Over the next two weeks, I'll be writing a few posts about playing on a budget.  By now, I'm sure most of you have seen our Playroom, so you've probably deduced that we are currently very lucky - my husband has a great job.  

Growing up, however, my family was on a tight budget.  I even put myself through college working 2-3 jobs and often working 60 hour weeks.  Having lived most of my life on a budget, I do have some tips and tricks I'd like to share in case they are useful.  So that's what I'm going to do with this post.  

Other posts in the series include:
If there are any other posts in this theme you'd like to see, please let me know in the comments here or on our Facebook page!

One Set of Miniatures
(photo from Our Favorite Toys post)

We LOVE miniatures.  We are firmly pro miniatures for small world play.  Do not feel like you need to have all the sets for each small world.  If you have one set - your kids will seriously not mind.  I honestly doubt they will even notice (S puts dinosaurs in EVERYTHING once I'm done with photos, hahaha).  You can still set up different themed worlds, but the dinosaurs (for instance) can visit the farm, or a pond, or have an ocean adventure.  We use separate sets because (well, because I am a little addicted to them) it looks nicer for the blog posts.  But please don't feel like you can't do an ocean world until you have an ocean set!  Our Dollar Store usually has a set of 10 creatures (dinosaurs or insects) that would work fabulously.  I've found tons of our miniatures at consignments store and garage sales.  And if you really love those Safari TOOBs we play with and live near a Michaels, just wait for a 50% off coupon and then a whole TOOB of 14 animals is only $3.99!  If you have a smartphone, you can either get an app for the coupons, or you can go to the Michaels website and there's a button for "Coupons" under "Local Ad".  This is actually how we get a lot of our supplies!

Used Books
(photo from Our Reading Room post)

While I love using the library, it's also nice to have some of our own books.  I have had some luck with garage sales and Goodwill, but by far the best place I've found for great book is a library book sale.  Our local library only does them twice a year, but there are TONS of books at each sale and all are very inexpensive.  I like to look for familiar titles, but also for books printed by Scholastic and Candlewick Press as they are usually high quality.

Go Smaller
(playing with our Hidden Fizzing Ocean World)

Because of the blog, I show my kids playing in a GIANT underbed storage container.  And it is expensive to fill that beast!  A smaller container will be just as fun for your kids.  Anything goes - a bowl, a baking dish, or you could even buy one of our favorites - the "disposable" aluminum baking pans with plastic lids (you can see ours in this post).  They are only $2 at the grocery store and we've had ours for over a year.  

Color Isn't Necessary
(Playing with Cornstarch and Water - no color needed!)

We add color to lots of our activities, but honestly, kids are easy.  S would be just as happy playing in a pile of plain shaving cream as she would in a pile of colored shaving cream - and liquid watercolors and food coloring are costly.

Hopefully there was at least one helpful tip in there for those of you on a budget.  Play doesn't have to be expensive to be fun - I want everyone to feel like they can follow along with most of our activities, regardless of their budget!  If you have any other great tips - please share them here in the comments or on our Facebook page - I'd love to hear them!

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All activities here are activities I feel are safe for my own children.  As your child's parents/guardians, you will need to decide what you feel is safe for your family.  I always encourage contacting your child's pediatrician for guidance if you are not sure about the safety/age appropriateness of an activity. All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision.  Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies).  Observe caution and safety at all times.  The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.


  1. Here's a car ramp that we made for almost zero cost!

    1. Hi Georgina! Yes - using recycled materials for play is one of our favorites! Such a creative use of a box! :)

  2. Thank you for all of your thoughtful posts. This one is right up my alley!
    Our kids have so much fun playing w/ our button and spool collection and homemade playdough and milk cartons-turned boats and toilet paper roll binoculars and the list goes on and on! I'm going to take the plunge and try the water sensory idea. They will love it!!
    Mother Junkers
    Snoqualmie, Wa

    1. Hi Shyanne! Ooh, I love your collections - I think we would especially love playing with that button and spool collection - how fun!!! Yay! I think you will love the water sensory. And once you love that, there's a whole world of other sensory plays waiting for you. ;)


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