I don't buy many toys for my kids (unless they are on major sale and would be adored). For one, they get plenty from relatives on their birthdays and Christmas, and we have many friends with older kids who give us the toys their children have outgrown. For another, I am anti-electronic toys (aka obnoxious, battery-gobbling, uninspiring toys).
But, my girls' birthdays are both in November, followed by Christmas in December, so there's a ten month gap between toy-receiving sessions. So, what can a mama do who wants to bring in something new but doesn't want to spend money?
Over a year ago, I created a sensory tub for Miss E full of dried beans of various colors and sizes along with odd-and-end household items like toilet paper cardboard rolls, plastic containers, and cheap spoons. We would place the open tub in the kitchen (for easy sweeping afterward). NOTE: This is an awesome toy for AA kids, like mine, who aren't allowed to go near a sand box. :)
Now that Baby E is mobile and FAST, the dried beans pose a choking hazard. So I came up with a new idea: a toddler and baby safe sensory tub featuring fabrics, ribbons, and other odds and ends.
Ask friends and family members for any leftover ribbon and scrap fabrics they might have. (You might even call your local fabric store to see if they are willing to donate any items to you that they are throwing away). Throw in things you no longer want or need. I found several jar lid rings in my kitchen which are perfect for "threading" fabrics.
Just the other day I caught Miss E "decorating" Baby E like a Christmas tree. Baby E was sitting perfectly still, mesmerized by her sister's actions. :)