There’s no need to buy toys when everyday objects can provide hours of entertainment for baby. Use what you have at home and try these ideas for fun.
1. To make: A Discovery Jar
You need: An empty, see-through jug or jar filled with teething rings, rubber duckies, plastic keys, random safe toys, or wooden blocks. A large sippy cup or a water pitcher will work too—but don’t over-stuff the container.
Where to play: A high chair or playroom
What to do: Unscrew the cap and encourage your baby to reach inside and explore the contents. Or seal it up and watch the toys tumble around as you roll the container back and forth in any direction. Help your baby roll or toss the container as you name and describe the toys stuffed inside.
Add a twist: Switch the items from time to time to delight and surprise your little one.
2. To make: A Toy and Water Shaker
You need: Empty shampoo or water bottles and add plenty of noisy items. Try rice, dry cereal, lentils, or pasta for babies. Use coins, buttons, bells, or colorful buttons for older kids. Never leave your baby alone with small items, and make sure the cap is tightly sealed.
Where to play: The kitchen or playroom
What to do: Shake the sealed bottles and encourage your baby to listen to sound of various objects. Encourage her to imitate your motions. Explain that bells are loud, cereal’s quiet, and pasta’s somewhere in between. Experiment with a fistful of like items at one time.
Add a twist: Add water to a single bottle, plus a toy boat, or plastic fishes. Shake the bottle to make some waves.
3. To make: A Fast and Easy Color Sorter
You need: Four empty toilet paper rolls lined up side-by-side, and several baby-safe toys, including stacking cups, mini cars, and blocks. Glue or tape the tubes together, and paint each one a solid color. Make sure you have a blue toy for the blue roll, a yellow toy for the yellow roll, and toys to match the colors of each of the remaining tubes.
Where to play: A floor or tabletop
What to do: Zoom or push the toys into the tube of the matching color. Name the toy, its color, and the color of the cardboard tube as you varoom the cars in and out of the sorters.
Add a twist: Toss two tubes, and keep the others. Now you have baby binoculars!
4. To make: A Push Me and Pull Me Box
You need: A shoe box with holes and slots punched out in random locations, along with straws, ribbons, fabric scraps, yarn, and chenille sticks peeking out through the slots and holes.
Where to play: At home or on the run
What to do: Show your baby how to grab the items above, pull them out of the box, and push them in again. As he does this, describe the item by color and name.
Add a twist: Knot the fabric and chenille sticks on one ends to boost the challenge.
5. To make: A Squish and Squeeze Toy
You need: A Ziploc bag filled with clear styling gel, glitter, food coloring, flat plastic toys, and tape to double seal the bag before using.
Where to play: The kitchen, bathroom, or outdoors
What to do: Stuff the bag, seal it, hand it over, and let your child go to town squishing and squeezing.
Add a twist: Make a second squish and squeeze toy with different dyes and other toys.