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Trash to Treasure: Playtime doesn’t have to be expensive with these ideas!

Sometimes as we struggle to keep kids busy and entertained we too easily look towards new toys and technology as the answer. Knowing which gadgets and toys are the best at keeping a child happy and educationally entertained can be both time consuming and eye popping in costs. The good news is you and your child (or classroom) have plenty of educationally fun activities right under your nose; you just need to know where to look!

 Providing children with “open-ended materials” enables them to be creative, use their imagination, allows for longer periods of “playtime” and encourages opportunities to engage with other children. Open-ended materials are just that, open-ended! They are materials that may be used for a variety of purposes don’t include complicated instructions or rules. Paper, blocks, art supplies, play-doh and art supplies are examples of “open-ended” materials.  

 These materials are often inexpensive and can be found within your home. Below are different ideas that use items many would consider trash. However, if you give these “trash” items to kids, you’ll challenge their creativity and see how they turn trash into treasure!

Toilet Paper Roll Décor #Green-n-Classy

Ok, so it sounds like I’m really reaching this time – taking my green initiative to a whole new level by suggesting that saving this small amount of rather *necessary* cardboard might prove beneficial. While it alone might not save the planet, it could be the very tool needed to spruce up that outdated decor…and every effort counts, right!?

Toilet Paper Roll Decorating

I know what you’re thinking – yes, my eyes are still swirling from the subliminal messages found hidden in the deeps of The Lorax, but I have to say, I did sorta love that flick AND if this catches on, yes, a tree or two could be saved. Just one problem – you’ll have to get over the fact that this beautiful art was created by several trips to the restroom! Sounds classy, I know…but as an avid fan of modern wall art and a huge heart for saving our planet, I’m thinking this could be the new solution to that hard-to-decorate space in your home. Simple, low-cost, beautiful, earth-friendly and with unlimited creative potential. LOVE IT!

Recycled art and found poetry

This is the perfect green activity for a rainy day. Here’s what you do.

1. Get out your recycling. Even better, save really good materials for a few weeks – egg cartons, cardboard boxes, strawberry containers, plastic lids are good.

2. Cut out words from the magazines, advertisements, or newspapers in your recycling.

3. Give the kids the words to arrange into a poem. You might want to try it yourself, it’s fun! (Think artist date a la Julia Cameron.)

There are different ways to do found poetry – another way is to look for poetry already written – on the back of a cereal box, in the newspaper – and use entire phrases.

More fun, in my opinion, is to take words and arrange, rearrange, and so forth. Create lots of poems, find your favorite and glue onto a background.

4. Decorate with your recycled materials as a border or frame. Craft your recycled materials into a lovely junk sculpture.

A brush with art colors kids happy

The Denver Art Museum on one of its dozen free days a year is about what you’d expect: wall-to-wall families and happy young faces.

The difference between this kids’ scene and many others around town is that here, family fun involves making, or learning about, art.

James and Becca Dwyer of Englewood recently visited the museum with their families two weekends in a row. While James, 7, was fiddling with shells matched to artwork in the museum, Becca, 3½, was gluing colors to a drawing of a camel. “Then I’m going to color some black on a teapot,” she explained, not looking up from her work.

Here is a sampling of similar family destinations where kids can learn to make art — or simply revel in art- related fun.

1. The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

The center offers classes called Creative Play Group, Mini Picassos and Kinder Clay for kids as young as 18 months, said center spokesman Jerry Cunningham.

It also offers drawing and cartooning classes for older kids, as well as the chance to view the museum’s galleries as part of some of the classes. Instructors all are artists or art educators. Some discounts are available for center members.

The goal, said Cunningham, is to expose children to a variety of art experiences in this multidisciplinary venue. 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada, 720-898-7200,

2. Foothills Art Center

This nonprofit housed in two historic buildings offers classes in several age-based groupings for kids 3 to 12. The instructors, all trained teachers and artists, focus on the basics of drawing, painting, mixed media and jewelry design, said Michael Chavez, curator of exhibitions and education.

Days and times vary depending on the demand for classes. There are discounts for