Ideas for how to keep your little one entertained with household items instead of traditional toys.
I quickly found that my little one is more interested in playing with things he’s “not supposed” play with instead of his toys. Rather than buying a bunch of toys, I’ve opted to create fun experiences with household goods. I like doing so because he learns about actual things he’ll use one day, and I’m able to rotate items frequently based on his interests and abilities. Of course, if I allow him to play with household goods, I have to be extra careful to make sure they’re safe for him, and I usually have to keep more of watchful eye while he’s playing.
Baby bottle maracas
One of his favorite toys are baby bottles filled with different legumes and rice. I use the baby bottles that came with my breast pump because they have a nice lid that’s perfect for this activity. As a bonus, I know the plastic is BPA free, so it’s safe for my little one to put in his mouth. The game is pretty simple. I take two bottles and put equal amounts of a legume in each. Each bottle will make a different sound when he shakes it. I like that he gets to practice his grasp and explore different sounds. When they roll away, he’s happy to chase after them. Periodically, I will rotate what’s inside so he explores something slightly different, and every time I make a change, his interest is reignited. I’ve used beans, rice, lentils, and pasta.
Popsicle Mold Teethers
When my son first started teething, he would drool everywhere and was obsessed with putting everything in his mouth. If the item didn’t soothe his discomfort, he would get frustrated and unhappy. I was a bit frustrated because he wasn’t really taking the two teethers he had, and I really didn’t want to keep buying teethers until I found one to soothe him. I started looking around the house to find household items that I could use as teethers and I found a few things that have worked rather well. Initially, our popsicle molds were his favorite. He could squish them and maneuver them into his mouth, and they are made from silicone so they were really soft on his gums. I also have a few bath toys that are made of rubber, and they have made great teethers as well. Lastly, I’ve offered my son the end of a spatula that is made of silicone and he’s enjoyed playing with it too.
Kitchen Drawer Exploration
I want to encourage my son to be mobile, and as soon as he started crawling, I began baby proofing as much as possible to give him as much of the house to explore. Rather than closing off all our cabinets, I reorganized them so a few are completely safe for him to explore. When I’m in the kitchen, I just open one of the cabinet doors and let him go at them. He’ll open and shut doors, pull drawers in and out, and he’ll take different items out of them to play with. It took a little bit of work to reorganize, but he has a lot of fun exploring his own home.
DIY Discover Box
As an ongoing activity, I like to allow my son to explore items categorized by room. For example, I might take a basket and fill it with bathroom things. This can include his baby hairbrush, his rubber ducky, a washcloth, and an empty shampoo bottle. All of these are bathroom things that he will use and he can learn about. I may also put together a kitchen box filled with measuring spoons, a spatula, a food storage container, a coffee press, and a strainer. Again, all items he can learn about and explore. Here is an example.
Pillow obstacle course
Our most recent game is a pillow obstacle course. My little one has started crawling, and we have hardwood floors, so there aren’t a lot of places where he can just roll around and practice his gross motor skills, but I want him to keep pushing himself to do more while he plays. What I’ll do is set up a couple of pillows between me and my son in a rugged area. Then I’ll set him down and encourage him to crawl over to me. At first he couldn’t get on top of one pillow, and in just a few tries he can now get over one pillow completely. Of course, once he reaches my side I give me a lot of hugs and tell him how well he did. He LOVES being challenged, and I can tell he’s very proud of himself when he’s able to tackle the roadblock.
The solution to play time with your baby doesn’t always have to be at the toy store. These budget friendly ideas will keep your little one entertained, they’ll help him learn about his surroundings, and they will allow him to improve his fine and gross motor skills. I hope you’ll give these a try next time you’re in a bind trying to figure out what you can do with your baby next.