If your little one is anything like mine and constantly needs to be entertained, I get how frustrating it can feel sometimes – and how easy it is to get carried away thinking “we need to get more toys”. But if there’s something I’ve come to find, it’s that sometimes, the less toys Ben has and the simpler they are, the longer he remains entertained by them.
It’s so tempting to look at all these picture-perfect aesthetically pleasing play rooms and nurseries on Instagram and Pinterest and think of all the beautiful toys and things you want to buy for your children. But the truth is that these tend to be quite pricey (and let’s also keep in mind that a lot of these items may be sponsored or gifts) so please don’t feel disheartened.
Instead, today I’m going to share with you some of my favourite low-budget toys, activities, and other ideas… basically fun and easy ways to keep your baby or toddler entertained – that also help to promote cognitive and motor development – without spending much at all!
I would say that this list is mostly adapted for the 3 – 18 month range, but feel free to read on and you’ll hopefully get some ideas no matter your child’s age! 🙂
Everyone loves bubbles. Children, adults, pets… they’re one of the most simple things yet so fascinating and fun – and SO CHEAP! Don’t even feel like you need to get some super ultra bubble blowing gun or machine either! Stick to the basic bubble stick which you can find from pretty much any stationery for about €2 – and as long as you’ve got some soap and water at home, you’re sorted with refills for life! This is a definite favourite for us at home.
I’ll forever go on about how important and beneficial reading is for children from very early on. I’ve been reading Ben several books a day ever since he was about 2 weeks old, and he absolutely LOVES reading time. Whether we read together or he just explores his books by himself, he’s a very happy boy. Everywhere we go, we have a book with us. And the best part is that most board books are very affordable and easy to come by. You’ll find great selections at stationeries, bookshops, baby shops, bazaars and book fairs, for anything between €2 – €25!
DIY Sensory Toys
Sensory toys are a great way to keep your baby or toddler entertained for awhile – and once again, there’s a cheap and easy way to make them! A few months back, in a desperate attempt to find some new way to keep Ben busy if even for 30 seconds, I went to Tal-Lira and spent no more than €12 and bought a bunch of items that made perfect sensory toys. Fluffy coloured balls, microfibre cloths, sponges, and some other bits and bobs. I also found some old beads and buttons which I popped into an empty (& tightly sealed) bottle which he loves shaking.
My mum also kindly gave me some scraps of material and old scarves which I put into an empty tissue box for Ben to pull out like tissues, and we also use them for playing peekaboo.
Aside from these, I also like to find random objects around the house (that are safe, of course) – some of Ben’s favourites are laundry basins (we actually bought one just for him cause he loves it so much) and baking things like silicone spatulas and brushes, wooden spoons, and plastic containers. There I am looking for beautiful toys when all he wants is to raid the kitchen!
As your child gets older, you can also introduce some games/challenges such as colour coding, where you can get a simple set of plastic picnic bowls or plates that come in different colours and find (safe) items or toys that fit inside them, and have your little one organise them accordingly. I currently do this myself while playing with Ben in the hope that he’ll develop a love for colour-coding as deep as mine hahaha 🙂
While puzzles are not necessarily age appropriate for babies, Ben has always had a great time playing with the different pieces and exploring them, and I’ve also used them as vocabulary opportunities; for example animal puzzles, where I tell him about animals he otherwise wouldn’t be seeing anywhere else. Once they’re old enough to know how to play with them, that’s a great way to keep them entertained and have some fun together – and you can find some lovely wooden puzzles from stationeries and baby shops for under €20!
Another absolute must-have! Stackers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and are always a winner for us. Cups, rings, blocks – anything will do and you can find so many different beautiful ones around, also very affordable ranging something between €10-€20! Many stackers come with the added bonus of being water-friendly, so they’re also perfect for bath time and splash pool fun! And speaking of which…
Before summer started, we bought a paddling pool for our terrace from Megastore for about €18 and it is just perfect – I get in with Ben and we have a great time just splashing around. If you have the space for it (you don’t need much), I couldn’t recommend this more. I’ve often seen the advice that if your child is fussing, you should put them in water or take them outside – and this hits two birds with one stone and works absolute wonders.
And if you don’t have enough space or don’t want to use so much water, you can always take a regular plastic basin or bowl, some toys, and a small playmat and have some splashy watery fun like that instead!
When all else fails, pop on some tunes and have a dance party! Can’t get much more low-budget than that! 🙂
I also strongly recommend doing toy rotations every couple of weeks at most. I find this to be extremely effective cause every time we do a rotation, it’s as though he’s got a bunch of new toys and he loves to take his time exploring and playing with them. We usually tend to include 2 books, a puzzle, a stacker set, a rattle or shaker, some blocks, a sensory item (scarf or cloth), a musical instrument, and we’ve recently started adding soft toys too.
If you have a baby under 3 months, I’d also encourage you to check out this post on ways to entertain a newborn for more age appropriate ideas – and also, congratulations!
And if your baby is about to turn 1, be sure to check out my list of ideas for things to include in their Quċċija!
I hope you like these ideas and find them helpful! Let me know of any other low-budget toys and activities you and your little one enjoy!
Until next time,
Other useful reads for new or soon-to-be parents:
– Packing my Hospital Bags
– 10 Ways to ‘Entertain’ a Newborn
– How to Survive a Sleep Regression
– What I’ve Learned About Weaning So Far
– Ideas for a Modern Day Quċċija