Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thinking outside the toy box

My sister recently asked for suggestions on managing and storing toys. In a related request, I would love to hear your ideas for "found object" toys. I'm a little nervous about being my toddler's "activities director" during the coming winter (This is IOWA, people, and it gets COLD here), and would appreciate your suggestions. We have a pretty small collection of toys at this point (our son is 10 months old) and would like to limit the amount of manufactured toys in our home.

Some kitchen items we've introduced for my son to play with: large pot lid, wooden spoon, plastic spatula, set of measuring spoons and a colander. What else would you recommend that I can just pull out of the cabinet?

Do you have any ideas for simple homemade toys? (Example: I recently made a little shaker by pouring uncooked rice into a plastic lid and taping it closed.)

I'm sure there are scads of books and websites on this subject, but it would be great to hear what's worked in your experience! Thanks for your help.


thehomespunheart said...

One of Emily's favorites for ages was a basket of cookie cutters - plastic ones are best so your good ones don't get bent!

Another one is free cd's that come in the mail or one that is scratched or ruined. It is a mirror, has a hole - is shiny - all great things!

Bows off of presents entertained Emily for a while too - shiny and 3D - she loved to play with those.

Empty boxes - cereal box that you just finished off, etc...

Both of our girls have had fun playing with an old egg carton - I did wash it out just in case.

Dancing on bubble wrap is one Emily still loves - when N gets a bit older.

I'm curious to see other ideas shared as well! :)

thehomespunheart said...

Oh - I forgot about rubbies! Just dish soap bubbles that can be rubbed on the front of your stove or refrigerator or dishwasher - easily cleaned up and Emily still asks for these from time to time.

Niki (RuralWritings) said...

if your hubby is handy or you know a woodworker simple wooden blocks are excellent, a decent size pile of different sizes and shapes will entertain for a good long time! Also, do you have a toy lending library in your area? You can be very selective about what you take home, but it would provide some variety at little to no cost. I'll keep thinking, it's been a few years...lol

Mary Ann said...

In caring for toddlers, I've found that they really don't play with 'real' toys that much anyways. My recycled toys keep them very well-entertained!

Save all lids(safe ones of course)and fill a container with them. He will love to fill and dump and eventually you can count them, sort them, etc.

Cut a slit in a coffee can lid. Save the lids off of the orange juice concentrate cans. He can play a "kerplunk" game by putting the lids into the can. A metal can works best for this although you can improvise with plastic if that's all you have.

In college I made a shape sorter out of an ice cream bucket. I cut 3 different shapes in the lid and stabilized it with a circle of cardboard (also with shapes cut out). I sewed 3 different little soft shapes in a square, triangle and circle to fit in the holes but you can also use blocks. This lasted through quite a few toddlers before it finally bit the dust.

Save large pieces of cardboard and lay on the floor to color on. The great thing about cardboard is that you can use it on the carpet. Sometimes it's easier to set a toddler on the floor instead of getting them set up to color at the table. The one year old I currently care for loves this activity!

You can fill a dish pan with a few inches of warm water and let him play with or wash a few toys in it. This requires constant supervision of course and can be messy but if set on a thick blanket or a few towels, cleanup isn't that hard. A nice activity when the day seems to drag on and on! The same concept can be used to make a little sandbox with rice or grits and use yogurt containers, small scoops or even little cars and trucks to play with it.

Hope this gives you a few ideas and gets the creative thinking going!

WorksForMom said...

Our son loves tupperware and other kitchen ware. How simple is that. ;-)

MyHeartIsAlwaysHome said...

Megan loves it when I give her the junk mail. She will flip through the weekly coupon catalog forever! (After I have taken out the coupons I want!) She points and "talks" to the pages. She especially likes those envelopes that make the crinkle sound.

I also give her the empty oatmeal container. She puts things in it, takes the lid off and on a million times, yells in it to hear the sound and rolls it all over the kitchen floor.

I sometimes give her a dishtowel or clean duster. She loves to walk around and wipe things off.

I just love giving kids things and seeing all the great things they come up with!

Amy said...

I saw a really cute idea for taking ribbon and tying them on canning lids and using these as streamers to music. I am planning to do this with the kids one day when the weather is yucky out. I have this one saved in my back pocket for a rough day :)

My kids love colored rice in empty water bottles too.

We love to do bubbles inside or play dough on a giant plastic tablecloth in our kitchen floor.

Ethan also has a big bin of popcorn kernels with his beach toys for indoor fun :)

Kathleen Marie said...

I have a basket of goodies on my fireplace hearth for my granddaughter. It includes measuring spoons, books, and other cheap plastic things of color.

Another thing I did to store items was use baggies and label them. For example puzzles, I would take the pieces and mark them, Winnie-the-Pooh Puzzel, Barney puzzle. This helps keep the pieces from getting lost.

Old boxes to crawl through are great. I had four kids so they would get to decorate the boxes into all sorts of things. When tiny just crawling through was fun.

All my kids loved to rip paper so old magazines are great for letting the little ones entertain themselves.

Anna said...

The family I babysit for puts pennies in a leftover film canister. Their baby is way too young to open it but he likes to shake it. Maybe for a 10-month old, some sort of non-choking hazard. :)

Teri in CO said...

One thing I did when I was keeping my niece I took a plastic coffee "can" and cut a slot in the lid about the size of plastic milk jug lids. Then started saving lids! She loved putting them through the hole... we would count as we did them... and because I bought milk at different stores, we had different colored lids... so I would say the color as she was putting them in the slot. I just started looking at my "discarded" things in a different way! You can also put the lids in a muffin tin. Once she started "getting" colors we would group them by colors.

Bowling is another fun one... use whatever lightweight items you have as the pins... and just roll the ball to knock them down!

Teri in CO

Leah in Iowa said...

You sure got a lot of new play ideas, Carrie! I'm sure they'll take you well into winter! =)

Amy A. said...

You are smart to limit the toys. It gets out of hand so easily. I look at all the things my kids have and just want to purge, and they really don't have that much.

I used to keep all the old egg cartons and oatmeal boxes when my kids were little. They like to stack them and play pretend store when they got a little older.

They liked to play in the clean laundry pile, too.

My kids are older so we will use the RSC some this winter. I think you're little guy would probably like the big, open space, too, if you go on off hours when it's not full of teams.

Susan said...

JR loves blow up beach balls and swimming rings. It is great because you can travel with these items, safe and easy to store. Looks like everyone has great ideas!

Tamara said...

My son still likes to play with pieces of fabric and pieces of masking tape. Both will entertain his little imagination for hours. The fabric becomes blankets, helps play peek-a-boo, etc. He enjoys sticking the tape to clothes, tables, etc.

Jody said...

You can make your own play-doh relatively easily. There are even edible versions.

Check out the Family Fun website. Lots of great stuff there.

And be sure to save paper towel rolls- they can be horns, telescopes, drumsticks...

A, B & C said...

I taught a music class for Love Bug and her friends this past Spring. It was really more for the Moms to learn songs to sing with their kids, but the babies still enjoyed it. We made our instruments. The shaker, like you made, is great. We used rice in empty water bottles and just put super glue around the cap before we screwed it closed. I also made a bell by putting a penny in an old baby food jar. Of course plastic bowls with wooden spoons make great drums.
Love Bug also loves the things I use. I gave her an old wallet with some old membership cards (just make sure all coins are out of it first), and I also have let her play with an old set of bike keys on a sturdy keyring.
Other things to try are plastic plates and cups. Love Bug is on a real kick with these since they're shiny and make great noises when you chew them.
We also put on CDs and sometimes play them a little louder than background noise... she loves to dance and run around wild. The louder (not too loud) volume seems to bring out her "wild child" side.
My favorite game right now is chase. I chase her, she chases me... around the couches, tables, corners... it's so fun and she giggles with I come around a corner and she's not expecting it!
I hope all this helps!

2boysmama said...

When my son was about 13 months old he loved to play with pennies... putting them back into his brother's bank. You'd have to be there to supervise that none go in his mouth. You could also make a bank our of an old can with a plastic top.

He also like to play with our plastic water bottle collection. He'd try each of them out to see if he could get anything out (they were all empty)

Also paper cups--stacking and restacking them.

2boysmama said...

oops one more thing: he loved to roll balls around and play with cars, even from an early age. I know this isn't a "found toy" but he loved a car that made a popping noise when rolled.

carrie said...

Thank you all so much for your creative and resourceful ideas! I'm going to compile all of these and print them for easy reference.

Molly said...

I didn't have time to read all your comments, so if this is a repeat, I'm sorry! When my youngest was a toddler (we were living in IA, too, at the time, so I can relate to the long amounts of time inside!) I was struggling with how to keep her entertained, especially when I needed to be cooking, doing dishes, etc. My sister-in-law gave me a great idea that I have used ever since! Put ALL of your tupperware items in an easy opening lower cabinet. Help your child to learn that this is HIS cabinet and the others are off limits...then, let him go crazy! Our girls have all LOVED it! I have photos of them sitting inside the cabinet, happy as clams, while all the plasticware is on the floor or in their little hands! It has been good for hours of fun! The little time it takes me to wash up something when I need it is worth it compared to the long amounts of time they have enjoyed their own little play area! What is it with their fascination with all things that AREN'T toys?! :) Hope that helps!

Jody said...

Carrie! I found a site- The Toymaker- that I think you will LOVE! I've just posted about it so come over when you get a chance. The post is titled: One Thing Leads to Another, just in case it's not at the top.

Jamie said...

Carrie - Thank you for sharing this post with me!! I missed it before and I LOVE it! Great ideas!