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I live in a teeny little town with no toy stores within a reasonable driving distance. All we have here are the crap plastic toys at Dollar General and a small toy section in the hardware store. None of it is very good.

I need ideas.
 

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Make her a book with her name in it as a character.
 

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How about a craft/messy box, start with a few bits and add to it over time.

Ours has
plastic cutlery and cuters for playing with homemade playdough
paintbrushes, old toothbrooshes and sponges for painting plus a couple of small plastic bowls to put the paint in.
couple of bottles of paint
crayons
paper (we save everything with a blank side)
glue stick and things to stick on (cotton wool, siver foil, cut out pictures from magazines, old wrapping paper)
plastic tablecloth or newspaper to spread out while it's in use!

DD is nearly 2 and likes most of the above although she hasn't quite got the hang of glue yet and we hope to add to the box over time.
 

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For DS' first birthday, I didn't want gifts. (I got a lot of flack, but oh well!)
I wanted to make it a fun day. We had friends/family over, lots of snacks and a friend actually got a bunch of goofy blow-up toys at the dollar store for the kids to play with and take home as favors. it was a really good time. maybe you can pack a picnic lunch and go to a park, or "craft day" is good (break out the pots/pans/crayons/etc) like pp's said. she will probably love spending the day with you and not mind if she doesn't get a new toy!
 

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For my DS's first birthday, I made it a "no" free day. It was just her day with nothing but my undivided, positive appreciation of her all day. If I needed her to stop doing something to keep her safe, I had to find a light, positive way to redirect her. That whole concept in and of itself made it a wonderful, happy day for her. It doesn't cost a dime to make a day so happy.

Faith
 

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You know there are a lot of great ideas on the Martha Stewart website on making instruments & kaleidescopes for kids. Or what about getting some paper and the two of you sit down and make a fun birthday hat? I did that with one of the boys I used to nanny for-it was in his Pooh phase, so I made a paper cone hat and drew all the characters and we pasted them on and I even had tigger jumping off the cone with a pipe cleaner tail in a coil on top! He loved it. I even had Eeyore "call" him (I was on the other end of the line-Eeyore was the only voice I could do). It was fun! For the older boys birthday party, his mom got appliance boxes and we made all kinds of game booths in the living room. It was great. Maybe you can make a carnival in the house with stuff you have?
 

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Make her some home-made Play-Doh. It's cheap and easy.
 

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happy birthday mama!

Maybe make up some bubbles (like, fill a tub with bubble bath or just dish soap bubbles if your babe doesn't have sensitive skin) and let her blow bubbles and splash in bubbles, etc. My dd would probably go crazy if she was given the chance to surround herself in bubbles!
 
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