Toys overflowing the toy box. Toys all over the floor. Toys in the corners of the room. Toys downstairs. Toys upstairs. Toys blocking the stairs. Toys under the couches. Toys, toys, toys. But you know what’s more interesting to my kids than toys? Things that are not toys.
Sometimes, my toddlers are just plain bored with every one of their millions of toys. There’s not one of them that can hold their interest for more than a few moments. Bored, bored, bored, they say. Actually, to me it sounds more like, wah, waaah, waaaaahhhhhh! But, you know. The meaning is the same.
So, what do we do? Buy more toys? Yeah, right.
No, we take the classic toddler trick that’s been working for generations upon generations and turn not-toys into toys. Here are some favorites that I encourage you to try the next time your kid demands every item in the Target toy aisle:
1) The laundry basket.
Otherwise known as a sled, a fort, a carrying device for other toys, a big pot for making pretend chocolate and a giant stepstool. The babies could play with a laundry basket all day. And I let them.
2) Pots and pans and buckets, oh my!
They use the loud metal ones as drums. They’ll raid my silverware drawer (which consists of just spoons these days) to mix up some delicious make-believe goodies, and when those delicacies are ready for cooking, they open the bottom cabinet and use the old coffee maker and crockpot as a stove and oven. Soon I shall train them to cook for real, and my master plan will be complete.
Whether they’re making shadows on the walls, following and chasing the light beams or searching for monsters in the dark, flashlights mean up to an hour of mommy-less fun or for mommy – Instagram-checking time.
4) The sliding glass door.
This one is not a mom-free activity, as little fingers love staying just a moment too long on the wrong end of the door, and you don’t want anyone’s hand to get shut in the door. But with my supervision, the girls can delight in knocking, asking who’s there, and letting her sister in or out, over and over again. They are like a living, breathing knock-knock joke.
A single feather fell off of my feather duster. I was just about to toss him when the girls rescued him to add to their non-toy rotation. They’ve discovered that tossing it into the air gives it a flying and floating effect. They take turns ”flying.”
6) The washing machine.
If you have a front-loader, you’re in luck. Kids can stare at the spin cycle like it’s Caillou. Plus, it’s low enough for them to ”help” you load and unload. They get the thrill of handling the new texture of dampened, good-smelling clothes, and you get your laundry dried. Win-win. Even if you have a top loader, kids love the vibrations and noise of the machine. They make their own music to its rotational beat.
7) A comb and wax paper.
Sure, your kids probably have a billion harmonicas and recorders lying around that they never use unless the neighborhood kid has just wandered by and slobbered all over it. (Why are musical instruments so much more enticing when there’s other-kid spit on it?). But nothing brings the kid-joy like a piece of equipment meant to be used for hair that they then put in their mouths instead. Just make sure you disinfect first. (Who am I kidding, I’ve never done this.) Unlike the traditional instrument, the comb harmonica can be hours of fun. The kids get to make it first””which makes it way more special. They get to cover the tool with the wax paper and rubber-band it all together. Then they get to blow on a comb! And the sensation it makes on their lips will have them laughing long after they’ve stopped making the silly noises.
Not to confuse kids with cats, but yarn can be well worth it, especially if you put a little foresight into it. If you unwind the ball and tie the end to something, then wrap the length around furniture, string it under throw runs and wind it around all those toys and dustbunnies that are all over your house (at my house they’re like part of the decor). Then give your child the loose end and have him or her unwind it to get back to the beginning. Once they get there, the toy it’s attached to will become so much more entertaining and exotic than it was just 30 minutes ago. Because it was at the end of their long, legendary yarn journey. It represents success.
9) Tissue paper.
Continuing on our cats and kids theme, any kind of paper good can keep a young child occupied for hours, be it pulling tissues out of the box and making a tissue-snow mountain in the living room, or sneaking into the bathroom to unwind (then, of course, attempt to rewind) the toilet paper roll. Who was in there? No one. Obviously. All normal here.
10) Markers, paint bottles, crayons””but not how you think.
Sure, being able to splash color on a page brightens the hearts of many young children, but these common crafting tools can also act as ridiculously cheap and totally acceptable stand-in for action figures, dolls or Barbie Dolls. When a couple of crayons take a drive down to the block castle, though, you know it’s serious. Stop the game until everyone has had ”the talk.”
There are so many more, too. I swear, I could get rid of almost all of their real toys and they wouldn’t even notice. Thank goodness for toddler imaginations.