My daughter has just turned 8 months, and it’s great to see her mobility and vocabulary (‘mamama, dadada, bababa’) grow day by day. As she starts to understand more about the world, I can see that she’s getting bored of the same old toys – in fact, she seems to be getting bored of toys in general, both regular favourites and new items. It’s always the mundane objects in our house that grab her attention, and because she’s not quite up to crawling yet, she’s endlessly frustrated that she can’t reach the pair of shoes under the couch, follow the dog around the house, or grab the fascinating tv remote on the coffee table.
So, it’s my daily challenge to find objects that are both captivating and safe, and preferably interesting enough to keep my baby occupied until the next nap, meal, or nappy change.
The following are 11 of our favourite makeshift household toys:
These are a great toy because, if you have the sort that are linked together on a ‘keyring’, they make a great noisy rattle. My daughter loves to hold the ring and shake, shake, shake those spoons! They’re plastic so they’re lightweight, easy to clean, and clack together rather satisfyingly.
Empty water bottle
I’d be surprised if there is a parent out there who hasn’t discovered the usefulness of plastic bottle ‘toys’. My baby loves see-through plastic bottles: she can roll and chase them across the floor, squish them for a great crackling sound, pat them like a drum, or just watch a little water slosh around inside (with the lid firmly tightened, of course).
Plastic containers of all sizes make great baby toys. With lids on, they can stack and tumble, or hide toys inside. With lids off, they can hold all sorts of toys and other objects that can then be unceremoniously emptied out all over the floor! Under supervision, you can fill the containers with dried lentils, rice or beans, and fasten the lid for noisy musical shakers.
Sock hanger with pegs
Designed for neatly line-drying socks, these hanging frames with pegs attached are perfect for makeshift baby mobiles. Simply hang an interesting object from each peg; when my baby was a newborn, her favourites were bright ribbons threaded with coloured patty pans, artificial flowers, squares of tinfoil, small toys and old CDs (the disk, not the case). The beauty of this is that you can change the items whenever your baby gets bored. This is a ‘look don’t touch’ toy. Make sure you attach everything very thoroughly, keep out of reach and supervise while using this one.
Wooden spoons, pots and pans
Kitchen utencils can be chewed, clacked together, and used as drumsticks on pots and pans. My baby has fun causing a racket with these!
Small glass jars
Very small jars, such as those that contain commercial baby food, are an interesting object for babies. After all, what else are they allowed to play with that’s made of glass? The feel and weight of a glass object is so different from the usual plastic that most baby toys are made of, and my daughter loves just touching and rolling these little glass jars. They make a good noise when filled with dried lentils and closed tight. Supervision is a must with these, as jars are heavy and babies might clonk themselves on the head.
Wood is another material that might be a little unfamiliar to babies. The old-fashioned wooden clothes pegs (the ones without a hinge that look like little dolls), are fun for babies. They fit perfectly in tiny palms, have a round top that inevitably goes straight into their mouths, and can be clipped onto their clothes, and yours, for an amusing game.
Tissue box with scarves
Get several long, silky scarves and knot them all together. Then stuff them into an empty tissue box with just one corner poking out the hole. My baby has great fun pulling out the never-ending, but ever-changing scarves! Babies seem to love pulling tissues out of the box, and this is a less wasteful version of that game.
Protein shaker insert
The wire ball that’s found inside a protein shake canister is a fantastic little toy for babies. It’s just the right size for little hands, is springy, and can bounce and roll. It’s also made from stainless steel, so can be hygienically washed before you make your next shake.
Drink lid rattle
Save all your large lids, such as those from milk, juice and cordial bottles. When you have a handful, wash them well, punch a hole in the middle of each, thread them all onto a ribbon and tie the ends together tightly. This is a good, noisy rattle for little people, with bright colours and interesting textures.
Scrap paper and a cardboard box
Supervision is a must with this one, as you don’t want your baby eating paper, but they do love to wreck it! Crumple some colourful scrap paper and fill a cardboard box with it. My baby loves to pull all the paper out, then shake, tear, and roll around with it.
Got a great idea we haven’t thought of? Let us know in the comments below!