Creativity on a Budget with Inner Child Fun

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Valprofilepic1If you’re like many parents with young children, family fun and frugality are two top values. Valerie Deneen shows us how we can have the best of both with the many creative ideas on her Inner Child Fun blog (formally Frugal Family Fun).

***Note: Readers will have a chance to win a surprise package of inspiring supplies at the end of this interview.***

JEAN:   “Frugal” and “Family Fun” are words that I imagine many parents can relate to. Can you talk about your decision to focus on these subjects on your blog? 

VALERIE:  My decision was largely based on the fact that I am very passionate about those topics! Our family has always lived a very frugal lifestyle, but I was constantly searching for ideas to make our time together extra special, without breaking the bank. It became a journey to cultivate a love of _simple_ pleasures, and the blog has been a fantastic way to document that, keep in touch with faraway family, share ideas, and gain valuable feedback from readers. What a blast it has been!


JEAN:   I agree that you don’t need the latest gadgets or expensive plastic toys to keep your children happy and engaged—building forts out of rolled-up newspaper, making mud pies, or doing simple craft activities together are enough. How does your emphasis on frugality affect how you interact with your kids?

VALERIE:  I would say it plays a large role—real frugality happens when you are grateful for what you already have, so you don’t want and/or buy the things you don’t really need. Many times, my desire to save money has led to lessons in gratitude, developing creative problem solving skills, and most importantly, quality family time! An added side benefit is that spending time with the kiddos often brings out the kid in me too!

JEAN:   What are your family’s favorite arts and crafts activities—what do you have the most fun with?

VALERIE:  We are not afraid of messy art here, so that is always a favorite! For the kids, any process-oriented art is always popular, and those are often the projects I love because each one is unique and there really is no wrong way to do them. We are also HUGE fans of pretend play, and I consider it time well-spent!! Also? I am addicted to cardboard and toy-making. No recyclable is safe from the crafty afterlife in my house!

JEAN:   Do you have any tips you can share with readers for stocking your arts and crafts cupboard without spending a lot of money?

VALERIE:  Let’s see… I would say start with your recycling bin. We call ours the “Invention Kit” because so many things can be made with recyclables! The pantry is another often over-looked source for art supplies (dried beans, pasta, straws, cupcake liners, and coffee filters to name a few). There is a much more detailed list of frugal arts and crafts supplies on my blog.

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JEAN:   Where do you go for inspiration? Any favorite blogs or books you can share with us?

VALERIE:  It sounds silly, but one of my favorite places to visit for inspiration is the dollar store! I love going up and down the aisles, finding cheap things and asking myself, “What can I make with this??”. I’m pretty sure the other shoppers think I’m crazy! Favorite inspiring books include The Little Prince and anything by Shel Silverstein.

Blogs—The Artful Parent, of course! And I _adore_ Color Me Katie.


JEAN:   Is there anything else you’d like to add?

VALERIE:  You can also find me on Pinterest, Twitter (@InnerChildFun), and Facebook—please drop me a line and say hello so I can follow you back too!

Thank you for the interview, Jean! I am a big fan of your blog, and it truly is an honor to be featured here.

JEAN: Thank you so much, Valerie! I just love that you get inspiration from both Shel Silverstein and the dollar store!

If you haven’t had a chance to visit Valerie’s Inner Child Fun blog yet, check it out! Whether you are on a budget or not, she has many great ideas for arts, crafts, and simple family fun.

Surprise Giveaway!

Valerie is giving away a surprise assortment of her favorite inspiring things from the dollar store to one lucky winner. To enter, simply leave a comment by Thursday, January 12th at 11:49pm EST. Winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Friday morning.  US residents only, please. Giveaway now closed.

The random number generator picked #65 so Dena wins the surprise giveaway!

Love her blog!! And what she said about saving money and gratitude is so true!!

This post contains affiliate links.

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  1. Katie Haines says

    wonderfully inspired! I look forward to reading more of her blog and trying some of her frugal ideas. thank you for sharing.

  2. Kristin says

    I love BOTH of your blogs! Nice interview. I’m afraid I do get sucked into the toy-buying habit sometimes, but I also have a closet full of cardboard boxes, toilet paper and paper towel tubes, egg cartons, etc. for days when I have the mindset & energy to be more creative with my active little guy! :)

  3. says

    Thanks for the great blog! I own a company called ArtReach (children’s art parties!) and am always looking for fun, process oriented art ideas! Keep up the good work.

  4. Joy says

    So much of what Valerie says resonates with me. Creativity comes much easier with simple things to start from.

  5. Kelly says

    Thanks for the interview. It will help me find something fun to do with all these paper tubes we have been saving.

  6. Lisa W. says

    This interview was so inspiring! I love your blog and now have another wonderful blog to follow! I am not very creative, so I LOVE all of your ideas! It doesn’t matter what you have / don’t have…what does matter is the time spent with your kids having fun!!!! Thank You!!!

  7. Jenny says

    love it! my sister and i are dollar store junkies too! and after much reluctance from her, finally got my daughter reading Where the Sidewalk Ends! she loves it!

  8. Tamrah T says

    I find it of interest that she finds ideas from Shel Silverstein books. I LOVE his books! Now I’m going to pull one off the shelf and enjoy it a whole new way…crafting fun :)

  9. says

    Love fun and art on a budget. And really my daughter is so much more creative in her use a “lost” things. She is definitely a scrappy tinker, like her Momma

  10. Jessica says

    Ooohhh Shel Silverstein as inspiration…never thought of that! I wish my Dollar store offered a better selection of fun things to use for crafts…though mybe it’s me who needs to see the possibilities in things…

  11. says

    I am back in the toddler world again. (my oldest is grown and gone, the next will follow in a few years, and then we have the new one…) So I’m starting all over again and this time I want to be so much more artsy and creative with him. Thank you for your inspiration.

  12. [email protected] says

    I love her ideas. Glad to hear she in on Pinterest

  13. Pam says

    I will refer many friends and family to this blog. The concern for financial issues when we talk about allowing children to play and use their creativity frequently comes up as a limitation. Thank you for sharing your ideas. This should provide a starting off point for families.

  14. Leigh says

    I love this blog and all the fun stuff they do with out breaking the bank. Her Pintrest is great too.

  15. lyn says

    i like how the word ‘frugal’ usually used in negative terms is used so beautifully here. Especially in our consumeristic life, it is so nice to remember to love what we already have. thanks for the inspiration.

  16. Jane says

    I always enjoy learning more about what to do with less! Creative thinking helps children learn flexibility and problem solving skills… things that extend to so many areas of life! Bravo to all of these wonderful blog sites that allow us to stretch our minds!

  17. Melissa B says

    I am not naturally creative nor frugal, but am working on both! I started following Valerie’s blog last month and loved learning more about her here.

  18. Gizala says

    I aim to be frugal and teach my child not to be so quick to throw something out but to use our imagination to see the possibilities.

  19. Julie R says

    I love what she has to say – we try to be the same way with our children! She’s given me an “i can do it!” boost. :)

  20. Jennifer Granzow says

    Came here from Valerie’s facebook page. Now I have a new creative blog to follow!! Yay!!

  21. Tiffany says

    We reuse and recycle a number of things in our home that keep things creative, and my son is the champion leader for our family. He is 4. Pretty amazing. He loves Hot wheels cars and gets a fair amount of the $1.00 ones. Everytime he opens them he immediately takes the plastic molding off the cardboard packaging and puts in his bucket of “stuff to use for a project”. We also use them for boats ans science projects. He is my inspiration!

  22. jane says

    I use both of your websites for ideas for my kindergarten class and my son at home. So many good ideas between both of you creative ladies!

  23. Sharon says

    Right on the mark!! Always looking for more inspiration to use what we have and not be afraid of messy things.

  24. Angeles says

    Thanks for all your ideas! With a toddler in the a house and a baby on his way all ideas are welcome!!!!

  25. says

    Awesome, I’ll go find this blog and also I’m afraid I’ve not heard of The Little Prince or Shel Silverstein, so I’ll go and search for those too!

  26. says

    I love all her photos! We try to find fun in the recycle bin too. It usually requires some hot glue, but it’s usually worth it. Thanks for a great post!

  27. Marisa says

    Thanks for the blog recommendation! We’re always looking for ideas! Our latest was drawing and cutting out masks from cereal boxes pulled out of the recycling bin. That bin is a gold mine!!

  28. kathyk says

    Just found a new favorite blog! As a former work-outside-the-home mom now a fulltime SAHM, I’m looking for frugal and fun things to do with our 3yearold while big brother is @ school. I’ll be on her site a lot I predict!

  29. katie says

    we’re all about process-oriented art…especially on a budget… we find some awesome deals in the clearance bins and as-is section of michaels craftstore! our recycle bin is a great source in our household, too… thanks for sharing!!!

  30. Roopa says

    I love BOTH your blogs! Nice interview. We love cardboard boxes, toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, etc.

  31. Holly Schwartz says

    Lovely post. Thank you for the giveaway opportunity!
    Have a blessed day!
    Holly in Kentucky

  32. Orly says

    Love your blog and calling the recycle bin the imagination kit is a great idea! I have a 2 year old and we are always looking for new surfaces and textures to paint on and fun ways to reuse things.

  33. Melissa says

    I love Valerie’s blog. I’ve been following it for 2 years and she never ceases to amaze me! My frugality started out of necessity, but now it is just a great lifestyle!

  34. Eliza says

    My goal for the New Year, because of tightening expenses but more so to encourage an attitude of gratitude, is to focus more on frugal living. I’ve learned that bells and whistles do not always make for a better life and I want my boys to see that. Thank you for your ideas and inspiration!

  35. [email protected] says

    I’ve got 4 bags of recycling to put outside. Now I’m inspired to raid them to see what we can use for a project.

  36. Lori Z. says

    With my son’s birthday next month, we’re burning up our recyclables making robots for decor. We’d love some extra supplies for inspiration. Thanks for the chance!

  37. emily says

    I enjoyed reading this…the recycling bin is such a simple idea but i’ve never even thought about that! Thanks for sharing!

  38. Rebecca Johnson says

    Great interview! Really love the pics of the kids playing! I agree… the dollar store is a great place for craft supplies.

  39. Cassie says

    Lovely interview! Ours might need to be renamed as well- “Invention Kit” has such a nice ring to it!

  40. ashley parks says

    Whooot Whooooot!!! Love the ideas and the inspiration! I’m a momma to 3 and a coach for early childhood professionals and my latest kick is digging in the trash! Popsicle sticks are in a cup of soap getting ready to be made into a fence for animals! Our culture is just overrun with buy buy buy. Thanks for being you!

  41. Amy F says

    I love both artful parent and frugal family fun, and read them every week. Thank you both for your inspiration, and fun giveaway!

  42. Romi says

    So nice to read that there are others who understand the beauty of simplicity. Thank you. It is also wonderful you are doing a giveaway to boot. love and light…Romi