Ever offer your baby several of their colorful, musical, toys, but they make a mad dash for the Tupperware drawer or remote control, instead?
Babies and toddlers are super curious. They don’t have time for silly, play toys when they could be using real objects that they see mom and dad using every day.
They’re so intently tuned into what’s going on around them and taking in all of the world sights and sounds. While you may not see it, they are watching your every move like a hawk.
They’re picking up on the things that you do and say, from how you greet your partner when they walk in the door to how you brush
Around the age of 1, your child will start using objects as they’re meant to be used. They’re taking all the information that their brain has stored up over the past few months and starting to practice it on their own.
You’ll notice that they will grab your phone and put it to their ear or a brush to their hair. They attempt to mimic every move you make to experience what it’s like living in the real world.
The most fun they will have is with household objects, imitating a day in the life of mom or dad.
Common Household Objects for Baby and Toddler Play
Below are a bunch of household items that make the best play toys for your baby or toddler. Just let them explore and manipulate these objects or combine them for a fun activity!
Pretty much all of these objects will give them exposure to improving their fine motor skills and plenty of learning opportunities.
1. Chip clips and clothespins
These little squeezies are fun to use (as long as they don’t get their tiny fingers caught in them).
You can find so many places around the house that your toddler can stick their clothespins. Try a baby gate, on Mega Blocks, or a thin tabletop.
For babies, they’ll have fun just exploring the shape and trying to squeeze it (but probably not being too successful).
2. Plastic Ziplock Bags
If you want to keep your child busy, give them a couple ziplock bags to open and close. My daughter could sit there for a long time trying to get them open herself.
Whenever I need my 1 year old to sit still and quiet for awhile, I put things that she likes inside clear plastic bags. I never help her open them because that’s the beauty of taking time and keeping her busy!
Babies too will get a kick out of trying to open them up especially if there’s something enticing in there for them.
You can also fill ziplock bags with fun sensory items that you have lying around the house. Make sure it’s sealed tightly and tape it to the ground or a wall for your baby.
Use water, food coloring, beads, rice, beans, Pom Poms, or other craft supplies. Just make sure you don’t overfill it to prevent any leakage from the bag.
3. Tupperware Containers
The Tupperware drawer is a constant source of entertainment. I now have all my drawers and cabinets locked up because I can’t stand the mess they make when they pull everything out.
However, they will stay amused with Tupperware for along time just by opening and closing the lids! Give them a few different shapes and sizes to really let their imagination and intrigue soar.
You can fill them with some of their favorite objects, balls, food, or snack. Since they’re typically clear, they’ll love exploring it to get to what they want.
4. Ice cube trays or candy molds
A small, plastic, dollar store ice cube tray can be a great tool for your children to practice their pincer grasp (using just the thumb and pointer finger together).
Just place some Cheerios or Puffs in there and they will have a ball! Even without the snack incentive, babies will like banging these trays around.
Related Post: 5 Easy Ways to Practice Pincer Grasp for Babies
5. Egg crates
Similar to the ice cube trays, egg crates have little holes to feed your baby’s curiosity. You can put small objects in the holes, paint each hole a certain color for matching, or just let them open and close the box all day!
6. Puffs containers/Pringle cans/Formula cans
Any large can or container can be made into a shape sorter or just an in-and-out toy. Use oatmeal or formula cans, Pringle tubes, puffs containers: the options are endless.
Just glance through your pantry and I’m sure you have something that resembles these containers.
Items that you can use for these activities are credit cards, popsicle sticks, cheerios, wine corks, pompoms, pouch tops, etc. Literally anything!
You can give your child the can and the lid and let them figure out how to ‘put in and take out’ or cut a hole in the top for them to do the same thing.
You can also cut a slit in the top to slide in thinner objects like old credit cards or stuff in silk scarves. Just make sure the hole is the right size for the objects you’re putting in.
7. Wipes containers/tissue box
Babies and toddlers will love pulling out tissues from a tissue box. Not quite understanding where all these things are coming from will amaze them.
To minimize the mess, waste, and paper in their mouth, you can stuff some colorful, silk scarves in that empty tissue or wipes box instead.
8. Milk jug
The small hole in an empty milk jug will make quite the mysterious place for your child to put small objects. You can use wine corks (listed below), pompoms, popsicle sticks, or small edible foods (puffs, cheerios, blueberries) if you’re worried about what they put in their mouth.
9. Wine corks
These little things make easy manipulative for babies and toddlers. Use them for counting or taking in and out of a jar or container.
10. Paint brushes
Paint brushes are fun for your child to play with because of the soft bristles and the fact that it’s an actual tool. Let them paint with just water for a no-mess activity.
Just make sure they’re not old/used brushes that have residual paint as that could be toxic if a baby puts it in their mouth.
11. Water and Ice
There are endless possibilities of water play around your house and kids seem to love it! My daughter could just play at the bathroom sink for an hour with a cup and running water!
The best thing about water play is that there is no (stained) messes! Sure, the floor can get a little wet, but that just takes a quick wipe with a towel to clean up.
You can also try painting with water, pouring water from cup to cup, or letting you child play in a bucket of water with some cups and other small household items.
12. Plastic cups
Solo cups aren’t just fun for college kids to play with. Babies and toddlers will love stacking them and finding things to take in and out of them.
13. Muffin tins
My toddler loves using all of my kitchenware for her own play kitchen because monkey see, monkey do. However, similar to the egg crates and ice cube trays, you can use muffin tins for color sorting or putting small objects in and out of.
14. Old credit cards
If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your expired credit cards laying around, make sure to save your hotel room keys, old gift cards, or IDs for your child to play with.
Toddlers will love pretending to shop. You can even give them an old wallet or purse for pretend play.
Babies will love taking them in and out of empty containers. Make a slit in an empty formula or oatmeal container and watch them slide the cards in with amazement.
15. Popsicle sticks
Popsicle sticks can be used for loads of crafts and DIY projects, but they also make great toys if you have them laying around. Babies can easily slip them into holes in milk jugs, empty containers with a hole cut out, or toilet paper/paper towel rolls.
16. Plastic water bottles
Both of my babies were obsessed with the crinkling sound and feel of an empty water bottle. It was seriously the toy they would choose over any rattle or musical toy.
You can put some sensory items in there to further increase the fun and sound that it makes. Rice, dried beans, Pom Poms, and beads are just some things you can add to make noise makers.
Watch your baby shake and crunch and it will hold their attention for awhile!
17. Cardboard Box
Sit your baby in a cardboard box and watch their amazement! They could seriously be entertained for awhile with all the flaps and sides.
I love the Painting with Water Activity, but inside a cardboard box! This really leaves no mess and your little one will be entertained by making strokes on the cardboard with just a paint brush and water.
18. Buckets and Hampers
Watch your child stack and fill buckets with any other toys. You can use them outside for fun water play or inside with household items.
Hampers and large enough buckets will be a blast for your baby to crawl inside like a tunnel!
19. Rice & beans
Dried rice or beans are a cheap way to make any container a fun shaker or sensory item. Throw them in ziplock bags, water bottles, milk jugs, etc.
Your baby will love hearing the noise it makes as they rattle around inside.
20. Empty toilet paper rolls
You can make a fun little Pom Pom Tube Drop game out of these rolls by quickly taping them to the wall and having them drop objects down. For younger toddlers or babies, even just using one or two rolls will do.
They will also like talking or yelling through the tube and hearing their voice echo or just dropping small objects through them.
21. Measuring spoons and cups
Babies will like the rattling sounds that the spoons make when banging together. Measuring cups are also like an easy cup stacking activity for your baby.
22. Wooden spoons
Bang Bang on the drum. Large wooden spoons are great for making loud sounds and banging.
Give your child wooden spoons and watch them wave them around with excitement and bang them on the floor, wall, box, etc.
23. Doors and drawers
Although almost all my doors and cabinets are locked and baby-proofed now, these make such a fun play experience for babies. Figuring out how they open and shut is amazing to them!
Just sit your baby in front of a closet door and watch their amazement as they swing it open and closed.
24. Laundry Basket
Once your baby is safely sitting up, you can place them in a laundry basket! Throw a few toys (or other household items) in there and let them play.
This will help ensure that they are contained in one place and also give them a safe space so that they don’t fall over. You can even pad around the inner edges with pillows to make it a comfy spot if they were to topple over.
25. Edible items
Food is one of the best sensory and play items for a baby. It can make a mess, but if your baby is still sticking everything in their mouth, you know it is safe.
Sit them in their high chair and let them make a mess with yogurt, whipped cream, icing, or ice cream. You can make edible finger paint with this super simple recipe or even rainbow spaghetti noodles!
They will love the cold sensation on their hands and smearing it around the tray.
Let your baby peel and stick tape on the floor, tray, wall, etc. There are so many fun patterns and colors that tape comes in now, so have fun with them all!
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