Free Housing

16 Sep

Costco already has its toy section spread out alongside the Christmas decor (right next to the cheese and fish departments – at least around here), and it takes more willpower than I have to avoid walking down the aisles and thinking “my kid needs that.” I’ve been known to take photos of items with my cell phone so I can remember to add them to the list when we begin our holiday shopping in earnest.

I try to remember that young children truly don’t need rooms full of store-bought toys. In fact, as my daughter and husband reminded me last weekend, with children the best playthings in life are free.

My husband needed to assemble several large displays for his work, each of which came in a big box. When the project first began, Kaitlyn was helping my husband with unpacking the displays. A while later, she had a makeshift fort leaning against the couch. By the end of the day, she had a little home with two windows, a door, a roof and all of her latest artwork decorating the inner walls. Inside was a table (another box turned upside down) with all of her play animals on it, a book, her stickers, a few stuffed animals and a flashlight. I tried to squeeze in but the door was made for a 2-year-old to crawl through – not a woman who is five months pregnant. But still, I could tell it had that same magical quality as the play houses my sister and I built as children.

And it was free. Free! It’s such a rare word these days. And not only was it free, but it also provided hours of entertainment for my little girl and my husband (because what man doesn’t like building something with cardboard and duct tape?). That’s my kind of toy.

So next time you are tossing some things in the recycling bin, take a second look and see if they might have some hidden potential. Small cardboard boxes make great doll beds or sand boxes; large ones are perfect for forts. Empty, washed yogurt containers can store toys and art supplies, a drum set, or even a bean counter that uses their fine-motor skills. Kids love containers of all shapes and sizes – use what you have!

And the next time you are browsing the meat department at Costco or picking up a 2-pound block of cheese, do your best to avert your eyes from the toy section. At least for now.


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