April, 2009 – The Best Things in Life Are Free



Melanie Lewis

By Melanie Lewis

The Best Things in Life Are Free

 The best things in life are free…as the saying goes. Hugs, kisses and laughs with our kids can come without undue expense or complicated electronic gadgets. What our kids really want is our time, attention and praise. A bit of creativity and ingenuity will garner those smiles and “Kodak” moments.

Let’s start by taking a look around the kitchen. Find a potato and cut it in ½ and see what happens if you suspend the eye end by toothpicks in an old jar. Make sure to keep the water filled and position your potato sprout in a warm sunny spot (pretty much anyplace here.) Within a couple of weeks you have sprouting leaves. The potato can then be transferred into potting soil in a pot in the same sunny spot. After a while it can be transplanted outside.

With the other half of the potato, you can create a homemade stamping tool. Pick a simple shape like a star or a tree. The adults can skillfully carve with leftover pumpkin carving tools or a paring knife. Paint the shape with mustard and catsup, if no other paints happen to be handy, and stamp on paper.

Another fun activity is making a book. Have the kids write or tell you a story made out of pictures cut from old magazines (like an old Around Wellington Magazine). Depending on the skill level, the kids or you can cut out the pictures. Then they can make up a tantalizing tale about Mr. Cantankerously Yours or Gelato Stick or whatever catches their fancy. Glue the pictures corresponding to the story on paper and write it down. Punch holes and tie with string or yarn. Voila, a story they can be proud of and memories stored as a keepsake of time encapsulated.

For activities outside the home, our favorite was the California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) Kids Restaurant Tour. I organized a group of preschool moms and made an appointment for the kids to tour the kitchen at CPK. The kids were able to don chef’s hats and build their own pizza. After the CPK staff skillfully tended the pizzas in the oven, kids and moms, too, partook in the delicious creations. Astonishingly, the cost was, you guessed it . . . FREE. Needless to say, the kids request to go to CPK to eat pizza. Here’s a link for more information: www.cpk.com/cpkids/programs. Check with other local pizza restaurants, store bakeries, bagel stores, etc. to see if you can arrange for a small group tour. It’s a fun and educational opportunity.

When you want to shore up your stash of toys and games, or unload them with little inconvenience, look no further than the area’s Freecycle Group. Freecycle began in Arizona, as stated on the group’s webpage, “It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and thus keeping good stuff out of landfills. Membership is free, and everything posted must be FREE, legal and appropriate for all ages. To view the items being given away or sought in West Palm Beach, you must be a member of the local group.” Check this link for more information: www.freecycle.org/group/US/Florida/West%20Palm%20Beach

It’s worth looking into. I’ve been a very grateful beneficiary as well a relieved giver of unneeded items. It’s certainly more efficient than hoping to find something left on the curb.

As a mother of two small boys, I’ve needed to be clever about finding activities to meet their unending energy without “breaking the bank.” It’s resourcefulness that’s called for in times like these! You too can find ways to “be” with your children, without spending money. And don’t forget to get out the camera.

Melanie Lewis is the mother of two boys, ages 3 and 5. She is married to a self-described geek and works part-time. She enjoys reading, gardening and playing with her Blue-mitted Ragdoll cat Percy and Golden Retriever Rosie.