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When I was a small child, I lived in my grandparents' home. I loved it because there were always many people there, my grandparents, my great-grandmother, my aunt, my parents and often relatives or friends who came "to visit a bit". It was not until many, many years later that I found out my grandfather was helping out many of those folks when they were "on their uppers" (down on their luck).
As a result of the always enlarging household, my grandmother had to be very frugal in her kitchen and sewing room. Nothing was wasted. Butter wrappers became "pan greasers", drippings became thick yellow soap, worn out pants became shorts and Grandfather's shirts became aprons for the women and smocks for me.
One of the best things were the toys and games that were "made from nothing". My favorite was called rub-a-dub. To play with this crafty game, you needed several pieces of waxed paper, a Popsicle stick or tongue depressor and the colorful Sunday comics. You picked the picture from the comics that you wanted to "rub a dub" and placed a piece of waxed paper over it, waxed side down. Then you rubbed the edge of the stick over it fairly hard and Voila- a copy of your picture was on the waxed paper! Magic for a six year old!
Another fun and crafty toy was a fabric board. A shirt cardboard was covered with a "fuzzy" fabric like felt, corduroy or velvet, whatever was in the scrap bag. This fabric was glued down or stapled onto the board with the "fuzzy" side up. Then into the scrap bag for other bits of fabric to be cut into whatever shapes I chose. These shapes were placed on the board and made all sorts of creatures, houses, people and flowers. I could spend hours making the pictures and then lifting off the bits and making new ones.
And the last of my favorites was "card-house cards". For this toy, you need an old deck of cards, doesn't have to be complete. Then on each side, you cut one or two slits, about one/half inch long. Now you can put the cards together by sliding one slit into another at right angles. You would be amazed how large a structure 40 or 50 cards can build! And the best part about all these toys, aside from the fact that they cost almost nothing, is that they will fit very nicely into a small box and can be played with almost anywhere!
As they were "quiet" games, I was allowed to play with them in the same room as the adults were talking. After a bit, I would have one or two of them playing with me. It was a great way to interact with my older relatives!
By Laura from the beaches of NJ
I am always looking for inexpensive things for my son to play with. My stepdad has a bunch of pieces of packing foam at his house and my son loves to play with it. It is fairly rigid foam and works really well for building. This is the fire station and parking garage that we built for his cars. It provides hours of fun and has endless building options.