and very cheap ways. You don’t need to shell out hundreds of dollars for the latest toys and/or lessons because, with a little imagination, there are opportunities for play and discovery wherever you look.

Don't have a baby exercise floor mobile thing?  No worries.  Just prop up a broom handle and hang some toys from it...

Don’t have a baby exercise floor mobile thing? No worries. Just prop up a broom handle and hang some toys from it…

...or you know, a yard stick will do!

…or you know, a yard stick will do!

Pull out a box of your childhood treasures and let your (careful) toddler explore!

Pull out a box of your childhood treasures and let your (careful) toddler explore!

Your childhood toys make great toys for your own kids!  Provided of course that your parents kept them.

Your childhood toys make great toys for your own kids! Provided of course that your parents kept them.

Find some sticks and find some dirt.  Tell your kid to plant the sticks...voila!  Instant pretend garden!

Find some sticks and find some dirt. Tell your kid to plant the sticks…voila! Instant pretend garden!

Playing in the rain is good cheap fun!  Here RJ is sliding sticks down a rivulet of rain water.  He made boats!

Playing in the rain is good cheap fun! Here RJ is sliding sticks down a rivulet of rain water. He made boats!

After the rain, your kids can have some good old fashioned puddle-stomping fun!

After the rain, your kids can have some good old fashioned puddle-stomping fun!

Endless amusement for a child to put pennies (it'll have to be nickles now) into one of these contraptions.  Plus, you're donating to local charities too!

Endless amusement for a child to put pennies (it’ll have to be nickles now) into one of these contraptions. Plus, you’re donating to local charities too!

Check out the local wild life.  In warmer weather, RJ and I used to walk the exact same route every day so he could see the same animals every day.  It was all just cats and dogs, but he loved it.

Check out the local wild life. In warmer weather, RJ and I used to walk the exact same route every day so he could see the same animals every day. It was all just cats and dogs, but he loved it.

Go to (free) playgrounds!  This is an obvious one!

Go to (free) playgrounds! This is an obvious one!

Free water parks or splash pads!

Free water parks or splash pads!

Keep the bubble wrap to reuse for your own packaging needs...or let your kid pop the bubbles!

Keep the bubble wrap to reuse for your own packaging needs…or let your kid pop the bubbles!

Some parcels come packed with great gobs of brown paper.  It's better than all the plastic stuff, plus free colouring paper for your kids!

Some parcels come packed with great gobs of brown paper. It’s better than all the plastic stuff, plus free colouring paper for your kids!

Homemade play-dough, there's another obvious one!

Homemade play-dough, there’s another obvious one!

Let your kid empty cupboards.  It's fun and it's a great way to sort, organize, and see what you don't need anymore.

Let your kid empty cupboards. It’s fun and it’s a great way to sort, organize, and see what you don’t need anymore.

This is salt and pepper poured on a plate.  RJ was making designs and he was loving it.  Salt and pepper aren't very expensive!

This is salt and pepper poured on a plate. RJ was making designs and he was loving it. Salt and pepper aren’t very expensive!

Turn your diaper boxes into castles!

Turn your diaper boxes into castles!

Before our kids had early bedtimes, we used to go for quiet twilight strolls.  It's fun to let your kid see the neighbourhood in a different light (literally).

Before our kids had early bedtimes, we used to go for quiet twilight strolls. It’s fun to let your kid see the neighbourhood in a different light (literally).

If you have a garden, put those kids to work washing vegetables.  Not only will your kids know where their food came from, but they'll have helped get it ready to eat as well!

If you have a garden, put those kids to work washing vegetables. Not only will your kids know where their food came from, but they’ll have helped get it ready to eat as well!

Phew!

Now I want to know what kinds of cheap things your family does to keep the children learning and entertained!

Please note, I am in no way against parents who take their children on vacation or give their children swimming lessons or buy their children toys. We do all that too. Our budget just happens to be on the small side so we do a lot of free stuff in addition to what we provide. I’m just saying that vacations to foreign countries, several different extra-curricular activities, and big ticket toys are not essential to a well-rounded child, they are merely fabulous bonuses.

Up next: the broke-ass stay-at-home-mom’s guide to making ends meet.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 250 other followers