When Naomi was born, we received an influx of second hand items from our wonderful friends and families. Clothes, books, and toys. Oh my goodness, the toys!
We had made it known that we didn’t want Naomi to be given a lot of plastic toys, especially ones with plastic, with lights, with noise. In the infant stage, sometimes something as simple as a rattle can be too much stimulation for a baby. This is a time for cuddles, nursing and quiet songs.
So we donated, Freecycled or gave away the majority of them, and began acquiring simple wooden toys for her to try out and experience. The problem showed up when we realized that the toys we had collected were things that were too old for her — wooden blocks, cars, books, and cloth dolls were not something she was quite ready for.
After getting a better idea of what her senses needed for stimulation and understanding, we started looking around our home for things that she could use, and lo and behold, we found a whole pile of toys just sitting in our kitchen!
Here are some things that Naomi spent a lot of time playing with in the beginning of her days when she could sit up in her high chair or nursing pillow and play with things.
1. Metal Measuring Spoons
These make a lovely clink when they are shaken together, and fit perfectly in a little hand. And if they make their way to your mouth, not a problem — they’re not made of plastic, so you don’t have to worry about toxins.
2. Wooden Spoons and Silicone Spatulas
Before teeth make an active showing, these are great for gumming and chewing on. Recently at a visit with family, my young niece’s toothless gums were making her so anxious to chew on something soft that she’d pick up outdoor shoes and try to chew on their soles. I grabbed a big rubber spatula from my mother-in-law’s kitchen and she was happily chewing on the head of it for the rest of the day.
Better yet, dip them in something tasty first -- like homemade tomato sauce!
3. Wide Mesh Bags for Avocados & Onions
These are great, because they’re big enough for little fingers to poke through, but also small enough that larger objects don’t fall through them. Naomi loved to play with the green mesh bag that our avocados came in. I just trimmed the edges and tied them together and tucked it inside, so that she couldn’t unthread the mesh.
4. Saltine Cracker Wrappers
This was a real breakthrough for us. I wanted to give Naomi something that had a crunch and a crinkle, but nothing I could think of seemed to fit. Of course plastic bags were out, as was aluminum foil and paper was too easy to eat. But one day, as I pulled out a package of saltines, it crackled and Naomi, who’d been sitting quietly in her high chair, perked up her ears. Of course! The wrapper from the cracker package! I removed the crackers, rinsed off the salt, and trimmed the edges.
What I was left with was a paper-sized piece of plastic that would not rip or tear, that she couldn’t be suffocated with, that couldn’t be stuffed down her throat, but that would crinkle and crack in little hands. A friend of mine sewed the wrapper in between two pieces of cloth to make a big crinkly piece of fabric for our babies to play with.
5. Ribbons and Fabric Measuring Tapes
I found an old wide silk ribbon in a sewing basket and gave that to Naomi as well. She loved letting the smooth shiny cloth slip through her fingers and exploring how holding something in one hand and pulling it in the other moved your hands back and forth.
I also discovered the great joy one can have holding onto one end of a rolled up fabric measuring tape and letting the other end drop, unrolling in a lovely curl, to the floor. The only problem with this game is that you have to wind the ribbon up again. And again. And again.
6. Dish towels
Kitchen peek-a-boo! A soft, clean dish towel is a great way to cover your head, or cover mama’s head, and giggle madly in anticipation of that favorite baby game.
7. Small Containers of Beans and Rice
We rarely bought baby food for Naomi, except on occasions when we went to visit friends and family and knew there would be little for babies to eat. It only takes a couple of visits for baby food jars to begin accumulating. So we started putting a few grains of rice, a couple of beans, or some unpopped popcorn kernels into them and letting her shake away! I was surprised at how entertaining this was! Just be sure that your little one isn’t playing with them in a high chair or on a sofa — a long drop to the floor can result in broken glass.
8. Cotton balls and Empty Spice Containers
One day, while baking, I used up the last of the cinnamon in a spice jar. I passed the spice jar to Naomi, who figured out that if she held it close to her nose, she got a great big whiff of that lovely smell. Empty spice jars make great toys! Dill, cinnamon, black pepper, chili, etc. are all great ones. Just be sure to shake the very last of the spice out of the jar completely, so that little noses don’t get filled with a spice and sneeze.
Alternatively, if you wash the jars out, try tossing in a cotton ball with a few drops of essential oils such as vanilla, almond, sweet orange, or Michele’s favorite, lavender. Then just snap the lid with the holes back onto it and the scent will float out of the container. These are great ways for little ones to experience some of the delicious smells.
Do you have any other easy and simple baby toys that you found hidden in your kitchen? I’d love to hear them!
Nada is a first-time mom to a delightful little girl and the wife to a wise and wonderful man. With a background in fitness and nutrition, she enjoys healthy cooking, green cleaning and especially writing, and has acquired a vast knowledge of interesting little facts… about everything! She aspires to be a Godly woman that her daughter is proud to call “Mom” and through her blog, miniMOMist, she discusses how attachment parenting, minimalism, simplicity and frugal living help in her everyday mission.
A spoon plus a pot equals a nice drum…my toddler loves to drum! And cardboard boxes from cereal or oats containers make wonderful little toys! I’m amazed at the creativity of my little guy…expensive plastic toys are not necessary!
Empty containers and boxes are great entertainment for lil people and the best part is that if/when it gets too used up, it cost nothing to throw away and replace. Also lil folks love to watch themselves so a cheap lil dollar store hand held mirror under some supervision can be hrs and hrs of entertainment.