You don't need a house full of toys to keep your kids entertained

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Go on a treasure hunt and give your child clues to follow.
Go on a treasure hunt and give your child clues to follow.

It's wonderful to spoil your child with the shiniest, noisiest toy on the market, but the reality is that very few toys really keep babies and toddlers busy for long.

They are explorers and curious little monkeys and love to get their hands on something new.

Try to look at the world through your child's eyes and find value in all kinds of household objects. You'll be surprised to realise what you can use to make toys, and these toys can truly be of great sensory value for your child.

Sensory play is an important part of your child's learning process, says Wietske Boon, a play therapist from Centurion.

"Children learn best when all their senses are involved in the process. Sensory play is also the way in which children make contact with and collect information about their environment. In this way, a child also gets to know himself – his likes and dislikes in textures, smells and sounds – which is also important for emotional development."

Read: Watch out for toys that can cause injury this holiday season 

Play therapist Wietske Boon offers this advice:

1. Sight

Make a mobile by hanging a variety of objects from a hanger. (0-1 year)

Paint two empty toilet rolls and stick them together to make binoculars. Cover one end with coloured cellophane as "lenses".

Suddenly things look different in a different colour. An alternative is to cut glasses from a box and cover the "lenses" with coloured cellophane. (2+ years)

Stick a picture (something suitable from a magazine) onto a sturdy piece of cardboard. Cut it into big blocks and use it as a puzzle. (2+ years) 

Cut pictures from magazines and take turns to tell stories about these. (3+ years)

2. Smell

Put spices or vanilla essence into small bottles or flasks and let them guess what’s in the bottle.

Be careful of very strong smells (2+ years).

3. Touch

Use feathers to tickle each other under the feet, on the hands and on the cheeks (0-2 years).

Put a variety of objects in a bag or pillowcase. Ask your child to put his hands in the bag and guess what’s in there (2+ years).

Make special time to rub some cream into his body and have a good chat at the same time.

4. Hearing

Pour sand, pebbles or grains of rice in an empty bottle and seal it well. (0-2 years)

Collect tins of various sizes and let your child enjoy the noise each tin makes when he hits it.

Tins of various sizes will obviously make different sounds (1+ year)

5. Others

Build a box house. Paint the box and cut out a door and windows. This could lead to hours of imaginative play.

Make masks from paper plates. Cut out eyes, a mouth and a nose, colour them in and fix with elastic bands. These are also fun for role-playing.

Build a tower from plastic containers.How high can you go?

For Babies

Draw simple faces on paper plates. Cut spirals from these that you can hang above your baby. 

Allow your baby to play with sponges, brushes and plastic containers in water.

Fill containers and tins of various kinds with macaroni and ask the baby to shake these.

Get your baby to look at himself in the mirror and start teaching him about the different parts of his body.

Thread little bells or beads on a ribbon and tie it to your baby's arms or legs. Not too tightly though.

Fill balloons with sugar or jelly. He'll love it.

Fill an old sock with cellophane. Your baby will enjoy playing with that.

Give him a tin with a flat lid and a variety of objects. He can have fun packing and unpacking it and trying to close the lid.

Push your baby around in a big box or baby bath or get him to crawl in underneath.

Shaving cream is a wonderful toy. Spray a little bit into your baby's hands or on the tray of his high chair, so he can explore it with his hands.

Pour some dry pasta or rice into an old baby bath and add funnels and measuring and toy cups. Your little one will enjoy sitting in the tub with all the toys.

Crumple pages from old magazines into little balls and gets your baby to throw these around.

Also read: Top toys for tots, that don't have to cost a cent 

For Toddlers and Young Children

Give your child things like raisins to divide between paper plates.

Throw a picnic with your child in your own "tent" of sheets under the table.

Bake cupcakes or cookies for the two of you.

Go on a treasure hunt and give your child clues to follow.

Turn on the sprinkler and play together outside, water restrictions permitting, of course.

Give your child paper and finger paint.

Give your child a big tub of water with a bunch of small bowls and cups. He can have a good time pouring water and messing around.

Just keep an eye!

Do your own experiment with your child. Line a bowl with tin foil, sprinkle with baking soda and then pour in some vinegar so that the baking soda fizzes. Your toddler will be fascinated.

Hang a clothesline at his height in your child’s room and have him hang up some pieces of clothing with clothes pegs.

Put a bunch of toys in the bath, and ask your toddler to wash them.

Ask your child to lie down on a large sheet of paper, and trace the outline of his body with a pen. Ask him to colour it in and decorate it – and then name the different parts of his body.

Make music together and teach your child rhymes and songs. Find some inspiration on Parent24/Storytime to spark children's potential through storytelling and reading. Here you'll find stories in a number of our official languages.

Encourage your child to use his imagination. Get him to think of different uses for a box: it could be a car, a guitar or a house.

Collect little boxes in various sizes and get your child to stick them together.

Build an obstacle course for your little one with a variety of household objects like pillowcases and duvets.

Make your own playdough: Mix ½ cup of water with 1 tablespoon sunflower oil. Stir in 2 cups of cake flour and ½ teaspoon of salt. Knead until a dough forms. Add water if needed. Add food colouring and knead well. Store in a plastic bag to keep it soft.

Make your own paint: Mix 1 cup flour with 1 cup salt. Add 1 cup water and mix until smooth. Divide the mixture into plastic bags, and add food colouring in different colours in each bag. Add more water to thin. Pour into bottles with lids.

Mix dishwashing liquid with water, and pour it into empty bubble containers. Children love blowing bubbles.

Build a volcano with your little one. Build it from clay or paper mâché with a hole in the middle. Now add 2 teaspoon baking soda, and slowly pour in vinegar.

Show your child how to make necklaces from the pasta. Thread different kinds of raw pasta on a string.

Make a tiny hat of coloured paper.


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