Sunday, March 11, 2012

"Not a Toy" Toys for Children

Trying to limit the amount of toys in your home?  Are you trying to encourage imaginative play or sensory awareness?  Do you sometimes wonder how your grandmothers and great-grandmothers kept their children busy even though they swear they had no toys?

Here are a few ideas for some cheap and handy entertainment.

  • Tupperware
  •  Keeping a drawer or cabinet free for a little one to explore can be a great help while trying to get stuff done in the kitchen.  As you baby gets older they will interact with the items in different ways - trying to put lids on and take this off, stacking and sorting.
  • Pots, Pans and Spoons - 
  • Give your kids a chance to make some noise.  Almost everyone has at least one pot or pan that's in worse shape than the rest or is more durable.  Let your kiddo go to town on it with a wooden spoon.  They're love the chance for some mama-approved noise.  As they get older take the chance for a little music - try to get them to repeat patterns or phrases.  Your kid could be playing the rhythm to "We Will Rock You" or "B-I-N-G-O" by dinner time. 
  • Newspaper and Old Magazines
  • Children naturally want to explore and often this comes with a side of destruction.  Keep a stack of junk mail, old newspapers or magazines around that they're allowed to mangle and tear apart.  Keep these items in a place that is accessible and different - maybe it's own cardboard box in a corner of the living room.  You might have a few rough starts as they learn what they can have and what not, but it can be a learning tool what can be treated roughly.
  • Water
  • A tub of water is a versatile toy.  Fill up a plastic storage box with a few inches of water and bring down the bath toys.  Put down a towel and let them splash to their hearts content.  Put in some ice cubes and watch them explore.  Add a few drops of food coloring.  Fill up some soda bottles and make mini-tornadoes!
  • Crafting Scraps
  • For your younger children this might just be a great tactile exercise, but as a child gets old it's an invitation to explore and create.  Allow your girls and boys to explore crafting - whether it's whittling, knitting, painting or sewing - with equal abandon while they're young and are less susceptible to the gender lines of crafting.  You never know you're son might be a wiz at the sewing machine and your daughter could grow up to be a woodworker.
  • Mud, Sticks and Stones
  • Let your kids go out and get dirty.  Embrace the occasional splinter and skinned knee and let them have adventures in the backyard.
  • Books
  • Oh, need I say more.  Take books anywhere and everywhere.  Make a trip to the library a special retreat.  Encourage older children to have swaps with the neighbor kids, at church or at school.  Which leads me to.
  • Pen and Paper
  • These two things are found in just about every home, or at least are easy to come by cheaply!  Encourage story writing, journaling, comics, doodling, scribbling, cutting, shredding, folding... the possibilities are endless!
  • Blankets, Pillows and Cushions
  • What kid doesn't love a fort?  Let the kids take over the living room for an afternoon (you might want to remove the valuables to a closet though) and let them use all the spare pillows and blankets and just see what they can create!
  • Cardboard
  • We've all got it stacked our garage, or if not it's easily found whether it's from the neighbors that just moved in or the back of the supply room at work.  Children can do amazing things with the blank slate that is a cardboard box. 
 Yes, Hobbes it is.

Any other suggestions?  What's you best tip for keeping toys and entertainment simple?


  1. My mom says we always used to play with the canned goods in the cupboards. Tuna cans are just the right size for little hands. Of course, the downside is that cans are heavy when they get thrown!

    1. I forgot canned goods - we also let Henry play with any of the potatoes in the cupboards. He loves putting them into the slots of a muffin tin!

  2. Great ideas! I've been trying to "de-toy" here over the last year, but it never fails that the next holiday to roll around and they get a "refill" and we're back to square one!!

    1. I hear you! It's a struggle right now as it seems every time I turn around he's reached another developmental milestone and is ready for a new challenge!

  3. Cute. The cartoon is adorable. Thanks for the suggestions.


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