13 Thrifty Toys for a 13-Month-Old

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Disclaimer:  We do not let Gv play with these toys unattended and I am not making any claims about the safety of these ideas.  Use your best judgement when searching your own house for cheap baby playthings

You may remember that several months ago, I wrote a post about using around-the-house objects as toys.  Well, Gv continues to explore and discover exciting new treasures in the world around her.  It's also neat to see how she's using some objects differently, now that she's in a new stage of development.

Here are thirteen of her current prized possessions, most of which were completely FREE:

1.  A Loaf Pan Guitar

This is a very old loaf pan which we've never actually used, not only because it's made of nasty aluminum, but also because it has several tiny, pinprick-sized holes in its bottom.  We held onto it because it's been in G's family a while and we'd thought we could use it for some sort of garden planter or something.

We probably still will, someday, but for the moment, it's serving a more musical purpose.

I used the rubber bands that come wrapped around veggies, as they seem to be sturdier and also because I had a variety of thicknesses and colors.  The various thicknesses produce different notes.  There were originally more, but vigorous strumming ripped a few over time.  None have snapped - they've just gradually developed tears.  When that happens, I make sure to remove the rubber band before it can hurt Gv.  This is definitely a toy she uses only when G or I can give her our full attention.

2.  An Old Remote

After days of having to pry our real remote out of Gv's curious hands (& mouth), I dug out the remote to our VCR.  We hardly ever use the VCR, but when we do, it's just as easy to use the controls on the actual unit, in case this one gets messed up.
I took the batteries out of this remote before giving it to her.  Besides mashing on the buttons, Gv's figured out how to take the battery cover off and is pretty darn close to being able to get it snapped back into place.

3.  A Change Purse

This change purse actually belongs to a friend who has a son the same age as Gv and therefore wasn't fazed when Gv trotted off with it in her mouth.  After seeing how much Gv enjoyed carrying it around this day at the park, I came home and gave her one of mine to use as a toy.

A fashionista in the making?

4.  A Funnel

We have several of these in our kitchen drawers and Gv has discovered every one of them.  It's really no big deal to let her continue to use them and then just wash them before we need them ourselves.

 Funnels make the best horns - Toot, Toot!

5.  A Towel (& Washcloth)

This gal definitely has her Grammy's love of sewing in her, because she can be entertained for hours with just a piece of fabric.  She's enjoyed playing peek-a-boo with a towel or just covering and uncovering herself with one for quite a while, but has also recently been wiping things off with smaller pieces of fabric as well.

Channeling her inner Cinderella by wiping the floor with a washcloth 

6.  A Retractable Pen

At first Gv was simply entertained by clicking the button on top, then of course it went into her mouth, and now she enjoys "writing" with it on scraps of paper.

You'll want to remove the ink before turning this item into a toy.  Unless, of course, you'd like ink on everything, including your child...

Future blogger?

7.  A Stick

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you'll recognize this top toy.  Gv's always finding sticks to cart around, wave through the air, or draw in the sand with.
Technically, this is a palm frond, but I feel it still belongs in the "stick" category.

8.  A Headlamp

Not only do we use these camping, but also to read in bed with at home, since the red light is more gentle on our eyes before sleep.  Gv likes to turn the lights on and off, as well as to wear them as a belt.

The newest fashion accessory to hit the runways?

9.  A Pair of Flip-Flops

Lately, we've been calling Gv our little puppy, because it seems like all she wants to do is gnaw on things.  Especially shoes.


After realizing that a Nerf football wouldn't solve the problem (Gv bit a giant chunk right out of it), G came up with a genius idea.  We bought a pair of flip-flops from the dollar store and now have one shoe for the house and one for the car.  She can gnaw and chew to her little heart's desire - they're clean and she's not able to tear through them.

This idea might not work if your child is named Renesmee Cullen...

10.  A Plastic Pretzel Container & Some Junk Mail Tubes

We got a whole slew of these tubes in the mail one day:

They contained some fancy light-up code for a car we may have already won and I wanted to toss them all out.  G, however, wisely suggested we hold onto them for Gv.  He figured she might be able to stack them or something.

They're very similar to a toilet paper tube, but thicker and have little caps over each end.  We removed a few of the caps (to create a horn and telescope) and Gv was quite happy playing with them like that:
Yes, she's standing in a box and no, I didn't include that one in my list, because everyone knows a box is the best toy ever.
However, when we also gave Gv an empty plastic pretzel container, the magic really started to happen:

In & out, in & out.  She could do this all day!
* Yes, we do occasionally buy these pretzels.  G likes to snack on them during the school day.  He takes (& prefers) my homemade pretzels, but keeps a container of these in his classroom at all times in case he ever needs more food than he brought from home.  These keep longer than homemade, you know...

11.  Rocks

Rocks...not just for camping anymore...

I think Gv's favorite part of camping is playing with all the rocks she finds.  You can just sense her enjoyment as she sifts the gravel stones through her fingers and hears the satisfying kerplunk when a rock is dropped from above.

Little did I realize that G was looking out for his little girl and gathering a set of rocks to bring back with us from the mountains.  Now Gv can play with rocks anytime she wants from the comfort of our family room!

Take a pile of rocks, add a metal bowl (creates a better sound), and watch as your child fills the container...

...only to dump it all out and begin again!

12.  A Zippered Pencil Case

This is another great toy that's screaming to be filled...and emptied...and filled again.

Think of the fine-motor skills being developed with that zipper...

And you can fill it with all sorts of small objects...

Especially rocks:

13.  A Plastic Greens Box

I've said before that we have a zillion of these and use them for many different purposes.  Like to soak dried beans in.  Well, Gv knows a good thing when she sees it, and she quickly commandeered a few for herself.
It makes a great echo chamber...

...and of course, also holds rocks...

Want to discover your own thrifty toy ideas?  Just watch your child.  See what he or she discovers is great fun to play with and then either allow that to become a new toy, or substitute something similar that can be used in the same way.  

Anytime you're about to throw something out because it's no longer working (like remotes to broken electronics - just remove the batteries first) or anytime you empty a container, ask yourself whether it could find a second life as a FREE toy.  

Who knows what treasure will be discovered around the house next?

Do you have any great toy ideas to share?  A huge winner, or even an idea that flopped?  I'd love to hear about your experiences!  Leave a comment here, or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

Like these toy ideas?  Find more here!

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