I have two very active 15-month-old boys and I am always on the lookout for cheap, fun ways to keep their minds engaged and their bodies in action! This winter has been really brutal and we’ve been on a super-tight budget so I’ve had to get really creative to come up with new activities for them. It’s amazing what you can come up with when you’re, A) desperate, B) broke, and C) you open up your mind to the possibilities!
At this stage, during their first year as toddlers, it’s all about sensory play — learning through exploring the senses. Give your little ones plenty of opportunities for touching new textures, smelling new smells, and seeing new things… the possibilities are endless!
I noticed the stack of junk mail getting really high one day and suddenly I was inspired. I tossed a bunch of junk mail on the floor and the boys rushed to it like moths to a flame! Ripping and tossing and more ripping. It kept them busy for over 30 minutes. When they start to get tired of it, grab a small box and show them how to collect all the pieces in the box. They will delight in this activity and you have the added bonus of some clean-up help!
Homemade forts are an old standard for kids of all ages. But this version reuses your old “baby gym” playmat and converts it into a cool fort / cave for the twins to cavort in! Just grab a receiving blanket and a fitted crib sheet. Open up the baby gym and place the fitted sheet over the top of it and tuck the ends around the bottom of the gym. Use the blanket to tie up the sides of the sheet so the twins can go in and out easily. Throw some small toys and books inside and watch as they squeal in delight!
Another pretty common cheap toy — boxes — but with a twist! Throw a big blanket over the box and see what they do. I used a silky, heavy blanket that didn’t immediately sink into the box — the boys were intrigued and investigated closer, eventually tumbling into the blanketed box and roaring with laughter. Then they loved sitting in the box, feeling the silky material with their hands and feet, and they would go in and out, and eventually bring toys and books into this “box upgrade” which became their own little apartment.
My copy of “What To Do When You’re Having Two” (book plug!) came in the mail and my son was fascinated by it. And it wasn’t just the photo of the babies on the cover — something about the heft and sheer number of pages in the book just enthralled him and he ran around the house holding on to the book for over 15 minutes. I think also the fact that it is a “grown-up” book was a real novelty for him. He loved flipping through the pages and feeling the soft paper on his hands. Of course this might not work for all kids but if you have a child who is less prone to destruction, this is worth a try.
Collect some small items from around the house like a hairbrush, a roll of tape, a plastic cup, etc. (anything that’s safe and too big to swallow) and grab a box and show the kids how to put the items in the box, and then take them out again. This is a great activity that will keep them busy and also help develop fine motor skills. We got a few hand-me-down puzzles with larger pieces that the kids are still too little to actually use as a puzzle. But they just love putting the pieces in and out of the box! You’d think the puzzle was made just for that purpose!
Get some cheap bubbles (costs $1 at the dollar store) and blow some bubbles indoors. The kids will go NUTS for this! It will make things a little wet, but if you’re desperate then I think it’s worth doing once in a while. Be careful of tiled and hardwood floors — it gets very slippery! You can spread some old towels on the floor so this isn’t a problem.
You can find some larger bubble wands (about 1 foot long) to produce bigger bubbles and more of them, like you see in the photo. These are still only a few dollars each and they pay for themselves in easy entertainment.
Grab all the pillows you can find and throw them on the floor (preferably over carpet or foam mats). Grab all the blankets you can find and throw them over and around the pillows. Jump into the pile and let the fun begin! Kids this age not only love crawling all over mommy and daddy, but they LOVE soft pillows and falling into them! Giggles abound!
Take out those mega-packages of paper towels, diapers, and toilet paper and let them have at it! These make for awesome climbing practice and they are not too far off the ground. Create an obstacle course in your play area full of various bulk items for climbing over, crawling around, and stepping over. They will have a ball and also get practice with their physical skills (and wear them out for a nice long nap…)