10 household items you can use for play with toddlers

Toddlers don’t need fancy or expensive toys to have fun. Try these 10 common household items for playing with your toddler.

Toddlers don’t need fancy or expensive toys to have fun. The most important thing for toddlers is to have positive interactions with the adults in their lives on a daily basis. Did you know when children are playing, they are learning? Children learn about the world around them through play and exploration. By playing, children are learning math, science, literacy, language, social skills and much more. The great thing is you don’t need expensive toys to have a great play time with your toddler.

Check out these 10 common household items recommended by Michigan State University Extension that you can use for playtime with your toddler.

  1. Cotton balls. Using a container and cotton balls, have your toddler see if they can drop them into the container while standing over it, or throw them into the container from a short distance. They are working on science skills, hand-eye coordination and fine and large motor skills.
  2. Masking tape. Tape a straight line on the floor and have your toddler walk heel to toe on the line. They are working on large motor skills and balance.
  3. Laundry baskets. Use them as baskets and have toddlers throw soft balls or rolled up socks into the baskets. Use the laundry baskets as boats or cars and spend some time driving or boating. They are working on imagination and large and small motor skills.
  4. Old blankets, sheets or towels. Use these to build an indoor fort or tent. Eat lunch or have a snack in there! Talk about what else you could do in the fort or tent. Take the blankets, sheets or towels outside and use them as a parachute to toss around different sized balls or soft objects. Toddlers are working on imagination and gross motor skills.
  5. Paper towel or toilet paper tubes. Take two paper tubes and tape them together to make binoculars. Decorate the binoculars and play “I spy” or ask what they see with their binoculars. You can also create a monocular using only one tube, like a pirate’s spyglass, and pretend you are a pirate on a ship at sea and talk about what you see. Toddlers are working on imagination, following directions and creative play.
  6. Plastic or paper cups. Use the cups as building blocks. See how tall of a tower you can build by stacking the cups. Use two cups and a piece of string to create a telephone. Put the ends of the string through the bottom of two cups and tie knots to keep them from falling out. Carefully pull the string tight and have one person talk into the cup while the other person listens through the other cup. See what happens when you keep the string loose. Toddlers are working on large motor, science and comparison skills.
  7. Plastic or paper plates. Use the plates as musical instruments by taping them to straws, spoons or craft sticks and using them like cymbals. Make up a song you can sing together. Decorate the paper plates and use them as hats. You can use string to help them stay on your head. Make masks out of the paper plates by drawing different faces on them. Toddlers are working on imagination, creativity and fine motor skills.
  8. Flashlights. Use the flashlights to make hand puppets on the wall and have a puppet show. Play flashlight tag outside, where you use the beam of light from the flashlight to “tag” people. Explore shadows created by the flashlights. Talk about why shadows are created and see what your own shadow looks like. Toddlers are working on large and small motor skills, imagination and science.
  9. Boxes. Big boxes can be props for building big! Use the boxes to build large towers. They can also be used for building forts or other structures. Toddlers are working on large motor skills and imagination.
  10. Measuring cups. Use these for scooping and pouring. You can use water, rice, noodles or any other object toddlers can fill and empty easily. Toddlers are working on math, science and fine motor skills.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families are experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 Impact Reports: “Preparing Young Children for Success” and “Preparing the Future Generation for Success.”

Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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