This guest post is by Mrs. Broke Professional, the better half of the husband/wife team behind Brokeprofessionals.com

 Growing up I never knew my parents struggled financially.  My sister and I had all of the luxuries that our friends had and could even boast that our mom was home with us each day.  I suppose it wasn’t until I was older that I realized my mom had become extremely creative and thrifty in order to entertain my sister and me while our dad was at work.  Looking back, I remember we had play dough to carve and mold (ours WAS actually edible), picnics to go on adventures (in our imaginations), roaring escapades as entrepreneurs (time to clean out that closet), dreams of fashion week (thanks button jar) and careers as astute architects (award for best fort ever!).  And while these may seem trivial and from days gone by, I stand by the fact that no matter what decade we live in, spending time with one’s children, without distractions from technology and life in general, is time well spent and memories well developed.  And one may even argue that these ideas have been done before but I venture to say that there are unique little twists to each that only an inventive mother could have dreamt up.

 1. Homemade Play Dough

Half the fun is in actually making the dough.  After a phone call to my mom and a great deal of reminiscing she related her play dough recipe for me to share. 

¼ cup salt
1 cup flour
¼ cup water

Have your kids mix the above ingredients in a bowl, kneading and squeezing it into dough, adding water as necessary.  It’s a great time to practice measuring and taking turns.  After the dough is mixed, provide them with an area that you will not be upset about when it becomes messy (i.e. an uncarpeted area, trust me).  In addition to the typical play dough tools, throw in some cookie cutters and other things lying around the house that would create impressions and designs.  On the rare occasion my mom would squirt food dye in the dough but be cautious because this can stain your hands. 

 2. Picnics in the Living Room

It wasn’t until my sister was born that my mom learned how to drive (seriously, she was a city girl all the way).  Anyway, needless to say she wasn’t confident with her driving skills and taking us out for a picnic proved to be a stressful task.  So, my evercreative mom starting holding picnics in our living room (it helped that our carpet was green to represent the grass).  To this day I can recall many of those picnics spent with my mom, my sister and my friends.   First we would pack our picnic basket, making finger sandwiches and homemade lemonade.  Then, we would load the basket and “embark” to the living room.  My mom would always have a theme for the lunch.  Sometimes we were dining with a queen of a foreign land who for that day had granted my sister and I the titles “Princess”.  Often it would be a baby doll’s birthday and my mom would throw a picnic for my doll and invite all of my friends and their dolls to celebrate.  No matter what the theme, my mom utilized the items in the refrigerator to make unique finger sandwiches and tasty treats.

 Gram’s Homemade Lemonade (Passed on to my mom by her mom)

3 Oranges
3 Lemons
1 ½ Cups Sugar
Water

 Squeeze the lemons & oranges into a pitcher (dropping in the rinds of 1-2 of each).  Add the sugar and fill the pitcher with water.  Stir.  Sugar to taste. 

 3. Setting Up Shop

Hands down my favorite game as a child.  My mom would allow my sister and I to rummage through her closet, pull out her clothes, jewelry and shoes and create a store right in her bedroom.  My sister and I would price the items, create fashionable ways to display the outfits and take on the roles of shopkeepers.  Then our mom (and only customer) would enter the store and begin to shop.  We would enact the entire process, helping her pick dresses for special dinners or just the right shoes.  We would then pretend to “ring up” the sale and she would pay.  Once she left we would restock the items and we would switch roles.  My sister would be the next customer and so forth until we had “sold” everything we wanted to sell.  It did not cost anything to play and later on I realized my mom would often use it as a time to try on clothes and clean out her closet for items she longer wanted or that fit.  It was a win-win game. 

 4. Making Clothing/ Having a Fashion Show

My mom was very handy with a needle and thread and even more so with a glue gun.  She would take some of my dad’s old undershirts and allow my sister and I to decorate them with puffy pants, buttons and fabric scraps.  We would create elaborate outfits complete with accessories.  When my dad came home he would pretend to be a pageant announcer and my sister and I would “model” our latest fashions with our mom as the fashion photographer.  My sister and I did not pursue careers in design.  I can honestly say the pictorial evidence shows we made the right choices. 

 5. Building a Fort

I know, a fort? Really? But, with my mom, it wasn’t just a fort.  It was about the bigger picture, about constructing an entire world.  We would scour the house for anything that wasn’t nailed down to use in the construction of our fort, or castle or cabin or whatever building we were going to make that day.  We would spend half the day making it perfect, carefully placing pillows and strategically creating secret entrances and windows.  My mom would prepare snacks for us to eat while in our fort and would crawl through the billowy sheet curtains to dine with us inside the tower of the most beautiful castle.  We were stowaways on ships, Native Americans in tepees, pioneers in cabins and Eskimos in igloos.  The sky was the limit, or in this case, space and pillow availability.  But in the end, the fort was only half of the fun.  The best part was creating a world where we could play, eat and sleep.  (Though keep in mind, clean up is not nearly as fun as construction.)

 As I mentioned before, the premise of my ideas are nothing you haven’t heard before but hopefully I provided some new spins on some oldies but goodies.  For many of us money is tight and the kids are as bored as ever.

 So the next time school closes or the rain is pouring down on your weekend, round up the kids and tackle an in-home, inexpensive adventure!  You might just surprise yourself and more importantly, your kids.

 Join our husband/wife blogging team as we discuss budgeting, debt repayment and life in general for the overeducated and underpaid, over at Brokeprofessionals.com.

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