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Cheap DIY Toys for Toddlers and Babies

Updated on August 25, 2011
Lily Rose profile image

I am a mom of two beautiful girls (10 & 12). We love to read, play, cook, shop and have fun together. I love to share great products/toys.

I have written a lot of hubs on toys for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. My kids have a lot of toys. Even though they do have a lot of toys, I realized long ago that little kids, babies to toddlers especially, really don’t need toys. Have you ever spend too much money on a toy, just to find that your child is more interested in playing with the box it came in?? They end up playing with the box it came in for hours before they remember a toy ever came in it!

Well, save your money because they can be just as entertained by household items. There are various items around the house that can be used, or repurposed, as cheap baby and toddler toys. For the parents out there that would like to save their hard-earned money until their kids are older and buying toys becomes more “appropriate”, here are some suggestions for household items that babies and toddlers can safely play with.  DIY toys can also be considered eco friendly toys since you are using things you already have, right?

Shaving cream lids are a fun toy for little ones – it’s perfectly sized for small hands, yet too large to be a choking hazard.  They can put things in it or take things out – it can be used to scoop things, like water.  Other items can be used likewise, like milk cartons and measuring spoons.

Plastic bottles with a large lid (like a Gatorade bottle or the like) can be used with or without the lid.  Little ones love to handle plastic bottles such as these, they examine them, toss them, watch them roll and follow them.  For a variation, you can fill the bottle with water and glitter or large beads and even a couple drops of food coloring and watch your child watching the contents in awe.  You can also add a bit of cooking oil to make it more interesting.  To be safe, glue the lid on with Elmer’s glue and allow your child to shake it, roll it and watch it!  This type of “toy”, of course, should be used with supervision.

When my girls were babies I used a small size bottle (a baby bottle with a lid that sealed without a nipple) and filled it about 2/3 full with uncooked rice – this ended up being a favorite “rattle” toy of theirs! 

Other containers that most of us have in our houses can make for a lot of fun – Tupperware containers, paper towel holders, cereal boxes…give your child a whole bunch of Tupperware type containers in varying sizes that stack and help your child stack them of fit them inside of each other.

If you’re feeling daring, fill a large open plastic container with water (half full) and let them play with the water – give them plastic toys to “wash” and measuring spoons or cups to pour the water.  To keep things from becoming a huge mess, it’s better to have your child do this on a hard surface like tile (not wood floors!) or use a “splat” mat is you have one or lots of towels.  This is also a fun activity to take outdoors!

Little ones just love to fill and dump; just about any container with a large opening and any large objects (large enough to not be choking hazards) can be used to fill, dump, transfer and move.  You can use balls, toys, plastic spoons, metal spoons, or anything else your child would enjoy playing with that’s not delicate or a choking hazard, of course.  Gallon size plastic milk containers can be turned into fantastic fill/dump toys.  On another note, a plastic gallon milk container can also be turned into great toy storage (see picture at right!)

Tip:  stock up on plastic Easter buckets after the holiday when they go on sale and use them for fill & dump play. 

Empty bread crumb cans can be cleaned, then put holes in the lid or cut shapes out of the plastic lid and your child can use it for a number of different activities.

Banging! What child does not like to bang? Some parents may dread this, but just wait until you see the look on your child’s face when he or she is having a blast using wooden spoons or plastic serving spoons to bang away on your pots and pans! You could also use metal mixing bowls for this activity.

A number of empty bottles, like dish soap bottles or shampoo bottles, can be used as fun toys in the bathtub – fill them up with water and let your little one squeeze the water out. This works well to keep your baby/toddler distracted while you try to clean their little squirming bodies. Funnels from your kitchen also make great bath time fun!

For older kids, small containers – like those tiny Crystal Light tubs – make great paint holders!

Empty wipes (plastic) containers make great toy storage or can be stacked as blocks.

Empty boxes also can make great toys for little ones – and even bigger kids! Recently, I took a medium-large size box that a delivery came in and made it into a small doll house that my kids used for several of their toys and stuffed animals. I removed the flaps and turned the box on its short side so that it was a tall rectangle. I used a couple of the flaps to form a “peaked roof” and attached it with blue masking tape.

I then used construction paper and cut out scallops to trim the roof edge and also cut out curtains to attach on the inside where I cut out a couple of windows. I then gave my girls stickers and let them decorate their house! My girls just love playing with this. If you have the chance (and the space for it!) to get a hold of a larger box, like from a large appliance, you can create a great “house” or fort!

With all of the above suggestions, I hope that you go ahead and creating safe toys out of everyday household items - save your money and at the same time you are helping the environment by recycling and repurposing used objects from around your house!


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    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Great ideas! I could use these!

    • nancy_30 profile image

      nancy_30 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you for all these suggestions they were great. My kids do love to play with the boxes their toys come in more than the toy. I loved the doll house idea. I'm going to do this for my oldest daughter. She will love this.

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      And thank you, Hello, Hello! I put a lot of work into finding ways to entertain, teach and occupy my kids!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      You are a genius and I mean that. Thank you for an interesting hub