Before my daughter was born, we did everything we could to prepare for her arrival. From creating registries to accepting generous gifts from family and friends, we wanted to give her every opportunity to learn and grow with the right tools. But now, I regularly find myself questioning all of the stuff. While toys are a critical part of a baby’s development, do you really have to turn your home into a crowded toy aisle in order to hit milestones?

Based on what I’ve seen over the past year, the answer is no. Toys certainly don’t have to come off the shelf spinning, shining and singing in order to be useful. Sometimes the best teaching moments can come from objects simply found around the house. Here are a few household toys my baby uses to explore the world around her.

The Toys

Under close supervision, my daughter is engaged by the following safety-approved objects.

household toys

A Wooden Spoon

By one year, many babies will be able to:

  • Reach, grasp and put objects into mouth
  • Pick things up with pincer grasp (thumb and one finger)
  • Purposefully transfer objects from one hand to the other and release objects.

The wooden spoon meets all of the criteria to help babies develop and sharpen these fine motor skills.

The long handle lets her practice picking up and handling large, uniquely shaped objects. By tapping it on the floor, she will also begin to associate that hitting the spoon on various surfaces produces different sounds.

Also, because babies learn through play and imitation, my daughter takes a special interest in exploring objects that she regularly sees me use. By giving her a turn with a spoon I often reach for while cooking, she seems especially pleased to “be like mama.”

household toys for babies
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A Basket of Donation Items

Surely I can’t be the only one who makes a donation pile by the door with good intentions to load the items in the car. Unfortunately, it can take a really long time before sending them off to their new home.

My daughter stumbled upon this household toy by accident the other week. Since she is crawling and pulling up on everything, she made her way over to the basket. She proceeded to reach in, pull items out, put them on the floor and then return them to the basket. My favorite part was watching her reach into the discarded coffee mugs (we have way too many coffee mugs), picking up one of her blocks from the floor and repetitively place it inside the cup.

This wasn’t an easy exercise. First of all, she had to pull herself from stomach to knees. From there, she extended her arm into the deep basket and lifted the items out. At this age I’ve seen her start reaching for objects, transferring them from one hand to the other, and become determined to get objects that are out of reach. This exercise gave her an opportunity to practice all of these new skills.

A Box

Yep, a box. A simple cardboard box is a wonderful household toy. Look, I never said we were fancy at my house! Any small, sturdy, empty box will work, but my favorite are the meal delivery kits from my local grocery store. I place it on the floor and let my daughter explore. For the next twenty minutes, she loves to crawl over the box from one side to the other. She gets the biggest look of accomplishment on her face, almost as if she’s conquered a small mountain. This activity is great for physical development and growing her imagination.

These are just a few household objects we’ve found useful in our home. This is by no means professional advice, just a mom who’s observed her child making the most mundane item interesting. Through the eyes of a child, the options are endless. What does your baby like to explore around the house?

Author

Katie McCall is a lifestyle portrait photographer, content strategist, and producer based in San Antonio, Texas. When she isn’t behind a camera or laptop, she's exploring the world with her husband, darling one-year-old daughter and tiny pup. If you’d like, please follow their adventures on Instagram (@hersideproject)!

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