Wednesday, February 8, 2012

No Toys, No Problem (Updated)

One of my biggest pet peeves as a parent is parents who knowingly bring their children out for the day, yet bring no toys.  Its one thing if you are going to the home where other children live, but if you are going to a childless home or a public location, like a beach, then serious, what are these people thinking?  The parents plan to be busy with other adults, just what are the kids supposed to do?  Even well behaved children are going to get bored and act up.  Over the last two and a half years, I've learned that there are a lot of regular household items that hold Natalie and William's attention as much as, if not more than, their toys. Here are some ideas in case one of these unprepared parents show up at your house (or in case you are one of them yourself!).  These ideas also might come in handy in case you are ever stuck in the case of an emergency. 

All of these items should be used with supervision because they are not intended to by toys, and thus probably don't meet safety standards. Almost all of these ideas are for older babies and toddlers.

  • Keys - These are great for lots of ages, just make sure they are safe for mouthing if the child is really young. Now, Natalie tries to put my keys or little store cards into the door handle.
  • Measuring spoons - For about five months, a set of measuring spoons was Natalie's favorite toy when we went to the store out out on a walk. She'd shake them like a rattle and chew on them.
  • Pot and a wooden spoon - Like you hadn't already heard this one?
  • A plastic pasta strainer for the bath - It was a $1.50 and possibly the best bath toy we've bought. Also makes a great place to put the other toys away.
  • Blankets or towels - Great for all kinds of peekaboo games.
  • Cardboard tubes - From paper towels, toilet paper, or wrapping paper. Natalie likes to talk into it now that we've shown her how it changes your voice.
  • Gift wrap - Tissue paper is great for crinkling and listening to, especially for smaller babies. As a toddler, Natalie got a real kick out the wrapping paper around at the holidays. Cartoon characters are a plus, even if they are just snowmen. She also loved unwrapping it and stepping on it.
  • Tissues - Natalie (18 months) still enjoys pulling many tissues from the box and wrapping them to shreds. Messy, but good for fine motor development.
  • Clothes, especially hats, gloves, socks, and shoes - Natalie is currently in love with putting on these items she finds around the house. She likes me to stand her in my husband's shoes. She enjoys putting gloves and socks on her hands and hats on her head.
  • Anything resembling a phone - Natalie (18 months) will hit the buttons and put it up to her ear and say hello. Sometimes she even sounds like she is having a conversation. If you are worried about activating something, just take out the batteries or download a child lock for a real phone.  Great options here are remote controls and mp3 players.  
  • Camera - Natalie (2 1/2) loves to see the pictures taken on the camera.  She sometimes like to have her toys pictures taken.  An older toddler would love to run around and press the button on his or her own.  The great thing about digital is you can always delete them later!
  • Computer - The computer is not just fun for hitting the keys, but has a wealth of entertainment through music, videos, and photos, both on line and stored on the computer. Skype is also great.
  • Laundry baskets (or big boxes) - Natalie loves climbing in and out of them. Sometimes she'll even get a ride around the house in one. Also, throwing balls or rolled up paper or socks into a laundry basket is an easy game.
  • Paper, especially in a notebook - Natalie is fascinated. Maybe its just her ...
  • Photographs, in albums or in frames - Natalie loves being told who everyone is and pointing out the babies.
  • Drapes or shower curtain - Great for peekaboo.
  • Hinged draw handles - Natalie went through a phase around a year old where she would have to touch every handle like these in the house.
  • Tube sock puppets - Take a white tube sock and draw a face on it with a Sharpie. Prep time is about a minute.
  • Magazines - These are great for looking at the pictures, or if it is okay by the owner, ripping.
  • Stickers - Not every house hold will have these, but lots of people save the address stickers that charities send you. Post-it notes would probably also be highly entertaining.
  • Accessories, like headbands, bangles, and purses - Natalie loves playing with these items like she is getting ready to go out.
  • Jinga blocks - We let Natalie play with these all the time in our downstairs room that has no toys for her. They are just as satisfying for her as regular blocks.
  • Mirror - As I write, William (5 months old) has been talking to his reflection for at least 15 minutes. 
  • Flashlight - Natalie loves flashlights.  Great to combine with sheets to make a tent. 
  • Coasters - Natalie likes all kinds, but especially likes ones that look like dishes.  
  • Running water - Great for watching, splashing, hand washing, among other things. 
  • Plastic water bottles - I mean the type you buy at the check out for a dollar.  Natalie loved grabbing these, chewing on the screwed on cap, and shaking them as an older baby. 
  • A basket or reusable shopping bag and items from the pantry - Tada!  You can play store. 

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