I love being able to fashion toys out of items around the house. Honestly, kids love to play with the ‘real thing’ sometimes more than their toys. I think it inspires creativity and allows me to save some money. If they break or get worn out, I don’t really care. Most are easily replaceable. A final plus is it allows me to be more creative when we are out and about. Every so often we find ourselves out somewhere with nothing for Ben to play with. Being able to scrounge up something safe and fun can be a lifesaver. Here are some of my favorite ‘toys’ from around the house.
1) Tupperware. I think this is one every mother knows about. Ben loves playing with Tupperware. He can match up different lids. He can stack them. He can put different things into them and dump them out. It’s plastic, so no worries about breaking them. And even if he did, Tupperware is relatively cheap and can easily be replaced. I love this option around the house because if we are away from home and find ourselves without toys I can always ask if they have Tupperware.
2) Old food containers. I take anything- sour cream containers, large yogurt containers, oatmeal canisters- clean it out, and hand it over for Ben to play with. It has all the same advantages of Tupperware. The big difference is that I don’t have to take this toy back when I need to store leftovers. 🙂 Old Kleenex boxes are great for storing small toys and pulling them out. Egg cartons can be little nests for small toys. When Ben was younger I put scraps of cloth in them for Ben to pull out as well. He loved it. Bigger tubs can double as drums, stacking toys, and sorting cups.
3) Boxes. You can see here how much Ben enjoys boxes. (They aren’t just for cats.) When he is a little older we’ll let him color and decorate them. But for now just sitting in them is super fun.
Besides just cleaning out containers and handing them to Ben, I’ve used a few household items to create toys for Ben. Sadly I don’t have sources for most of these. I have to say they are not all my ideas, and a lot of them came from the wonderful Ms. Cindy who used to work at our library. She moved several months ago, but we miss her!
1) Shape sorter. A lot of shape sorters can actually be frustrating for little kids. If the shapes aren’t lined up exactly right, the pieces often don’t go through. An alternative is to take a coffee can with a plastic lid, and cut a small x in the lid. Then get some plastic golf balls or ping pong balls. That’s it! I got the golf balls at the dollar store, 12 for $1. Ben loves it! And he has for some time. At first he liked just watching us pop the balls in. They make a fun sound as they hit the bottom of the can. Now that he is bigger he likes popping them in himself. The great thing about this toy is it stores the balls in itself. Over time the x will spread out, but we just put a new lid on the can and it is ready to go! With just the plain x on top, other toys fit inside too, making it even more fun for Ben.
|Ben couldn’t resist playing while I was trying to take pictures. 🙂|
2) Coffee can bank. Yes, another coffee can toy. We drink a lot of coffee. 😉 Instead of cutting an x into the lid of this one I cut a little slot. Then I gave Ben a bag of pennies, nickles, and dimes and let him go nuts. I have tried to work on sorting the coins and counting, but he really just likes dumping them out and then putting them back into the slot again. If course any bank could be used for this. The coffee can is nice because it is big and easy to open and close. And again, it makes fun sounds when you plop the coins in.
3) Egg carton color sorter. This is another one that takes about 2 minutes to put together. I took an egg carton and colored little dots in the bottom of the cups. Through this I am trying to work on colors with Ben. Sure, most of the time he just puts anything he can find in them. But I have found that the single piece mega blocks fit perfectly into the egg cups. They offer a several colors to work with and practice naming.
4) Egg carton straw toy. I found this one on pinterest. I took an egg carton and poked little holes in the underside of the cups. Ben can take colored straws and put them in and out of the holes. At first he was just able to pull the straws out, but now he can insert them himself. It’s kind of an ongoing abstract art piece. An alternative to this is to use pipe cleaners and a spaghetti strainer. Same idea- poke in the pieces and then pull them out again.
5) Oatmeal canister ball drop. I started this one by just taping paper towel tubes to the wall. Ben would then take some puff balls (Dollar store find again!) and drop them down the tube. Well, it quickly became he would drop anything he could cram down it in the tube. I decided to try to make something with a little bigger hole. I cut out a square from the base of the oatmeal canister. I used this cardboard and taped it on a slant at the bottom of the canister so balls would use it as a ramp out of the hole. (I put some wadded newspaper under it to give more support.) This allows balls to kind of shoot out the bottom a little more. He still tries to cram things down it that don’t fit, but he loves playing with it!
All of these can be made cute with some construction paper and time, but I usually don’t bother with that. I like that they are easily replaced and that Ben loves them. Real toys are great, but it is so nice when I can pull something together without spending much, if any, money. I hope these ideas encourage other people to see what they can create for their kids too!
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