Between nursery furniture, clothes and other gear, you can rack up some serious debt before your child learns how to crawl. With all these expenses, it can be hard to find room in your budget for toys and games, but these items are important for your baby's development. Here are a few ways to keep your little one entertained without going broke.
Garage sales and second hand items Second hand items are far less expensive than retail, and toys are no exception. Check out the garage sales in your area, and you might find some great deals. You'll want to get there early before all the best things have sold. Another great source of low-cost toys is a swap site, where you can both buy items for your child and sell them when outgrown. A quick Google search for "toy swap" should yield a few popular sites.
Keep it simple Toys don't have to be elaborate or flashy to keep a child's attention. He may even find a few on his own - such as a big cardboard box that becomes a pirate ship, or a wrapping paper core that doubles as a knight's sword. Introduce your child to other common items that can become fun toys. A sock and a few markers can become a hand puppet and (for as long as your nerves can take it) a pan and wooden spoon make a great drum set. Save old purses, shoes, costume jewelry and hats. Your kids will love playing dress-up.
Get crafty Sidewalk chalk, finger paints, paper and safety scissors... which provide both a creative outlet and hours of fun. And all are very budget-friendly. Remember that cardboard box/pirate ship? Let your child loose on it with some markers and transform it into a fort, a house or a fairy garden. Even a simple paper plate, coupled with some colored paper and glue or crayons, can turn into a fun craft project.
Inexpensive outdoor toys A bucket, toy shovel, and dedicated area of the garden can provide hours of entertainment. Just make sure the dedicated area is well understood before your little one brings you a bucketful of your newly planted flowers!
Baby toys bought at retail prices can quickly burn a hole in any family's budget. By looking for secondhand items and getting creative with your definition of "toy," you can give your young children hours of entertainment without breaking the bank.
About the Author: Angie Mansfield is a freelance writer whose work covers topics of interest to small business owners and consumers alike, including nursery cribs.