There are a lot of obvious essentials for a craft box: paper, pencils, scissors, crayons, paints, glue… And less obvious but useful things like sponges, recycling for junk modelling, toothbrushes for painting… Here are a few more ideas of relatively cheap additions for craft and other play.
1p stamps are a very cheap alternative to stickers. Okay, they’re all the same but a sheet of 25 1p stamps costs 25p and can be used for pretend post-office play, patterning, badges… Much cheaper than most sticker sheets! For 50p you can get 25 dark green 2p stamps for variety. Sheets of 25 available at most post offices.
Paper plates & cups
Slightly more obvious for craft play, paper plates are great fun for painting, drawing, sticking on, using as wheels for junk model vehicles, making giant caterpillars with, for tea parties (pretend or real)… MG’s current favourite is to take a dinner order and draw what you’ve ordered on the plates – great for both writing and drawing practice. Reasonably cost effective at about £1 for 25-30 plates from pound shops & similar.
Paper cups seem less available than plastic, and plastic will do, but I prefer paper for easier crafting – making puppet legs and arms, as a base for hats and noses… But my favourite is the hole-in-the-bottom make-a-mess craft like cup painting. I also want to try out sand painting with coloured sand, if the play sand I’ve ordered ever comes back in stock and there’s some dry days! Again available in pound shops, about 20 for £1.
I never would have thought of a litter tray, but thanks to this excellent post from Two of Everything, it’s on my wish list to add to our cupboards for sensory play.
Shot glasses & sauce bowls
These are great for ‘experiments’ like mixing vinegar and baking soda, colour mixing with food dies (especially when using droppers for fine motor skills). You can get around 40 plastic shot glasses for £1 or invest in a set of glass ones for heavier use. MG & DG’s Montessori nursery used (glass) shot glasses for the babies/toddlers to drink from as they are the perfect size for small children.
Sauce/dip bowls are also good for mixing experiments if you invest in some glass ones from eBay or similar. The only ones I’ve found in a pound shop were metal ones at 6 for £1 which have been great fun for kitchen pretend play but not sure if they’re much good for ‘experiments’ being metal!
If you scour pound / cheap / charity stores you can get all sorts of different things for pretend kitchen play instead of buying a play set, and being ‘real’ they can be more fun. Milk pans are perfect as play saucepans, wooden spoons come in all sorts of sizes, silicone bakeware for mini loaves or chocolates fit with a pretend kitchen. Not to mention that a toddler will get hours of fun from a pan and wooden spoon for making noise 🙂 Cutters can be used for play dough and fimo, and icing cutters give some lovely intricate craft results.
Lentils, beans, cous-cous, coffee, rice, pasta… All these dried foods are great for play kitchens and for filling trays with for sensory play. Value and own brand items can be very cheap, and in theory you can also wash and eat most of them afterwards too – they also vacuum up very easily!
What other “not-so-obvious” items do you use in craft and other play with children? Please let me know in the comments.