picture of a boy kid using kitchen items as toys

Sharing is caring!

Toys don’t have to be complicated for kids to enjoy them. In fact, they don’t even have to be toys! There are plenty of everyday household items that can be used as toys instead!

If you’ve ever found your kid spending hours playing with the free box their expensive toy came in, you already know this.

Maybe you’re going on vacation and don’t want to haul a bunch of toys along with you. Or maybe you’re visiting a friend or relative with no kids of their own and you’re digging deep trying to entertain your little ones.

Or maybe you just don’t want to be completely overrun with stuff in your own house, so you’re looking for versatile household items that are both practical, fun, and toddler-proof.

Whatever the reason, there are lots of household items you can use as toys in a pinch. Here’s a helpful list to get you started!

Household items that can be used as baby toys or toys for kids
Pin Me For Later!

Household items from the kitchen

We’ll start our list in the kitchen because that’s probably the best source of household items to use as toys!

In fact, that’s the main reason I have magnetic cabinet locks on all my lower cabinets: I was sick and tired of my toddlers hauling out every kitchen item I own and leaving a disaster in their wake! Raiding and wrecking the kitchen cabinets was a daily activity for my young toddlers.

1. Measuring Cups or Spoons

These are fun on their own — to stack one inside the other– but they’re the most fun when you give kids something to measure. Let them use the measuring cups or spoons to play with dried beans, rice, flour, or water. So fun (although, potentially messy).

2. Colander

Colanders look weird, so the novelty alone is kind of entertaining for kids. Give them a colander and a step stool (if needed) and set them up at the sink. This should keep them busy for a bit just filling up the water and watching it drain out.

3. Whisks or ladles

Whisks are unusual-looking, so they’re a lot more fun to stir with than a regular spoon. Ladles let your kids hold a lot of liquid at once, so that can also be entertaining. Set them up with a bowl, some water, and whisks or ladles and you’ve got homemade toys!

4. Mixing bowls

Give your kid a series of bowls and let them practice pouring from one into the other (you can also use the measuring spoons/cups for this).

If the weather’s nice, it’s great to let them do this on the sidewalk, deck, balcony, etc. If not, just throw down a towel or two to protect your floors. *Bonus* if you have the bowls with the built-in spouts (I LOVE these) because they make the pouring relatively mess-free.

5. Food

The catch here is not to use very snackable food. Because if your kids can eat it, they will. Instead, use dried rice, beans, flour, cornmeal, etc. to let them engage in sensory play. If you have Ziploc bags, they can smoosh it around without making a huge mess (unless they open or rip the bags).

You can also make your own dough using just a combination of flour, salt, and water. This comes in handy when you’re somewhere that has no play-doh or you discover yours is all dried out.

If a little mess isn’t your thing, skip this one. The food inevitably ends up on the floor or the kid(s) –or both.

6. Your Tupperware Cabinet

Or really, any kitchen cabinet you’re willing to give your child free reign over. Just make sure nothing in it is breakable. I know some parents deliberately leave a cabinet or two stocked with kid-friendly bowls to ransack just because babies and toddlers enjoy it so much.

Personally, this drives me nuts, so all my cabinet doors have child locks on them. But when we would visit my grandparents’ house, my babies were always free to rummage. (After all, grandparents let kids do whatever they want, but GREAT grandparents take that to a whole new level.)

these household toys of pots and pans are a toddler's dream
A toddler’s dream “toy box”!

{This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you if an item is purchased through that link. For more information, click here.*)

7. Salad Spinners

I love my salad spinner, so I don’t let my toddler play with this often. My husband thinks it’s a useless tool, but I love how it keeps my salads from being soggy. I can tell you though — my toddler’s successfully grabbed it from the counter a few times and he’s enjoyed it every time.

The crank-handle + spinning action is kind of a no-brainer when it comes to toddler entertainment.

Toy items you can find in other parts of the household

The kitchen offers the most bang for your buck in one place, but the rest of your house is full of other items kids can use as toys!

8. Pillows

Lay them down on the ground and have them try to jump from pillow to pillow. Combine them with any of the other furniture in the room and play a rousing game of The Floor Is Lava.

One of my kids actually recently received an actual The Floor is Lava game for his fifth birthday. We now play it pretty regularly around here, but we also still play “the good-old-fashioned way” with the pillows etc.

9. Blankets

Let the kids build a tent or, if you’re really fun, a full-on fort. The more chill you are, the more blankets you can give them.

Give them enough household blankets and sheets and you’ll be left alone for quite a while as an entire room becomes a fort-village.

10. Boxes

Any size, any type will do, but the bigger the better. Kids can do just about anything with a box. It’s amazing for their creativity.

Ideally, hand them the box, and maybe some scissors or markers, and send them on their way. If they still come back to bug you every few minutes, then you may want to give them a few suggestions to get them going.

Things I’ve seen my kids build out of boxes over the last several years: cars (we later used their box-cars to do a “drive-in” movie), rocket ships, houses, wrestling rings, plus several others I’m sure I’m forgetting.

Kids playing with household boxes as toys

11. Wrapping Paper / tubes

These household items make great toys as a telescope or a noise-maker (woof, boo to excess noise!). They can also be swords or other weapons (as so many things are in my household).

12. Bubble Wrap

This is such a universal source of amusement. If you were a child in the past 40 or 50 years, you already know how fun this can be. After all, there’s been an entire toy movement dedicated to silicone bubble-popping.

13. Brooms or Mops

I don’t know what it is about brooms or mops, but my kids like to ride them around the house, play tug-of-war with them, fight with them — all of it. And the obsession starts pretty young.

As soon as my toddlers can walk, they take an interest in the broom. The only thing they won’t use it for is actually cleaning.

If you have a Swiffer and your kid’s old enough, by all means, let them push the button. Spray the cleaning liquid and mop it up! Get to work, little one!

14. Empty plastic water bottles

I owed this discovery to my sweet Nana Perry. One day, when we came to visit, she’d turned a few of her empty water bottles from the week into bowling pins by putting some dried beans in them.

I can’t even begin to tell you how long my toddler (and preschooler) played with those water bottles during that visit. They played “bowling” for a long time, then they shook them like maracas, then they kept knocking them over with a broom just because they could. Six empty water bottles = hours of entertainment.

(If your kids are little, just make sure the cap is closed tightly. Major choking hazard — in fact, the only time I’ve ever had to do the Heimlich maneuver in our house, a water bottle cap was involved.)

15. Vacuum

The vacuum is kind of like the broom around here. The kids love to push the buttons or sit on it, but there’s not a whole lot of vacuuming going on.

Still, if I set the roller at its highest height (so it glides most easily), I can sometimes get the kids to complete some mediocre vacuuming as part of their playtime.

16. Hairbrushes, combs or other hair styling accessories

All my babies and toddler enjoy brushing and combing their hair. Sadly, when they get to school age, they seem to develop an aversion to it and walk around looking like unkempt crazies. What can you do?!

Butterfly clips and headbands are also great sources of amusement. Again, just watch the size of the accessories if your kids are really little or prone to putting things in their mouths.

17. Scale

If you have a kitchen/food scale, that can be ideal because it detects relatively small measurements, but any scale will do. Kids LOVE to weigh themselves and they love to weigh other things.

If your kids are old enough, you can have them practice their math skills by both estimating and calculating the weights of various items and combinations of items. If they’re not old enough for that, they’ll just enjoy weighing things.

And even if your kids have no concept of numbers whatsoever (infants, young toddlers), they still enjoy the power of seeing the numbers flash on a typical bathroom scale.

A few final thoughts on using household items as toys

If you’re looking for regular objects you can use in place of toys, your imagination is likely the biggest limitation. Adults usually just don’t think as creatively as kids. Maybe it’s due to all those years in the workforce or perhaps it’s just sheer parental exhaustion.

The point is: even if it looks like there’s nothing for your kids to do or use, they’ll probably find a way. More importantly, it’s not your job to entertain your kids 24-7– at your house or someone else’s. Don’t feel bad letting your children be bored! Boredom can be a gift!

But if your kids are really driving you nuts and you can’t find a lot of household items they can play with, give kids’ yoga a try. If your kids can walk, they can try some of these easy yoga poses to pass the time.

(Of course, if you have a baby who’s too young for toys, they’re definitely too young for yoga. In that case, you may want to check out this post about things you can do with a one-month-old baby for some other ideas!)

Good luck!

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.