A No-spend Way To Encourage More Play

Posted April 14, 2020

Make the ordinary stand out for your children

There is a lot of using what we have in this house at the moment and I’m sure you’re all feeling the same. With home education and three children in the house, we have an array of toys and craft supplies at our disposal. But we’ve never had to ask so much of what we have before.

Usually, what we do have neatly fills in the gaps around weekly activities, family visits, appointments, trips to the park, supermarket outings, haircuts, swimming lessons, visits from friends, bike rides, wood walks and leisurely library afternoons. One full family life. Here are a few different ways we have helped the toys we have expand to fit the space and time we are currently spending at home.

Mix it up

By combining different types of toys together, throwing in a scarf, or giving everything a theme, we get a little more mileage out of the ordinary toys. This is a great way to engage your children in an activity fully, using what you have already and a little imagination.

Expand wooden block play


This rainforest began life as few wooden blocks on my daughters play table and a selection of her model animals. By the end of day two, she had informed me that rainforests have canopies and added a green scarf to demonstrate the point. We had also created a cardboard river, pulled out books on rainforest animals and discussed habitat differences.

This sort of play works very easily with any open-ended toys such as wooden blocks or magnet tiles. Our go-to is usually animal habitats or a zoo, but this could work just the same with dolls, barbies or their favourite soft toys. My daughter recently drew her own paper fairy for a house she has. Work around what your children naturally enjoy to get the most benefit out of this one.

Create a scene

My younger daughter recently got a new puzzle for her birthday. It’s a wonderful dollhouse scene and the first “big” puzzle she’s enjoyed putting together on her own. There wasn’t an elaborate set up involved here. We added some Duplo people when my daughters started chatting about the lives of the people in the house, after they had completed the picture.


It transformed this activity from a ten-minute jigsaw to close to an hour of Duplo people play, “in” the house. They have since set this up for themselves and continued the game.

An old favourite of ours, we regularly drawer a town or road structure on a big bit of paper or card. We’ll use the wooden blocks as a bridge. One of our daughters enjoys building block houses. The other prefers adding a railway track with the brio. They both then play with toy people in the town they have created. Often my husband and I will get involved but this is an independent activity for the most part and one that our eldest daughter enjoyed before she was also the eldest sibling.

Change your perspective

Our daughters create new art every day, often just with a piece of paper and colouring pencils. They love to colour. I first tried this activity when we were at home in one room waiting for some work to be completed elsewhere in the house. It is a neatly contained activity and it was different enough to extend their usual colouring time.

Attach a piece of paper to the bottom of a chair or table and have them colour it in upside down. Older children could join in on the bottom of the kitchen table. It adds another dimension to their artwork and takes a little more focus to complete the picture.

What will your children play today?

These are just some of our favourite ways to extend playtime. It doesn’t need to be a time consuming, pre-planned undertaking on your behalf to set this sort of play up. You can work with what you have and what your children are currently playing with. You can join them or simply make a suggestion and leave them to their own devices.

However you choose to make the ordinary stand out for your children, I hope you will be rewarded with an enriched playtime and happy children as a result.