In our house there is no such thing as junk or rubbish. Since I became a Mum, I’m constantly looking for ways to reuse our rubbish and things destined for the bin to entertain my toddler. I’m a stay at home Mum which means money can be tight, and the days can be long! Don’t get me wrong, I love being home with my little boy but keeping him entertained without the use of Paw Patrol can be easier said than done. I like to do lots of new activities and games with him, and I’m a firm believer that that doesn’t need to cost a ton of money. So, here are just a few ways you can reuse things you already have around the house to entertain your little ones.
TOILET ROLL TUBES:
Toilet roll tubes are my favourite item to save for crafting and activities. There are SO many ways to use them and we always have a constant supply!
Make Your Own Bowling Pins
Grab a few toilet roll tubes and number them, then just line them up and take it in turns knocking them down with a ball. You can use them as they are or decorate them to make them more interesting. You could even get your little one involved in the decoration and fill another hour!
Telescope Or Binoculars
My 2 year old is OBSESSED with what he calls ‘spy glasses’. That includes binoculars, kaleidoscopes, telescopes…anything he can spy through really! He is into pirates at the minute, so I made him a telescope using a few old tubes taped together and painted to match his toy pirate ship.
Toilet roll tubes are easy to bend and fold, so you can turn them into different shapes. Just bend it into the shape you want, then wrap some Sellotape around it to keep it in place. They’re easy for toddlers to hold and stamp patterns onto paper. I made a heart stamp and we made our own Valentine’s Day cards.
Grab a load of old toilet roll tubes and use them to build a marble run. I used bigger kitchen roll holders for the sides, then cut a load of smaller tubes in half lengthways (so you can see the marbles going down the track) and taped them together in a zig zag. Fix it all together in a cardboard box with the bottom of the track pointing downwards.
These are really easy to make and are great for both babies and toddlers. Just get an empty bottle and fill it with any sensory materials you can find. Superglue the lid shut and you’re good to go! Anything bright and colourful works well, as do noisy fillings like bells, beads or rice. You can also make glittery bottles with warm water, food colouring and glitter.
Make A Rocket Ship….Or Car….Or Monster….Or…..
Plastic bottles can be turned into all sorts of imaginary play props. From rocket ships to cars, animals, submarines…anything your little one chooses. You can paint them, cover them in paper or card, add wheels made from old lids, googly eyes…whatever you have handy!
Make A String Phone
Old school and easy to do but I was amazed by how hilarious my little one found this. Just punch a small hole through the bottom of two cups, thread string through and tie it. You can also use a paper clip on each end of the string to keep it in place and stop it being pulled back through the hole.
Just put the cups on their side and try to hit a small ball into them. Depending how adventurous you are, you could make your own mini golf course. We have a toy golf set, but you could make your own with an old bat, wooden spoon or even rolling pin and some ping pong balls.
Make Bird Feeders
We made our own bird feeders recently and used old paper cups and yoghurt pots to make the moulds.
This is a really simple but fun way to paint with the kids. Just drop some thin paint on your paper and use a straw to blow different patterns in it. My 2 year old didn’t have enough puff to blow the poster paint we had, so I used food colouring instead and it worked perfectly. You could also try using watercolours or water down your paint to make it easier. Just remember to put your paper on a tray or something with sides before you start so you don’t end up with paint splatters all over the place!
Straws are great for threading and working on fine motor skills. My son used to love threading straws into the holes of a colander and it kept him entertained for ages. We’ve also used them to thread pasta on to – great if your child can’t manage string just yet.
This was always a favourite last day of term activity at my school. We’d be given old newspaper, Sellotape and string and left for the afternoon to make whatever we wanted (maybe the teacher was as ready for the holidays as us). You could get the whole family involved and have a competition to see who can make the biggest tower.
Another favourite from school! Tear your newspaper into strips, mix some PVA glue and water and dip your strips in. Then lay your strips onto a mould such as a blown up balloon or bowl. Keep adding more layers until it is thick enough to be sturdy and leave it to dry. Balloons make really good moulds because you can just pop them after the papier mache dries.
Teabag Treasure Map
I’m sure everyone remembers doing this as a kid right? Let your teabags cool down then press them onto the paper to make it look old. For a darker colour, let the paper dry and repeat them process. You can also used leftover coffee. I drew a treasure map onto ours as Ollie is pirate mad at the minute!
I love making rainbow rice because it’s so easy and can be used for so many things. If you’ve got some rice that’s been sitting in the cupboard a bit too long, dye it with food colouring or paint, fill an empty bottle and make your own maracas! It also makes a great base for sensory bins.
After Christmas I found a bag of marshmallows that had been left open. They had gone a bit stale and not really edible, but I didn’t want to waste them. So we stuck them on cocktail sticks and dried spaghetti to make patterns. For older kids you could try making sculptures.
I remember growing cress in egg shells at Brownies and it’s so simple to do. Just cut the top off the egg and empty the insides out into a bowl to use for cooking. Clean them out and let your children draw faces on the front. Then dip some cotton wool into water and place it inside the shell. Pop some cress seeds inside and leave them on the windowsill to grow.
SAVE IT FROM THE RECYCLING BIN:
Most parents will have at least one of these lying around in a drawer. They’re the little plastic syringes that come in boxes of kid’s medicine. They’re great for working on fine motor skills. I’ve added them to a pouring station, played with them in the bath and even painted with them…that one got quite messy though!
These are great for a first threading activity. Get something sturdy to thread them onto like a mop handle or even a wooden spoon or thin rolling pin.
Egg Carton Colour Sorting
Egg cartons are great for a quick to prepare colour sorting activity. Just colour each of the holes different colours with paint or circles of paper. Then give your child a mixture of small coloured items to sort into the right sections. Brightly coloured pompoms work really well, and you could even make it a bit more challenging by using giant tweezers to pick them up.
As with all activities, children should be supervised at all times.