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<p>DD (who is 3.5) goes to preschool 3 days a week and they recently sent home a really great paper about giving kids gifts that will foster creativity.  The old cardboard box type of thing.  The author of the piece said her daughter's favorite present for a couple years in a row was a box of all kinds of tape (masking, duct, electrical, etc).</p>
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<p>So now I'm really into this idea of getting something my daughter will love and use, and it not necessarily being a store bought "toy".  Especially since money is tight.</p>
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<p>She loves to use elmer's glue, so I might get her a couple bottles of that.  Maybe put together a stationary kit.  Try to procure a large box for her to make a castle out of.</p>
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<p>Any other ideas?</p>
 

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<p>I gave my daughter an inexpensive sand box one year, and I filled it with dirt instead of sand, she played with it for a while, then planted things in it for several months.  (she killed everything in it too).. Edited to add... Um.. just looked, and you live in Kansas.. It's probably too cold there.  I didn't think of that first.</p>
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<p>If you can find an old warming tray, you can give her that, some new large crayons, and some large sheets of white paper.  We do this project in my daycare almost every day, and they never get tired of it.  Even the toddlers can do it with little assistance.</p>
<p><a href="http://clementineboulder.blogspot.com/2010/06/perfect-little-abstracts-melted-crayon.html" target="_blank">http://clementineboulder.blogspot.com/2010/06/perfect-little-abstracts-melted-crayon.html</a></p>
 

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<p>A large tree stump with nails hammered partially in, and a new small hammer for her to finish hammering.</p>
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<p>Foam pool noodles cut into different lengths to build with, or run around swinging them at people.  (again, you live in a cold climate.. those are probably hard to find.)</p>
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<p>A huge basket of little "guys", even if they don't match.  Cowboys and indians, plastic dinosaurs, Army guys, plastic animals.  You can still find these at any Walmart, or Walgreens, and you can combine them in one bucket, and some kids will spend hours playing with them.  (not every child will find these interesting though)</p>
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<p>I think your idea of the large appliance box is fantastic.  They can be made into puppet theatres, castles, vending machines (that's what I did when I was a kid, lol), etc, etc.  Just go to an appliance store and ask for one that they're going to throw out - it shouldn't be a problem.</p>
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<p>The tape idea is great.  Especially a rainbow selection of masking tape.  You might also want to check out the craft and stationary aisles of your $ store for fun stuff.  :)</p>
 

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<p>Spray bottles! Ours get more use than anything. $1 at the dollar store.</p>
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<p>Laundry basket(s). Beds, cages, stables, sleds, airplanes...</p>
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<p>Dish pans -- you can fill them with rice, beans, sand, water...... great sensory play. You can fill them with sand and hide toys in them. Kids can pretend to wash things. Our dolls have been baptized (or bathtized as dd used to say) more than once.</p>
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<p>A new (unused) toilet plunger. It has all sorts of creative uses. One of my friends bought one for each of her kids when they were preschoolers.</p>
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<p>Chunks of wood in different shapes, sanded to remove slivers.</p>
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<p>Beads -- the bigger glass kind that some people use for flower arranging. Great for sensory play (filling/dumping), ours are used as 'food' play a lot. They've been everything from tea to blueberries to dog food. You can get them cheap at the dollar store.</p>
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<p>Small whisk brooms and dust pans.</p>
 

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<p>a sheet/blanket, big enough to throw over a couple of chairs as a tent but small enough for the kids to carry round. Both ours have fleece blankets and they get loads of use.</p>
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<p>Flashlights, we've got some wind up ones so I no longer ave to worry about batteries.</p>
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<p>Tape is definitely on our stocking filler list this year.</p>
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<p>Great ideas!</p>
<p>My friends preschool asks for donations of beautiful junk for the art station and it is amazing what the kids make.  You could fill a shoebox with beautiful junk - old knobs, twist ties, scratched cds, etc.</p>
 

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<p>A year or two ago, someone mentioned putting together a box of nuts and bolts and tin can to make a "robot in a box". I didn't give it as a gift, but I did do it as a craft one day with my kids and it was a big hit.</p>
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<p>We do tons of box play here. I recently built a castle. We have also made a pirate ship. And individual cars that fit over them and they can hold onto (cut out handles) and they drive them all around.</p>
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<p>Box of glue, glitters and things to glitter up. There isn't a kid on earth that doesn't want to make a glitter mess. We just glittered a tons of pine cones. The boys loved it.</p>
 

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<p>for christmas the boys are getting craft stuff..</p>
<p>glue paper scissors pipe cleaners pom pom balls google eye popscile sticks piant all the fun sort of stuff... easy to get at the dollar store and hours of fun</p>
 

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<p>Art supplies are great. I just went through all my daughter's toys, and literally half of them are art supplies.  Paint, paper, markers, crayons (different sizes, colors --but all washable!) Stickers, cheapo wooden paintable shapes, felt, foam, foam shapes, cardboard, tape, stamps, (washable) ink, glue sticks, glitter glue (washable!), pipe cleaners, beads for pipe cleaners, cheapo disposable pie plates, chopsticks, modeling clay, play dough, cheap cookie cutters for the play dough, construction paper, chalk, paint brushes, stencils, tissue paper, tracing paper, notebook paper, tractor paper, yarn, ribbon, tp cardboard tubes, paper towels, cloth, and the list goes on!!</p>
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<p>Also, the hardware store is great! Tape, chain, rope, nuts, bolts, dowels -- all great fun for toddlers!</p>
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<p>FYI, I am indeed that nutty parent who lets their kid paint on the windows. ;)</p>
 

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<p>This year we did a dress up trunk for Christmas. The girls haven't stopped playing with the stuff in it since they opened it.</p>
<p>I did an art travel kit for my oldest, just a sketch pad and pencils in a cloth bag I made her.</p>
<p>I also did some bean bags for Christmas and the girls have been doing a lot of interesting things with them (combining them with the dress up trunk, its fun to watch).</p>
 

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<p>all of even this depends on your child's personality.</p>
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<p>my dd's favourites then and now still are trying to see how things work. put together and what happens. so she is not a lego child.</p>
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<p>so i give her my rejected oils, kookaid, pudding, make up, soap, shampoo - different grades, types, viscocity liquids and she will put them together and see what happens. and spices too. she loves that.</p>
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<p>different kinds of sand. not necessarily the colour, but the coarsness of it.</p>
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<p>rubber bands (she's had a love affair with rubber bands since she was a year old. at 1 she could spend HOURS playing and making things with rubber bands like spider webs)</p>
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<p>paper clips. </p>
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<p>an empty book shelf and blocks - instant doll house.</p>
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<p>she still experiments but now i have garnered that in cooking and she loves that. </p>
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<p>btw for my kid - the messier the better. even today. she is a v. tactile child. </p>
 

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<p>lovin' these ideas....and it's bringing back  memories of...</p>
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<p>My "Heart Family Dollhouse"....which was my old desk.  Two stories.  The top of the desk was "upstairs".  ;)</p>
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<p>The upstairs was "carpeted" and the couch "upholstered" with pretty towels from the linen closet.</p>
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<p>The 'couch' was actually an encyclopedia opened up against the wall (the right way, not a way that wrecked the book)</p>
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<p>The "beds" for the little kids were my mom's empty check blank boxes.  The adults had a shoe box. (probably with another pilfered hand towel for a bedspread) Upside down, not with the dolls inside. </p>
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<p>Oh and I remember making the little kids 'blankets' for their beds by cutting up some outgrown thermal PJ's that had pink and blue hearts all over them...and my friend and I raided her mom's old jean pile (I think she did quilts or something) to make "jean jackets" for our dolls...</p>
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<p>SO......old boxes of any size.  Fabric.  Craft supplies. Sewing needles, buttons, scissors. I mean, I had these dolls and played with this stuff for YEARS...that's why something like 25 years later I remember what the PJ fabric was....:lol</p>
 

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<p>I remember our refrigerator box.  We had that thing for years in the garage.  It was a house, a car, an embassy, an airplane, a store, a cave... We played with it and kept repairing it with duct tape until I was 12.  Then I think it finally fell apart.  My mom also let us have a closet under the stairs as our "place" and that was all of the above and more.</p>
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<p>DD gets a cabinet in the kitchen.  We keep her plates, cups, forks, napkins and tea pot in it, but she also empties it out and sits inside of it.</p>
 

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<p>Another one, old sheets, blankets, towels, baby blankets etc.. My girls love to build forts, make teepees, doll houses, palaces etc. Just about anything can be made by using old sheets it seems.</p>
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<p>Baby food jars seem to be pretty popular with my two as well. I worry a bit with this one though since they are glass. My girls have a tendency to throw things.</p>
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<p>Old forks/knives/spoons- the girls got into the silverware drawer yesterday and make a whole little "base" (wow, are my kids military kids or what? Its not a city, its a base <span><img alt="ROTFLMAO.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/ROTFLMAO.gif">) with the silverware and some cooking utensils.</span></p>
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<p><span>small bookshelves.. specially ones with the back out can be used as a puppet theatre one minute, a doll house the next and the "space shuttle" the next.</span></p>
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<p><span>Laundry baskets.. We are always losing our laundry baskets to the girls because they need a cave/house/net/etc for one thing or another. Trash can to but I put a stop to that until I can get another one. I kind of like not having my trash all over the kitchen because the kids wanted to use the trash can for one thing or another.</span></p>
 

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<p>We made this cardboard kitchen out of two boxes, a $1 bowl from the dollar store, a pump top from an empty lotion container, some duct tape and some paper plates.  The kids (4 and 1) loved it so much.  The 4 year old cried when it was replaced with a real wooden play kitchen she got for christmas.  She wants the cardboard one back!</p>
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<p><a href="http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/cardboard-kitchen-953500/" target="_blank">http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/cardboard-kitchen-953500/</a></p>
 
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