Young children don’t need special or expensive toys for learning and development. In fact, with a little imagination, you can turn ordinary things around the house into homemade toys and free activities for kids.
Homemade toys and free activities: why they’re good
Homemade games and free activities at home are a great way to keep children entertained, and to help them learn and grow. They don’t cost any money, and they can really boost your child’s creativity.
It’s easy to come up with ideas for children as they get older. There are lots of toys and games that you and your child can create together.
You can also give your child things from around your home for some open-ended play – for example, young children usually love putting on and taking off the lids of containers, and older children often enjoy playing make-believe with old tea towels. Make sure that the things you give your child are unbreakable and too big to be choking hazards.
Playing with newborns
You’re the ‘toy’ that your newborn most enjoys. Your touch, the sound of your voice, being rocked in your arms, or staring at your face is more than enough entertainment for a new baby.
Your newborn will also love being outside when the weather is good, feeling the wind, hearing the sounds of birds, and experiencing new outdoorsy smells.
Splashing in shallow water or in the bath is also lots of fun. Just remember to always keep your hands on your baby when you and she are playing around water – babies can drown in as little as a couple of centimetres of water.
You could play gentle music to soothe your baby, or make bath time relaxing with a calm atmosphere and warm water, and a warm massage afterwards.
Newborn babies respond to music, but it’s your voice that they enjoy most. Hold your baby, sing, talk and make eye contact. These activities will keep your baby entertained, and help your baby learn and get to know you all at once.
All babies are unique and some babies take more time than others to enjoy new sensations, so watch how your baby responds, and see what he enjoys and is interested in. Your baby’s cues can help you know when your baby is happy to play or when he has had enough and wants a rest.
Playing with babies
Once your baby starts to move around more, she might enjoy more active play – especially with you.
Your baby will love to crawl all over you or grasp and shake objects to try out new movement skills. All young children need time for quiet play too, so watch for cues that your baby needs some downtime.
Here are some play ideas for babies:
Playing with toddlers
Toddlers are like little scientists. Their play is often about experimenting, observing, testing, trying out ideas and figuring out how things work. For example, your child probably loves to ‘post’ things – often into the front of the CD or DVD player!
You could try the following play ideas for toddlers:
Playing with preschoolers
Try some of the following play ideas. They’re fun and will also help with your child’s fine motor skills and gross motor skills:
Check out our article on encouraging preschoolers' creative and artistic development. It has lots of ideas for using everyday objects to make fun new homemade toys.
Playing with school-age kids
Keep your child entertained and stimulated with the following play ideas:
Play is the main way babies and young children learn. But if play isn’t fun, it’s not really play. Letting your child lead the play helps to keep things fun. For babies, this might be stopping play if they’re tired. For preschoolers, it might be letting them choose what they want to play with.