I spend a lot of time trying to find ways to entertain my baby that don’t involve TV, or huge, plastic, musical contraptions. Plus I just love to upcycle/recycle (or desperately find a use for all the crap I hoard before my boyfriend finds it and throws it out). Whatever you want to call it, when I can make something instead of buying it, I’m happy.
We’ve all done it, shoved our purse, keys, TV remote in the sticky hands of our little one for just 2 seconds of peace – well this is a household goods adventure that takes things to another level and allows babies to investigate and explore their surroundings. I’m sure it’s tried and tested by lots of mamas everywhere, but it’s a relatively new concept to me and as it was such a success I thought I’d share it with you all.
So here, I’ve found a way to combine recycling and freeing up my arms, all the while with an entertained Amélie. Win win WIN…
Baby in a box. Keeping parents sane since 1845 (or whenever cardboard boxes were invented).
First I MacGyvered a cardboard/playpen hybrid with the sides strengthened with Christmas tape to keep baby at bay. If there’s one thing I can’t emphasise enough, get yourself a roll of industrial strength Christmas tape, that shit is handy all year round.
Once box is protected from the wriggles and kicks of your small human, line with a baby duvet or something soft, pop baby inside along with some makeshift toys (see below) and hey presto, your arms can have a rest and you can have a cup of much needed coffee without having to fight off the clammy paws of a ratty 6 month old. You, my friend, are welcome.
If baby can sit completely unaided then you don’t need to use the large box of course, baby will be happier than a slinky on an escalator just plonked on the ground fishing the toys from a small basket or box in front of them.
Homemade ‘toys’. Makeshift toys are totally my fav. They’re free, they’re easy and they keep babies entertained for hours. (By hours, I mean roughly 20-25 minutes, but that can feel like hours to a prematurely-greying mum).
Amélie relishes every opportunity to grab *anything* she isn’t meant to and stuff it in her mouth, so this is a great way of keeping her busy whilst letting her feel like she is still rascal-ing herself into mischief. All of the different textures and shapes of household objects are great for babies to
shove in their mouth investigate and explore. The whole activity is also great for developing baby’s hand and coordination skills including reaching, grasping and manipulating.
You can practically use anything in the home you have to hand, but try to find things that are lightweight and easy for babies to hold and pick up. So as long as you’re not a complete idiot and keep to things that are large enough not to be swallowed, free from sharp edges and avoid things like the removable food processor blades or a raging raccoon, you’re good to go.
Discovery bottles. Small water bottles or old mouthwash bottles are great for this. Fill a clean one ¼ full with uncooked rice, lentils, pasta, colourful beads, buttons, small pebbles or bracelets (obviously ensure lid cannot be removed – screw tightly or use non-toxic glue to be extra safe) and, ta-da, you have a rattle. You can also add water with a dash of food colouring to give it an extra funky, sensory effect. (Yeah, I used the word funky, I’m not cool any more, guys)
Sock scrunchies. Sounds weird, but it works. Just take an old *clean* odd sock and fill it with plastic bottle tops (if you’re anything like me you collect this kind of crap), or for a crinkly effect, stuff it with cut up strips of plastic carrier bags, then tie a knot in the top and you’re away.
Hair rollers. Make sure you give them a good clean if they’ve been covered in hairspray etc, but these are a really great sensory tool for babies to explore with their hands and mouth.
Fruit (whole – lemons, avocados, apples etc). Washed, whole fruit can also make a great sensory item for them to taste, feel and smell, as long as baby doesn’t have too many teeth to gnaw off the skin.
Cinnamon sticks. Also great for taste and texture. A firm favourite of baby Rubiano.
Wooden spoon. You may have to keep a razor sharp eye on them with this if your baby is anything like mine, or they may be down to one. One eye that is.
Plastic measuring cups. Oh thanks IKEA. These are interesting shapes and sizes to explore and have a lot of noise and movement. Big thumbs up from baby A.
Some other things we like to include: silicone ice cube tray, coasters, hollowed coconut shells, Tupperware lids, beach shells, a small sieve, jar lids, a sea sponge, tea strainer, balls of wool, garlic squeezer, baby hairbrush/comb, bangles, handheld wooden massager, curtain rings, potato masher, plastic cookie cutters, large champagne corks, pinecones… the list of things you can use is endless…
Remember to limit the items you give the baby at a time to no more than 10, so they aren’t too overwhelmed and then rotate them each time you sit them down with the ‘discovery box’ to keep your babies interest up.
As I said, you can literally use anything and it really does work – saves money, your sanity and babies just LOVE it. So if you need a coffee break or if you’re just having one of those days where you feel like a badger’s knapsack and could do without a small mound of flesh tugging at your nose for 10 minutes, then give it a go!
If you have any other ideas you can share about how to easily and cheaply entertain a young baby at home that doesn’t include having my hair yanked out, I would love to hear them!