baby with pan on head flickr / Tina Sbrigato
Bowled Over

All The Household Objects That Double As Educational Baby Toys

You bought your kid all those baby toys with the best intentions. Or maybe you had other people buy them with the best intentions. Either way, you were sure all the beeping, and lights, and overly high-pitched sing-songy voices emanating from the plastic nonsense would make your kid a genius.

Instead, your baby lost interest and now favors a wooden spoon. Meanwhile, you’ve ripped the batteries out of all the noisy things to save your sanity and spend hours wondering about the resale value of all this crap. Welcome to the edge of toddlerhood!

The bad news is that you’re never going to find a rube who’ll pay money for any of the stuff your baby won’t play with anymore. The good news is that you don’t need to buy new, more interesting toys, because literally everything is interesting for your kid. Here’s how to unlock the secrets of common household objects (which, honestly, you learned the first time you turned a honey bear into a bong).

Your New Scientist

Around the time your kid is newly mobile, they start to embark on a grand odyssey of discovery. For months now they’ve been relatively sedentary while you’ve brought toys to them. They know those toys pretty well now and frankly that look in Oscar the Grouch’s eyes is pretty suspect.

As a new scientist they want to learn more about cause and effect. They want to experiment with the concept of object permanence — the idea that something doesn’t blink out of the universe when they no longer see it. They want to see what sounds things make and how they fit together. And just to be absolutely sure, they want to put everything in their mouth, just in case it feels like it’s supposed to belong inside of them.

FAO Cupboards

  • Because of your kid’s awesome sense of curiosity, your cupboards and kitchen drawers are now the best toy store an emerging toddler could ever wish for. Here are a few things you should allow your kid to plunder:
  • Plastic Mixing Bowls: Nest them, stack them and bang on them. This is the gold standard of kitchen object play.
  • Wooden Spoons: Not only fantastically chewable put makes a neat sound when it hits stuff.
  • Water Bottles: They go crunch and their clear so you can see stuff sloshing around inside (just watch that cap).
  • Oatmeal Container: As if the white-haired dude with the funny hat wasn’t enough, the oatmeal container can be made into an object permanence chamber where things can be placed and retrieved.
  • Cardboard Paper Towel Rolls: Horn? Just something to look through? Mallet? Sky’s the limit. It’s also useful for you, because anything that can fit inside of it is a choking hazard for your kid.
  • Pot Lids: Crash, bang, boom. You might have the next Max Roach on your hands (just look him up, okay?)

What you won’t see on the list are pots. There’s a good reason for this. If your kid gets accustomed to pots being playthings early, there’s a chance they won’t recognize the difference between a play-pot on the ground and a hot one on the stove.

Get Creative

There are household objects outside of the kitchen that would do just fine for open ended baby play too. All it takes is seeing your crap with a creative baby-eye. There are a few rules though:

  • Make sure it’s non-toxic
  • Watch out for sharp edges
  • Keep choking hazards out of reach
  • Be Prepared for (and patient with) messes

Look at that! You’re already saving money and aiding your kids development. This parenting business is a piece of freakin’ cake.