Water Paint

water paint


How do I keep the kids entertained while I mow the lawn?  Water painting.  All you need is a bucket of water, paintbrushes, and a fence.  It’s free and it’s fun and it doesn’t make a mess.  Plus kids can practice all kinds of things:

  • letters
  • numbers
  • counting
  • patterns- use the fence pickets
  • math problems
  • sight words or spelling words
  • shapes
  • and my daughters’ favorite: splattering

It isn’t the same as practicing handwriting with a pencil and paper, but that’s the point.  Sometimes kids need a break from the routine.  Novelty makes learning fun.  Who wouldn’t want to practice their spelling words outside with a paintbrush in the sunshine instead of at the kitchen table?


Cardboard Binoculars

toilet paper roll binocularsHow easy is to make your own binoculars?  Just wrap some duct tape around two toilet paper tubes and add some string.  I had the patterned duct tape to really make it fancy.  Ha.  They just take a minute to make and then you can have all kinds of fun.

Use them to…

  • spot flowers, nuts, or leaves on a nature hunt
  • look for letters in the grocery store
  • go on a color hunt around your house
  • get a good look at animals at the zoo
  • act out a story about an explorer


  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • string or yarn
  • duct tape


Five Free (Summer) Field Trips


1.  Spraygrounds- Called spraygrounds or splash parks, these free fountains are always a kid favorite.  Who doesn’t want to play in the water on a hot day?  I was especially grateful for spraygrounds when I had a baby and a toddler.  Take them both to the swimming pool by myself? A nightmare.  But watch my oldest run through the fountains while my baby sits and splashes?  Very doable.

2.  Bowling Alley– Kids can get two free games of bowling every day, all summer long!  Check out kidsbowlfree.com to see if a bowling alley in your area participates.  We did this last year and loved it!

3.  Concerts– Lots of shopping centers, communities, parks, and churches do free summer concerts in the evenings.  What better way to spend a summer night?  Just do a search for “free summer concert (your city name here)” and see what you can find.

4.  Art Fairs- Hands down my favorite activity.  We have already been to two this summer!  Although taking toddlers to a place with large groups of people and very expensive objects is not for a the faint of heart.  Wearable babies or older kids make the best art viewers (in my experience).

5.  Public School Playgrounds-  The schools are out and the playgrounds are open!  Pack a picnic and spend the afternoon “at recess.”  Just make sure to check the signage to make sure it is open to the public.

Paint Chip Color Match Game

I was inspired by all the very cool paint chip color match games on Pinterest like this one from One Little Project at a Time.   It is an easy and FREE way to teach colors and the clothes pin adds some fine motor practice, too.  Only, I didn’t have clothes pins.   And my paint chip samples had cut-out squares.

color game with paint chips

No problem.  This makes it even easier to make.  I just cut off the tops of the samples and then cut them apart.  Done.  Now to see if the pieces match,  you just slide it behind the open square.

matching paint chips to learn colors

Without the clothes pins it is also easier to store.  Just throw it all in a zip-lock bag and keep it in your purse for a waiting game at a restaurant.  Or use at the table while you are making dinner.  
paint chip preschool game

How to Get Free (or Really Cheap) Kid Books

If reading is the best way to teach your kids, then books are the best things to give them.  Here are a few ways to get free (or really cheap) books for your kids:

  • book trade playdate–  Have books that you no longer want or multiple copies of the same book?  Invite friends over for a playdate and everyone brings a set number of books.  Then you can take turns picking out “new” books
  • book baby shower– Have each guest bring their favorite children’s book and write a little message in it.  This is especially a great idea for a second (or third or whatever) baby shower when you already have the necessities.
  • book birthday party– Ask for books for presents!
  • Craigslist– Check out the “free” and “kid” sections of your local Craiglist.  http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites
  • Freecycle– See if anyone wants to get rid of kid books in your area.  https://www.freecycle.org/
  • garage sales– Look for garage sales with kids items and go right before they close.  They will probably sell you a whole box of books for a few dollars just so don’t have to pack them up!
  • used book sales– Libraries and elementary schools sometimes host used book sales as a fundraiser.  The school where I taught had a sale every spring- paperbacks for $.50 and hardbacks for $1!
  • thrift stores– As well as selling used clothes and toys…there are also books!
  • Half Price Books– Shop the clearance section for amazing deals.  This was my go-to shop for books in my classroom.  http://www.hpb.com/
  • Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library– If there is a program available in your area, you can sign-up to get a book in the mail every month!  This programm is for kids from birth to five years old. http://imaginationlibrary.com/