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Top 10 No Cost Toys for Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

on Thu, 11/29/2012 - 16:58

Here's My Top 10 Toy Ideas for Infants!

1. Measuring cups and spoons to shake, rattle, and roll

2. Plastic containers to stack, fill, and empty

3. Washcloth to hide a surprise, wave in the air, or help with cleanup

4. Ball of yarn or ball of socks that can go far and do no damage

5. Clean 2-liter soda bottle with label off, filled with beads, pebbles, jingle bells, etc., and safely sealed

6. Blankie

7. Your keys (*to jingle and shake, not to give to baby)

8. Disposable-diaper box turned into seat, sled, drum, hiding place

9. Upside down pots and pans (best if used with metal measuring cups for really loud rhythm jam sessions)

10. Your lap!

And Here's My Top 10 for Toddlers and Preschoolers!

1. Empty boxes, large and small

2. Bubble wrap for art projects or jumping games

3. Rolls of brown packing paper for large art projects

4. Paper-towel and wrapping-paper tubes

5. Old gift cards, and membership cards as pretend money for shopping

6. Cardboard backing from flipchart after paper is used up. Use for puppet theater, store counter, easel, roadmap for toy cars, etc.

7. Big bowl of water with a few soapsuds on kitchen floor (with towel) with washcloth, kitchen items, dolls or plastic animals that need a bath

8. Roll of masking or cellophane tape. Watch the magic happen!

9. Clean, empty plastic food containers (for example, yogurt or margarine tubs) with lids for pretend cooking and bathtime play

10. Your lap!

Karen Nemeth is an author, speaker, consultant and blogger on early childhood language development. She's developed her expertise in toy selection as a mom and a grandma.


I love this list VERY fun!  Exccept for the keys for infants.....gross!

Great lists, Karen, but may I suggest an addition to both? Nature. Kids -- or, more accurately, all who care for them -- are losing touch with this, the most entertaining host of all.

I so agree! "Nature Deficit Disorder" is on the rise and we will pay the price in many, many ways. Kids+water+dirt = one fantastic playtime.

Love the list!  But I agree, not keys--they can be sharp & can damage eyes if baby accidentally pokes him/herself.

Oh and don't forget laundry pegs! Best toy ever.

There is a lot of research that Keys contain lead.  Do not give these to children of any age who will put them in their mouth.

To clarify - I meant for the adult to use the keys to jingle and shake.  I wouldn't let an infant chew on them. If I could help it ;) Here are some more suggestions from my Facebook friends: Silver bangle bracelets Cloth table napkin - great for playing hiding games Beach towels to make forts, magic carpets, indoor picnics Empty water bottles as bowling pins and to experiment with colors of tinted water Enjoy!

Hi Karen and everyone! Love all the ideas you are sharing.  I added wording to the line about keys to clarify that keys are to jingle and shake and not give to baby.    

Old credit cards can still be used for fraud and should be destroyed. Beyond that, is plastic really a good way to teach children about spending and money? Isn't that how the federal government got us into this mess? I had a friend tell me about his 19-year-old daughter, in college, who believed she still had money while she still had checks in her checkbook!

I don't see credit cards listed anywhere

I think she is referring to number 5 on the second list

Love your ideas but many house and car keys contain lead. Babies are going to want these keys - best left in purse and out of sight.

Great ideas! Thanks for sharing. Of course adult needs to supervise but my son loves to string yarn around the room like a big spider web. my 

I love this list - we are all about no cost play and using household items with our boys (1 and 3). I shared a post of my Top Ten Toddler Games that Only Take You and people really love it! I also have a baby play monthly series on my blog, which always features fun ways to play with babies using items you already have. Often, if you spend money on toys, they just want to play with other it makes sense to focus on what you already have at home that can entertain your little ones.