Whether it’s the toy tornado in your child’s bedroom or the mountain of toys rivaling Mt. Kilimanjaro in the family room, it is likely your home is equipped with loads of expensive toys that could entertain every tiny tot in a 15-mile radius should there ever be an apocalypse.
Well, for five minutes at least.
Toys toddlers love are often the ones you least expect.
Toddlers really are happy with the simple stuff, like toys made from household items.
You don’t need to spend tons of money on your toddler for them to experiment, observe, learn, and have fun!
Try these 10 household items you likely have already that doubles as toys for toddler playtime.
1. Cooking pots & pans
Hello, musical instruments! Who needs drums and musical toys, when you have a wooden spoon and Mama’s cooking pans that barely see the light of day (only when Dad is lucky ). You never know, your kid could become the next huge YouTube sensation. Imagine, The Little Drummer Boy live!
2. Empty food boxes of various sizes
Tissue boxes, macaroni boxes, egg cartons, cereal boxes, you name it! There are tons of craft and sensory activities you can create with these items. I put little polyester pom poms in an egg carton and watch her move them around. This helps your child with fine motor skills. I also like to hide little Goldfish and Gerber Puff snacks in tissue boxes for Violet to fish out. When she finds these gems hidden in boxes around the house, she shrieks with excitement. I’ll take shrieking over crying bloody murder any day.
3. Laundry baskets
They are fun to climb in and out of, but the best thing of all is they help teach your toddler the concept of chores! Violet loves to pull the clothes out of the dryer and put them in the laundry bucket. Of course, she tips it over and walks around the house dropping brother’s socks and Mom’s underwear everywhere….but hey she is learning how to be Mama’s little helper, right?!
4. Old magazines
Magazines are one of my daughter’s favorite thing to play with. She rips through them and litters the living floor with her art. I’ve come to realize I will always be cleaning so what’s the difference if it’s little pieces of paper or a bazillion baby dolls! For the older tots, they can cut pictures out of the magazine to create a memorial scrapbook.
Related: 10 Ways to Expose Your Kids to the Arts (And Why You Want To)
5. Remote controls
Who needs teething biscuits and chew toys when there are 20 remotes laying around the house? I don’t know about you, but Violet cries for remotes whenever she sees them. She loves to chew on them and carry them around the house. We tried getting her toy remotes, but she’s won’t touch them. Can’t trick this girl. Oh, and she has plenty of teethers, but none like her favorite remotes.
Do you think I could become a thousandaire by designing a teether shaped like a remote control? (Make sure to always remove the batteries)
6. Paper towel or toilet paper rolls
There are hundreds of uses for paper rolls, and most can be found on your local hangout spot, Pinterest. We like to turn them into musical instruments, racetracks, and baseball bats!
You can play America’s pastime indoor with your kiddos: use recycled cardboard tubes from rolls of gift wrap or paper towels as a child-friendly baseball bat, and use a balloon as the ball. Swing batta, batta!
7. Large cardboard boxes
Who cares if Toys ‘R Us closed? The real toy store favorite is Boxes, Etc. I’ve never met a child who didn’t love large boxes. Boxes allow children to use their imagination and open up a whole new world of exploration. From forts to indoor sandboxes, boxes have fun covered. I know you have 20 Amazon Prime boxes hiding in your closet, just let the kiddos have some already.
Make an indoor sandbox by filling a cardboard box with dried beans, rice, oatmeal, or salt. Give your kiddo some sand toys or even just cups and wooden spoons to enjoy digging, scooping, pouring, and more.
(lay a tablecloth underneath the box for easy cleanup)
8. Plastic bottles
Empty water bottles or large soda bottles are great! Save the wine bottles for a Mama DIY activity, mmkay! Most toddlers love to just squeeze the bottles until they crinkle and snap, but there is so much more you can do. Our favorite is toddler bowling. Or, if you don’t mind a little noise, throw in some pennies or rice and make maracas!
For toddler bowling, kids roll a rubber ball toward the plastic bottle “pins” (fill them with rice if you need to add some weight).
9. Pipe cleaners and colanders
If you don’t already have these in your craft bin, you can pick up different textures (velvet, silky, sparkly) of pipe cleaners for $1 at the Dollar Store if you don’t have any on hand. Let your child stick the colorful pipe cleaners through the holes of colanders. This is a great activity for fine motor skills and hand to eye coordination. (Some pipe cleaners can be sharp at the ends, please be around to monitor the tots!)
Related: Watching “Baby Shark” on Repeat is Actually Making Your Toddler Smarter
10. Containers with lids
Empty formula tins, your old protein powder container, the 100 Tupperware containers overflowing your cupboard, your child will love them all. And, the best of all, your tot may be able to match the missing lids to the pile of containers better than you!
What household items do you use for your child’s play activities?
The kitchen ware like tupperware, pots and pan are the best toys ever. Give the baby spatula then they will have their own music band! Hehe
Yes! Musical babies are the best! They say it makes them smarter. 🤔
I am no mom but yeah I have seen toddlers playing with them. They love everything especially makeup kids. My neighbourhood toddler loves playing with it..
Oh gosh! Yes, on the makeup! My nieces were obsessed with that. Not looking forward to that!! I’m going to have to buy some cheap stuff for her to mess up the walls with haha
Super easy ideas. Especially as the weather gets colder and it’s harder to get out of the house, these will definitely help ease the cabin fever!
My almost two year old always play with boxes, kitchen spoons and towels lol
Love these ideas. I have a busy one year old so I’m always on the hunt for new ways to occupy her without butibu more things .
I totally get you! My girl gets bored so easily with all of her other toys, but boxes and tearing magazines never gets old! 😂
Ah – yes the open cupboard door with plastics inside. I used that technique with mine. I learned it from my own mother – and it was fun to watch your little ones dive in and have a treat with all these “toys”.
My kids have always loved the laundry basket. They also love my pots and pans, even thought they have their own little kitchen with lots of play pots and pans.
Love this list! My toddler is obsessed with anything that has a lid he can take off and put back on, so his favorite toys right now are his sippy cups (empty of course)! He loves taking the lid off and putting things inside, then putting the lid back on.
That is so cute! It’s fun to watch how their mind works and when they learn how to figure things out. 💓
Kids love getting into stuff! Great post on how to make it constructive!