I am a strong proponent that our little ones do not need expensive toys to be happy nor to become smart. In fact, nature has the best and most sophisticated things that our child can explore and learn from. Before our child grows old enough to run around and explore the world, here are some great ideas of how you can entertain them with things that you can easily find around you – for FREE!
- Metal biscuit tin with lid. Attach the lid on one end, and let loose another, Your child who can start flinging his hands with mildest amount of control can start hitting the lid to make sounds!
- Curtains and wind. The variation in wind strength and direction makes the curtain move differently every moment. It captures even an adult’s attention, let alone a baby!
- Bubble wrap. Any plastic wrap is fun to scrunch and make sounds with, but a bubble wrap with different textures embedded in them adds much more fun. When they’re older, bursting the bubbles adds a whole layer of fun to it too,
- A bunch of keys. These are the favourite toys a father usually shares with his son.
- Balls. Mix all sorts of balls with different properties together – ping pong ball, tennis ball, soccer ball, balloon, paper ball etc. Let you child figure out how they behave differently!
- A light chair that is tall. Watch your child closely with this. But when they can sit and are strong enough, they would love to move huge pieces of furniture around the house. Their ability to move things that are much large than them makes them feel extremely strong. Be right next to them to make sure the furniture do not fall on them though.
- Ice. Babies are still learning about heat properties. So letting them touch ice is a huge exploration for them. Not only is it cold, it is slippery, and it gets smaller over time. If you’re afraid ice is too cold, substitute it with a can of soft drink or an apple from the fridge. Anything that is cold, small enough for them to handle, but not too small to become a choking hazard.
- A container with trinkets in it. This could be marbles or wooden blocks or keys in a little plastic container. Basically anything that can be shaken and makes sounds when the baby does so. Try a variety of items to make different sounds. In my case, it even included diaper rash cream tubes in their respective paper boxes, and dental retainers in its plastic container!
- Thick plastic containers of toy boxes. By this I mean those plastic covers that come with a new toy, where the toy sits in a box with the front all cut out, but covered with a layer of plastic so shoppers can see the toy without touching nor damaging it. That thick plastic is less prone to breaking, and tends to have interesting curves to them. They are nice for grabbing and making loud sounds, or (when edges are safely taped up so they are not sharp) nice to look through to see the world all distorted. I don’t quite like giving my son this because it can be sharp and a hazard, but he LOVES looking at the world through this. Kaleidoscopes next time 🙂
- Any semi-hard surface. Good for drumming. Different surfaces give different sounds when hit upon. Hit with your palm to show your baby how to make sounds on the table or the chair or the overturned bowl. Soon, he’ll be smacking everything to make his own orchestra
- Netting. This can be found on most playpens, or cot bumpers. Teach your baby to look through the netting, or even press your face into it. Again, perception of the world changes, and see the funny faces that emerge from the other side of the netting! 😛
- Flour and water. Mix food flour and clean water to a nice, dough-ey consistency that keeps it in a piece but is not overly sticky. Add food coloring if you like. This rare texture will be fun for all babies and toddlers. And you don’t have to worry about them sticking it into their mouth. Babies will be more interested in the texture and the random flour powder falling out. Toddlers will like making different shapes and other things they do with regular playdoh.
- Bubble bath and a ziplock bag. Squeeze a drop of bubble bath into a ziplock. Lather up the bubble by adding suitable amount of water. Zip it up and let your baby play with bubbles while keeping all dry and clean! Make it interesting by adding some food coloring to it.
- A container full of water. Babies love splashing in water. Watch your child closely so they don’t risk dry drowning.
- A piece of velcro. The different textures on the 2 sides of velcro, and how they stick together and tear apart with a unique sound, is bound to entertain for a long time.
Please note that all of the above ideas will still require close parental supervision. Play with your child!