For Christmas, we got our baby one present. That’s it.
- At 7 months old, she wouldn’t know what she was missing.
- We thought her grandparents might do what grandparents do best. (They did.)
- On the big day, her favorite people handed over a steady stream of colorful paper to crumple and tear and eat, not to mention the boxes. So many boxes!
But mostly, we stiffed Bailey on presents because babies are perfectly happy playing with everyday items around the house. They don’t need plastic, blinking, ringing toys designed especially for babies and for giving mom a truly spectacular migraine.
“Some active toys – the ones with the bells and whistles – prompt kids to sit back and be entertained by pushing buttons. But passive toys make for active kids. When the toy is simple, a child is forced to be creative, dynamic and engaged on an entirely different level, which enables and promotes development.”
Here’s What You Should Be Spending Money On
If you want to make your baby’s day, here’s a list of toys he will go BANANAS over, and they won’t cost you a dime. Not things he wants and can’t have like cords and toilet paper and dog food. For example, although Bailey would love to play with the remote controls, we don’t let her because of the nasty chemicals in most electronics.
This is a list of all the things around your house that are (relatively) safe and will put your baby in a magical trance.
The day I discovered the potato masher would keep Bailey entertained for 15 minutes straight? That was a good day.
Your house is chock FULL of these hidden baby toys. Rotate through them every couple days to keep baby interested. Variety is key. Having a wide variety of toys actually makes babies smarter!
First, a Disclaimer
Always supervise your baby when playing with unofficial baby toys like this. Actually, always supervise your baby when they’re playing with ANYTHING. As a baby, Abby once choked on a piece that came off a baby rattle for her exact age range, made by a very respectable company. I had to perform the baby Heimlich maneuver. And then I sat down and cried in a very unattractive way, complete with snot running down my face.
The toy was later recalled. But my point is this: Humans make baby toys, and humans also make mistakes. Constant vigilance, as dear old Mad Eye Moody would say. These household items are relatively safe, but you gotta watch those little bags of slobber and puke at ALL TIMES. Also, please don’t sue me.
From Your Kitchen
1. Wooden Spoons
Great for teething babies to chew on and for banging on…
2. Nested Mixing Bowls
Bailey will bang on the bowls, stack the bowls, turn the bowls upside down, put things in the bowls, try to sit in the bowls.
Just make sure the plastic is BPA-free like this set, for when baby inevitably chews on them.
(Plus, this set is made from recycled plastic, it’s dishwasher-safe, and they’re made in the USA.)
Another great choice for teething babies. (Side note: For all the utensils in this list, just watch to make sure they don’t get a little overzealous in seeing how far they can get the handle in their mouths.)
4. Muffin Tin
Load each hole up with a baby toy like a wooden block, and watch your little one go to town.
5. Fruit Rope
Not for eating. For crinkling!
Bailey will “work” on a Clif fruit rope for a good 10 minutes straight, focused as can be.
When she starts to wear down the integrity of the wrapper with her vigorous crinkling, I swap it out for a new one, and I get to eat the old one. SCORE.
6. Measuring Spoons on a Ring
This set is BPA-free and super colorful too.
7. Empty Food Containers With Lids
Cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt, those clear plastic containers in the bulk food aisle. Clean them out, stack them up, and grab your phone because you’re about to get at least 15 minutes free, and Facebook isn’t going to check itself.
8. Potato Masher
Makes a great bath toy.
I prefer to give Bailey our silicone whisk because it seems like fitting your tongue between two silicone bits would be more pleasant than between two metal bits.
11. Wooden Rolling Pin
Bailey loves to push this sucker around all over the floor.
12. Ice Cube Tray
Same concept as the muffin tin, but in a more chewable format.
13. Sturdy Plastic Cups
Babies love to stack them, put stuff in them, empty them out, roll them around on the floor, chew on them – the possibilities are endless, really.
Here’s a colorful BPA-free set.
They also work great in the bath.
14. Baby Food Jars
Fill empty, clean jars with different things like uncooked rice or beans, beads, sequins, pom poms, or anything else small and interesting. Then screw the lid on super tight (you could even glue it if you’re neurotic about choking like me). Baby will shake, rattle, and roll.
From Your Closet
15. Baseball Hats
As long as you’re okay with the faint smell of baby slobber next time you wear it.
16. Leather Belt
When Ty gets dressed every morning, Bailey about goes apeshit trying to get to his belt before it’s on and out of her reach. If you’re worried about the metal buckle, get a belt with a leather buckle like this.
The more straps and compartments, the better.
We can sit Bailey down with a backpack, and she’ll explore and explore and explore.
Her Stokke carrier also serves this purpose well. We just undo all the buckles and let her go to town.
18. Laundry Basket
Put baby in it, put her toys in it, or turn it over and let her push it around.
19. That Purse From 1998 in the Back of Your Closet
You’re never going to use it again, so let baby add some character with an intricate pattern of teeth marks.
From Your Bathroom and Elsewhere
20. Handheld Mirror
Another baby who does everything she does at the same time? Mind blown.
21. Empty Wipes Containers
Fill the empty container with fabric scraps and let him pull them out.
22. Hair Rollers
23. Wooden Massager
Just keep an eye on those little balls in case they start to come loose.
We keep our kids’ movies on the bottom shelf of our entertainment center. Bailey’s favorite game lately is to pull each movie off the shelf, throw it on the floor, then rummage around the pile to find the tastiest looking one.
25. Vacuum Cleaner
Your mileage may vary on this one, but Bailey absolutely loves to watch me vacuum. She doesn’t even freak out about the noise. I just plop her in the middle of the floor and vacuum all around her, and she’s mesmerized.
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What’s your baby’s favorite toy that’s not a toy? Share in a comment below!
I’m a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let’s stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you’ll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.