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The Secrets to Raising a Smarter Child
- By Inderbir Sandhu, Ph.D


Fun (Cheap) Activities For You and Your Kids

By Kim Danger

Make a Nature Display

Go for a nature walk and collect items like leaves, twigs, flowers, rocks, and acorns. When you get home, take a shallow box (a cereal box works well) and cover with plain white paper, or the paper of a brown grocery bag. Cut the front of the box open, leaving a one-inch border frame.Glue lightweight items to the back of the inside of the box, and heavier items to the bottom. Kids can decorate the box, too.

Fun With Food

Make a necklace strung with mini-marshmallows, Cheerios, popcorn and/or raisins -- Bread dough pretzels: Divide a load of thawed, frozen bread dough in 6 to 8 portions. Let kids roll into long, narrow ropes and shape into pretzels. Brush with a beaten egg yolk and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. -- Create a food sculpture using items such as chunks of cheese, marshmallows, fruit squares, gumdrops, etc. Hold them together using toothpicks, straws, or popsicle sticks.

Rainbow Art

Have your kids create wonderful works of art with just a few crayons! All they need to start with is a sheet of plain paper. Have them color dense streaks of bright colors such as yellow, red, green, pink, orange, etc covering the whole sheet. Once they have covered the whole sheet of paper in bright patches of color, have them color over the whole thing using the side of a black or dark blue crayon so that the colors are no longer visible. Now show your child how to "draw" using a spoon handle, gently peeling off the top layer exposing the colors underneath.

Obstacle Course

Create an obstacle course in your living room! Boost your child's agility by building the following challenges: crawling under a table or a chair, slithering through a tunnel made with couch cushions, or stepping on a series of newspapers placed on the floor. Design the course with your child's age and ability level in mind.

Shake, Rattle & Roll!

Make fun and inexpensive rattles for your baby or toddler by using plastic containers you have at home. Plastic soda bottles, yogurt containers, frosting tubs, are just some examples of the containers you can use. Fill with popcorn seeds, dried beans, pennies, or anything else that makes an interesting sound when you shake it. Decorate the containers with stickers, cut-outs, or decorative contact paper. Make sure that the container is taped or glued securely before you give it to your child.

Placemat Fun

An easy way to keep your kids entertained while you prepare dinner is to have them prepare the placemats. Look for white disposable paper placemats at your local paper or party store. Have your kids decorate placemats for each family member. They can decorate them by drawing the face of each family member, a plate of what you're serving that night, or whatever their imagination comes up with.

Matching Game

Save those lids from your frozen juice cans until you have about 20 - 24 of them. Find stickers with simple and recognizable objects, like teddy bears, smiley faces, etc... Make sure you have two identical stickers of each object. Put a sticker on each of the lids. Spread them upside down on the floor and turn them over one at a time, and have your toddler try to remember where the matching object is. For younger toddlers, turn them right side up and have the child find the matching objects. Even the babies like to play with the lids, and look at the objects or listen to them "clink" together. Safe, inexpensive and provides lots of fun and learning for your child.

The Original Mr. Potato Head?
Creating "real" potato heads is an age-old activity that most people have forgotten about. Begin by taking large baking potatoes and scrubbing them clean. Supply your kids with clay, felt, string, yarn, buttons, or other household items to use as facial features and accessories. Use toothpicks broken into shorter lengths to affix the items to the face of the potato.

Remember those Chia-heads that are advertised around Christmas time? You and your kids can create your own chia-like people and have them well before the holidays! Just take a few styrofoam cups and decorate the fronts with silly faces. Fill with soil, and then sprinkle with some grass seed which can be found at your local garden store. Keep the soil moist, and within a couple weeks you should be able to see the "hair" sprouting!

Bookmarks are fun and easy to make. Just cut rectangular shapes out of a heavy-weight paper and let your little ones decorate with stickers, paper cut-outs, or clippings from magazines. When finished, be sure to cover their creations with clear contact paper. You can even add a tassel... use a paper punch to make a hole, then tie with decorative ribbon or yarn.

Mirror Writing
Have your kids learn about the concept of reflection by writing to each other in reverse and holding it up to a mirror to decipher it. This process won't affect symmetrical letters like A, O and H, but letters like R, B and J will be challenging. Not only will they have to write the letters in reverse, they will have to write their sentence backwards as well.

Sand Painting

A great way to use texture in art -- Have your child draw an object on a piece of paper, such as a dog or a flower. With a cotton swab or q-tip, have them fill in the object with a thin film of glue (such as Elmer's). Now sprinkle sand over the glue. Allow the glue to dry. Your child can now paint the object with tempera paint. You can also apply the same principle using glitter over the glue.

Do you want to know how the fun activities related to smart toys?


Kim Danger is a wife and work-at-home mother of a young daughter, Sydney. She is the publisher of a website dedicated to helping moms make the most of their time and money,

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