Tip No. 1- In this declining economy, pay attention to the stores in your local mall or shopping center that are going out of business. Yes, it's a sad thing overall, but you can score some interesting deals on some unusual things. You just have to think outside the box about how you can put them to good use in your home.
A ritzy clothing store at our local mall is going out of business, and they are selling all the fixtures. Ask me where you can buy about 12 male mannequins... well, actually, I don't really want you to ask. Weird. BUT... all the fixtures included wooden frames with slots on the top (I guess for their sale signs) and plexiglass on one side. I bought 5 of them for $2 a piece, and now I'm wishing I'd also bought the ones that stand on their own. I thought they'd be perfect for displaying kid's artwork quickly and cheaply. This is Seth's morning painting, cut to fit. I'm sure you could find lots of things that can be creatively re-purposed for use in your house. And if anyone has any ideas for displaying all 5 of mine, let me know. =)
Tip No. 2- Painting with toddlers without making a mess can be intimidating. I haven't felt up to it much, but this morning, we tried it. I made sure he was firmly strapped in his high chair, put a bib on him, and then I eyeballed it and cut several sheets of white construction paper to fit the tray. I put a couple of dabs of each color on the top sheet, gave him a paintbrush, and tried not to cover my eyes. We learned firsthand that blue and red tempera paint really do make purple, and it turned out not to be very messy at all. By cutting several sheets, I extended this little craft longer. When he filled up one sheet, I just pulled off the top one, and he could do another.