This scenario plays out in my house almost everyday: The playroom is strewn with blocks, cars are on their sides, balls are piled in the corner…and my son? He’s playing in our cabinet with the pots and pans. There’s no question he loves his toys, but sometimes I can’t believe how much he loves his “not toys.” So much so that I find myself converting old household products into play things just for some free indoor excitement.
So if you’re tired of buying toys, look around your house and see if you’ve got any of these big winners:
Related article: The Baby Products I Wish I Hadn’t Bought…and Definitely Didn’t Need
Remember in the olden days when we didn’t sit on the couch with our laptops? We had a dedicated desk with a big old computer and a keyboard that was attached…well head up into the attic to find that keyboard and pass it over to your child. They will love it! I have gathered all of our old keyboards and strategically placed them throughout the house. One sits under my husband’s desk…so when he’s working, my son can crawl right under and join him. It’s adorable. 🙂
Tupperware with Rice, Seeds, and Grains
I did this ALL. THE. TIME. when my son was younger and it was his absolute favorite. I would take different sized tupperware containers and fill them with different sized seeds and grains (whatever I had on hand…dried quinoa, rice, dried beans, chia seeds) and then hand them over. Homemade rattle! The different sizes and different contents will make each one sound different so it’s a lot of fun for them.
This probably isn’t a shocker because what toddler isn’t obsessed with keys? We had so many different sets of toy keys (one was actually pretty cool and he still loves playing with it – B. Fun Keys), but nothing compares to the real deal. So finally I just gathered useless keys and a few keychains and gave him his own set. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
I know this sounds a little crazy – almost like you’re encouraging them to become interested in outlets. But it has actually discouraged my son from doing that (which, needless to say, was a huge win for me). The key is to let them play with the iPhone chargers that have a removable cord from the plug-in piece (and somewhere NOT next to an outlet). Pulling it apart and putting it together will distract them for quite some time. And nowadays you get one of those with every device you purchase (even though they all work on one), so you’re bound to have extra ones lying around.
Empty Laundry Detergent Tub
One day I left an empty Tide tub next to the trashcan to take out to the recycling bin. Within minutes it disappeared. My son had snagged it and spent the entire morning filling it with toys, then emptying it. Snapping it closed, then unsnapping it. I decided to leave it with his toys until he lost interest…but he never did! It’s still one of his favorite play things. (Also, as a side note – you can now subscribe for deliveries to these tubs through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program – you get 5% off on all orders plus free delivery if you do this.)
This is kind of like keys, except I’ve never found a toy remote that is nearly as exciting as the real deal. So what do you do? Again – if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! Just take out the batteries (please, please do this!) and then hand it over. They’ll have a blast pushing the buttons, but won’t be able to mess anything up.
To be clear, the Roomba is definitely not a toy and it’s definitely not a household product you want your child playing with. It’s not that they could get hurt, but the Roomba is just far too valuable (and expensive) to destroy. HOWEVER…if your toddler is like mine (or maybe it’s just in my genes), they will be absolutely obsessed with the Roomba. If you play your cards right, you should be able to teach them how to properly treat the Roomba (basically, it’s a pet…”Gentle, gentle. GENTLE! Gentle with the cats! Gentle with the Roomba!”) Once you know they can be gentle, you can teach them to do your vacuuming… and they will love it. On more than one occasion we have sent the Roomba to do it’s bidding purely so that my son could watch it roll around. (And just so we’re clear, I’m not suggesting you buy a Roomba for your child…but I am suggesting you buy one for yourself ;-))
Related article: Why Every Mom Deserves to Have a Roomba in Her Home
Child locks are pretty brilliant – they keep your child from being able to open a cabinet and will also distract them for hours as they attempt to open said cabinet. As I’m doing dishes, my son will often sit under my feet trying to open the child lock that’s keeping my cleaning products hidden. He will never be able to open it (I barely can), but it will distract him for the longest time! The best ones I’ve found so far are the ones that hang down on the outside of the cabinet (seen on the right). Since these aren’t actually drilled into the cabinet, your toddler will never be able to mess up the doors.
Coaster sets (that aren’t glass or an easily breakable material) are basically just stackable toys for adults…so what toddler could possibly resist this? When we’re visiting friends and family, one of the first things I scan the room for is the coaster set because it’s such a great distraction that they can’t possibly ruin. My son will play with ours all the time and is actually good at “putting them away,” so he can help clean up after guests leave. Again, it’s adorable. 🙂
In some ways, magnets are a toy…but they’re also a household product that you’re likely using anyways. I’ve just embraced the practice and handed over every single magnet to my son. He will not only play with them on the fridge for ever, but will also use our stainless steel trash can to do the same thing. Make sure you are careful about what magnets you give them though…they need to be flat kind with no small pieces.
Related article: A Creative Solution for Toddler Safety in the Kitchen
Kcups and Their Organizers
I’m going to assume that most of you have upgraded your coffee maker to a Keurig (if you haven’t, you need to consider it! You’re life will be so much happier.). But I bet you never realized that those Kcups are good for more than just your caffeine fix. My son LOVES to organize them in their various organizers (we have gone through two different styles and my parents have a third style…he loves them all!). Obviously, you want to be careful that they don’t open the cups, but it seems that the Kcup itself isn’t the exciting part – it’s putting them in their organized compartment that is the big distraction.
Hopefully this list was helpful! If you’ve got any of your own suggestions, please share! I’d love to know what works in your house.
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