How to Use Everyday Objects to Engage Your Baby in Play

If you're looking for simple ways to use everyday objects to engage your baby in play, this article has some great ideas! It's written by an early childhood teacher & mom, too!

For 10 years before I became a Mom, I was an early childhood teacher. I taught Preschool and Kindergarten and loved it. One of my favorite parts was watching the children play and seeing how well they learned through play. Not only that, but I loved engaging the children in play because I believe in the importance of play. As Mr. Rogers so wisely said, “Play really is the work of childhood.” 

Now that I’m a Mom, I have intentionally worked at engaging my son in play from the beginning. How we played as a newborn looks different from our 6 month old play which looks different from how we play now that he’s 14 months. Regardless of the structure, we continue to play and will play for years to come.

Over the past months, I have often gone the frugal route because my son loves the simple, everyday things. We all have seen it when we watch a 1 year old open presents and she would rather play with the wrapping paper than the brand new gift.

For that reason, I want to encourage you to take advantage of your baby’s interest! When your baby is developing, everything is new. Use that fascination to engage them in play.You can do that by using everyday objects to engage your baby in play. 

Here are some ideas of how to use everyday objects to engage babies in play. They are all simple and effective ways to strengthen fine motor skills. Best of all, you can find most – if not all – of these objects in your house to begin playing today.

  • Magazines. Allow your child to tear the pages. Besides, I’d much rather my son tear magazines that I give him instead of books.
  • Envelopes. Save junk mail envelopes and let your child open and close them. As they get older, they can try to put things in the envelopes.
  • Cards. Let your child play with old birthday or Christmas cards. My son loves turning them over over, and then opening and closing them.
  • Empty food containers. Wash and save old food containers, especially those with lids. Put something into the container and let your child shake it. Or watch him try to take the lid on and off the containers.
  • Old wipe containers. Once my son discovered how to pull the wipes out of the container, I gave him an old container and cut an old tee-shirt into strips. He enjoys pulling them out of the container, over and over again.
  • Empty boxes. Shoe boxes, empty food boxes or empty Kleenex boxes are perfect for play. Let your child put toys inside the boxes and empty them out.
  • Old remotes. Just like cell phones, anything with buttons to press is a favorite of babies. It’s amazing how quickly they imitate phone behavior. My son often puts his remote control up to his ear and carries it around with him as he jabbers. Just remember to take the batteries out first!

Sweet baby, playing and talking on a remote control.

(An Instagram picture as proof!)

  • Spoons, wisks and other kitchen utensils. Add a pan or bowl and your child will be happy banging away! It’s the classic toy of choice!
  • Measuring spoons and cups. Like kitchen utensils, babies enjoy scooping things. I have a Pampered Chef adjustable measuring spoon that my son enjoys sliding and clicking.
  • Plastic cups and bowls. Cups can hold so many things – and are for more than just drinking. Let your baby play with the extras you have.
  • Applesauce cups. These are are some of my favorite play things for babies! They stack nicely and can be carried around easily. These individual cups can also serve as a back-up snack container. Plus, when your child gets older, they make the perfect size water cup for painting.
  • Miniature household items. My son has a miniature frisbee from his Uncle Chris that he loves to play with. Anything that looks similar to something you use will appeal to your baby. He / she wants to be just like you!

There is my list of some everyday items you can use to play with your baby. This list is by no means complete! I’m sure you can add to this list. What items does your child like to play with?

Look around you and you will find countless items with which your baby can play. Encourage their discovery and play. Remember, play is how children learn!

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  1. This is great! It never ceases to amaze how kids often love playing with “real” things over toys.

    1. Thanks, Lydia! It really is amazing how easily entertained they are. It is good motivation for me to try and keep things as simple as I can, when it comes to toys.

  2. I’ve put all of our plastic storage containers in a low drawer so the baby can open and close the drawer and reach everything himself. I also rearranged a cabinet to keep all of my metal baking pans at the front so he can bang around with those and not accidentally pull out the Pyrex or Corningware.
    In the bathroom I put all of the travel size and extra shampoo bottles, soaps, combs, etc. into the lowest drawer so he has something to entertain himself with if he’s helping me get ready in the morning.

    1. That’s a great idea, Leslie! I have a low drawer that Nathan plays with in the kitchen and he loves getting all my plastic wear out. I have a couple snack bars that he loves carrying around, too. Ha. I love the bathroom idea, too! Our lowest drawer hides a laundry chute to the basement, so I try to keep him away from that one. I think I’ll put together a bin that I can pull out for him when Nathan “helps” me get ready.

  3. I love Mr. Rogers! Cutting an old t-shirt up and putting it in a wipes container is a good idea that I will have to try with Caleb! He also loves ripping my magazine pages, but I have to watch closely because he is still in the phase of putting everything into his mouth. Another favorite “toy” is empty plastic water bottles.

    1. Oh, yes! How could I forget water bottles? It’s one of the few things where cheaper is better because it crinkles so much nicer for baby hands! Ah, yes, the eating everything stage is tricky. We’re mostly past that but Nathan is still great at finding any crumb that I didn’t sweep up to eat. I don’t know how they do it! Ha.

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