My mother was one smart lady. She had three kids to keep busy and very little money to do it with, so she got creative.
We would often pack up a picnic lunch and go to the nearest cemetery. My friends think this is nuts, but I remember these as being very fun times. When you live in the city, a cemetery is often the closest you’ll get to the country. We were outdoors. We were enjoying our lunch, feeling the sun on our faces, and we could often glean stories from looking at the various headstones. For example, if a lot of the family died within months of each other during a certain period, it was probably one epidemic or another. And different symbols on tombstones mean different things. History, deductive reasoning, poetry, art…there is much to learn in your local bone yard.
She would also take us to parks, armed with nothing but a salt shaker. She would tell us that if we were able to put salt on a pigeon’s tail, we’d get to keep it as a pet. We’d toddle around for hours, wearing ourselves out and having a wonderful time, never quite salting that desired pigeon, and then we’d go home and sleep without complaint.
And you don’t have to buy bubbles and a wand to blow bubbles. You can use dish soap and water and glycerine a piece of bent wire.
One of my mother’s best purchases was a book of the local birds. While we were out on these forays, we’d often consult this book to determine the name of the various birds we’d see. I still have this book to this day.
Another book that I still have is the one describing a wide variety of card games. We could have fun for hours just playing cards.
Some of my favorite toys were the “blocks” that she had someone make by sawing up the remnants of discarded two by fours into various angles and shapes, and the collections of little bottles that I would fill up with various combinations of food coloring while pretending to be a mad scientist.
She’d also call leftovers “Dinosaur Meat”, thus igniting our imaginations and gaining our cooperation on eating the same meal for a third day in a row.
Sometimes we’d make candles out of our shortened crayons, or fry marbles or carve apples into shrunken heads. She’d somehow obtain the ends of rolls of butcher paper, and we’d draw for hours.
You may think it’s important to keep your child supplied with the latest electronics, but sometimes the greatest lesson a kid can learn is how to have fun with next to nothing.