Contrary to popular belief, my decision to become a family day care educator is not a goldmine career choice that rakes in a ton of money.
In fact, now that I have become my own small business owner, I’ve had to become more mindful to set my clear budgets for my own resources and programs. Which is really hard when there are so many beautiful images of gorgeous play set ups and environments constantly floating around Instagram.
Many times I’ve found myself hovering over the purchase button of beautiful (and expensive) Grapat wooden toys and Grimm’s rainbows. But then reality kicks in and I have to remind myself of the public liability insurance due, and the upcoming first aid training renewal, and the levy for the new web based attendance record system being rolled out, and our microwave oven that recently died… the list goes on and on.
So instead, I roll up my sleeves, turn to browsing my Pinterest board to see what other clever and resourceful parents and educators have done in similar circumstances.
Here are some recent cool additions to our environment, all lovingly hand crafted over various evenings and weekends in the past couple of months. This is not a tutorial post, though I will share any tutorial links and materials used for these projects in case you’re interested…
WOODEN COLOUR WINDOW BLOCKS
These kind of blocks have become a popular addition to wooden block and construction corners. They are also great resources for talking about colours and shapes. This DIY version was based on this tutorial by andnextcomesl.
For the materials, the wooden pieces were from Kmart’s wooden jumbling tower game for $5, wooden pegs, and the ‘window panes’ were from some old clear folders which you could probably find for a dollar each from Officeworks or any stationery supplies shop. All assembled together with my trusty hot glue gun.
WOODEN PEG DOLLS
These wooden dolls are very typical in Waldorf Steiner or Reggio Emilia inspired environments which usually feature a lot of natural, wooden and open ended materials for play.
Popular offerings for these resources are usually from Grapat or Grimm’s wooden toys. I also often spend ages browsing through the wooden peg dolls sets from @melanieshanks35.
My alternative version was made from a couple of DIY wooden doll family sets (from Bunnings for around $10 each) which I painted myself. I also made matching coloured sorting cups using extra thick cardboard tubes, cut down to size and painted.
FUNNY FACE BLOCKS
This one started when I happened to stumble across this image on Instagram. It was actually a silly face board game called Cubeez. I thought the cubes looked cute and were a fun idea for talking about feelings and facial expressions.
No links or tutorials for this one. Assembling it was basically printing out various funny face clipart pictures, cutting them out (that was the most tedious bit which I managed in front of the TV while watching episodes of ‘Outlander’ and ‘Jane the Virgin’). I then modge-podged the cut outs on an old set of cardboard blocks covered with coloured paper.
I always like the look of toy abacuses in play areas. I love the pop of colour they add to a play shelf. However I noticed that none of my kids ever have much interest in toy abacuses in the various play groups or other play environments we visit. So it was not really a top priority item to purposely purchase for my own set up.
But it happened one evening I was wishing I had an abacus set for a counting activity I wanted to do with the kids. So not being the sort to just zoom out to the shops just to buy one, I decided to make one myself.
Again no links or tutorials for this one. I just winged it together using an old shoebox lid, wooden skewers and some beads.
This is by far the easiest DIY toy to pull together. Just grab a few empty jars or clear containers, throw in some random bits and pieces, and secure with tape or glue.
This particular set I pulled together turned out to be a great resource for comparing loud versus soft sounds and heavy versus light objects. We also used them for music and rhythm during circle time, and the older kids pretended to use them as sprinkle shakers in their pretend cooking play.
If you’re looking for something a little prettier and more inspired, check out these rainbow sensory bottles from @finding_myself_young.
If you enjoyed this post, you can check out our other activities and play and learning ideas.
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