We've all got less money at the moment. But one of the last things that we cut from our household budgets is spending on our children. We would rather go without a new outfit for ourselves, or a night out with our partner, than see our children miss their swimming lessons because we can't afford them. And that's right - our kids do come first. But too often there is pressure on parents to spend money on so-called educational toys that will help them at school and be fun at the same time. So what I want to ask is this: Do we really need to spend money on toys and activities for our children to ensure they get the best learning environment at home?
In short, no. If you want to treat your kids, and you have a bit of spare cash, great, but don't feel that you are holding them back if you don't buy the latest electronic gadget that teaches them how to read, or improves their maths skills. There's so much we can do with a good old fashioned book, or a pencil and a piece of paper. Remember hangman? And how about battleships - the old school type that you have to draw yourself. Try making large number-dominoes for your little ones out of card from old cereal packets covered with paper, or stick a picture they have drawn onto card and cut it into a jigsaw. I remember having great fun making those telephone thingys with string and plastic cups, and using them with my sister. For more great home-made science toys, click here, and links to printable maths games can be found here.
There's loads more ideas on the internet, so next time you're tempted to spend some money on a toy or game to help with their learning, spend a few minutes first seeing if you can find something that you can make together and play together, all for free. What our children need more than anything else is time - yours, and all the money in the world can't buy that.