If you have children, you already know that wallets, car keys, sunglasses, smart phones, and even a plain old plastic water bottle are far more entertaining and exciting to them than the most expensive flashing toys. (A typical example is that babies will spend more time playing with the box and packing paper than with the actual present within.) So save money and help the environment by repurposing items from your recycling bins or rubbish drawer into a favorite baby toy.
1. Get the tissues ready
How many times have you had to stop your child from grabbing every single tissue from the Kleenex box with glee? Fill an empty box with old, cheap scarves or hankies from the recycle bin. You may also use some of the orphaned baby and toddler socks that are so frustratingly mismatched. (An empty wipes box might also be used.) Allow your child to go wild without wasting Kleenex.
2. Getting canned
Clean out an old oatmeal canister or a formula canister. Wrap the cylinder with brightly colored paper if you're feeling crafty (glue or tape it to the can). Allow your child to try putting on and taking off the plastic lids (fine motor skills!) or rolling the cans about the floor. Your child can practice arranging three or four cans into a pyramid or tower shape if you have three or four. You can alternatively cut a rectangular opening or slit in the can's plastic lid, then instruct your older child how to drop individual cards from a deck of playing cards into the slot. There is never a dull moment!
3. Grasping at stray strands
While my kid sat on the kitchen floor, attempting to put a single plastic straw back into the small round hole in my empty iced coffee cup (which he'd grabbed, joyously, out of the stroller cup holder), I was able to prepare and cook an entire supper. This "exercise" can be done with any non-breakable water tumbler or drink cup that has a straw hole. Alternatively, save the iced coffee cup and straw from your most recent Starbucks run.
4. Pushing your buttons
It's common knowledge that newborns and toddlers adore remote controls. So clean your old abandoned remotes with a disinfectant wipe, remove the batteries and battery plate, and let your child play with them. Keep an old, useless remote in a basket to replace the actual one when your infant gets clingy. (As a side note, never let your child play with the Apple TV remote—far it's too easy to misplace!)
5. Bottled up
So many babies are totally comfortable to squeeze, squash, and crinkle an empty plastic water bottle. Just make sure the cap is securely fastened with duct tape, or remove it completely and discard it (the cap is a choking hazard). You could also build a shaker toy out of the empty water bottle by loading it with small, noisy things (uncooked pasta, rice or dried beans). Fill the empty water bottle with gift-wrap ribbons or bows if your infant prefers shiny items. (If your children are older, you might want to try these shaker maracas.) However, keep an eye on these smaller items if you're near children.)
6. House of cards
Have you really caught your child attempting to steal — and ripping apart — your wallet? In a pinch, it's a wonderful time-buyer. However, if your child is mobile, you may find yourself with a missing credit card. (Pro tip: double-check all shoes and furnace grates!) Instead, make a play wallet out of an old wallet. Eliminate all coins (they're choking risks) and replace them with expired rewards cards and used gift cards—the more gleaming, the better.
7. Ice, ice baby
Put some ice cubes in a mixing basin, give your kid a wooden spoon, and let him whirl the cubes around while they melt. (You might want to cover the kitchen floor with a towel or bathmat.) This can also be done on a highchair tray, which keeps your infant occupied and controlled.
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