You Say Mixing Cup, I Say Toy

Baby playing with pans

If your little ones have gone off to school while you are left to care for your toddler during the day, you may be wondering, what now? Buy a new toy that will entertain for minutes while you get some work done? No! Don’t do it.

Toddlers love to explore. You don’t need passive, commercial toys to entertain your child. You don’t even need gorgeous natural toys all of the time. Your child can easily add her own imagination to make a toy out of general household products.

Working in the kitchen? Open a drawer and explore. Nature Mom keeps a draw filled with baking items like measuring cups, sppons, and stainless steel mixing bowls. Her 14-month old goes through the drawer and dumps everything out. She is even starting to make a game of putting things back. Show her how to do it, and she’ll copy. It’s a great game, and there are no fancy toys required.

Sewing? Have your child arrange your thread. This was my mother’s trick with me. She had been studying Montessori education, and she decided that thread arranging would be a fine activity to keep me occupied while she sewed. I arranged thread in order of color or size or texture or color or color. I wonder sometimes if this was the origin of my lifetime focus on color. I got so good at it, that I was frequently sent to our next door neighbor to arrange her thread. My fun became a local service.

If you are allowing your child to play with household products as toys, keep a few points in mind.

  • Check beforehand to be sure that everything in the drawer or box is safe.
  • Keep an eye on your child to make sure that the wrong things don’t go into her mouth—and to make sure you don’t lose any of your own tools as she trots away with her new toys.
  • Anticipate which room you will be in, and make sure you have an exploring space set up.
  • Change what you keep in the drawer or box to make it interesting.
  • Talk to your toddler about what you are doing, and she may follow your lead with her own collection of tools.
  • Get down and play. You might have fun starting a family pots and pans band.

Be careful what you wish for. My mother’s game became my obsession. Yes, I still like to arrange thread, but I no longer lend myself out to neighbors. I lend my own children for thread arranging now.

Image © Michelle Milliman |

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