Playtime with Household Items

Playtime with Household Items

The holiday season has come to an end and all that remains are Amazon boxes, gift wrap tubes, and torn wrapping paper. Perhaps your family had big shindig this past New Year’s and have empty liter bottles hanging around, or maybe you are in holiday clean-up mode and have a ton of recyclable items piled up.

Rather than toss them out immediately, let your kids have some fun with them first. 
Not only does this foster imagination, but it builds on so many other skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, motor planning, and conceptualizing ideas.

Item #1: The cardboard box

For big boxes:

  • The 4 walls make a great art space. Bring out the markers and crayons, Play-doh, or paint, and let them create inside that box. Let them scribble inside, or paint the outside. Let them make a scene of clay mountains and monsters…whatever their little heart’s desire. 
  • Big boxes are great for make-believe. They can make it into a car or an airplane with just their imagination or, if you have random items such as bottle caps, jar lids, or buttons, give them some glue and have them build a control panel or an engine for their “vehicle”. The sky’s the limit.
  • If you have multiple boxes, you can help your child build a box structures, such as tunnels, towers, or houses. Open both ends, tape them together, and they can crawl from one box into another. 

For smaller boxes:

  • Tape those small boxes up and turn them into building blocks. Want to change it up? Before you seal it, add random items into them to give it weight or sound (like rice, pasta, beans), providing a sensory component. 

Item #2: Cardboard tubes (from paper towels, wrapping paper, or toilet paper)

  • For long tubes, anything is possible. They can be swords or lightsabers, telescopes, a golf club, or even tracks for little cars and tiny action figures. If you have smaller tubes, they can be binoculars, a musical instrument, or tiny buildings.
  • Marble tracks. This is a great way to learn about physics, gravity, and trial-and-error. 
    You can either tape the tubes together into one long contraption or find a wall to tape the tubes to. Your child can tilt them to create a series of ramps for the marble to descend down. (Hint: use painter’s tape to avoid damaging your walls)
  • Let them make noise. Let your child make the “do-do-do-do” sound on one end like a trumpeter, or use them as drumsticks. Remember, different sizes make different sounds. 

Item #3: Paper

  • Rip it up, crumple it up into a ball, and toss it in the waste basket. It never gets old. 
  • Decoupage! Have your child find images, colors, words, phrases they like and cut them out. Glue them onto an object, like a wooden box or a shoe box. They can also create a collage or vision board that they can proudly display in their room.

Item #4: Plastic Bottles

  • Put random small objects in the container (buttons, coins, pipe cleaners, pom poms, yarn) and have your child try to retrieve and count them. 
  • Make an I-Spy bottle by putting random objects in the container and filling it with sand or rice. Seal the cap onto the bottle and have them visually search for the objects.
  • Cut the bottom off, dip it in soapy water, and make big bubbles by blowing at the top.
  • If you have a lot of bottles around, clean them out, set them up, and allow your child to practice their bowling skills. 

Item #5: Egg Cartons

  • Allow your child to crush it with other objects, like their construction trucks. They can pretend it is a bumpy road where their cars can go off-roading or hills their mini-figures have to climb over. They can also try to crush it with their feet as it provides sensory input (sound, touch, and proprioception if jump or stomp on it). 
  • They can play various games. For example, you can toss a ping pong ball and see if it lands in the carton. If you have one that carries a dozen eggs, you can play Mancala using 48 beans, small stones, or beads. 
  • If your child likes playing card games but has difficulties holding them in their hand, egg cartons can make wonderful card holders by cutting a slit at the bottom and turning it over (2 dimples are needed to hold 1 card). 

These are just a few of so many ideas that can be done with these items. If in doubt, ask your child what they could do with them. They may surprise you with their ideas and imagination. 

For more ideas, visit the Childish Advice Pinterest Page.

Fiver recyclable items for easy playtime

Childcraft – the How and Why Library. Volume 11: Make and Do, 1990. 
Doorley, Rachel. Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors, 2014. 
Useful Things to Do with Your Old Egg Cartons, The Creek Line House
10 Fun Things to Do with a 2-Litre Bottle, Instructables.

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