Imaginative Ways to Use Household Items for Playtime

Imaginative Ways to Use Household Items for Playtime

When boredom hits, hand one of these household items to your kid for an afternoon of fun!

By Heather Chaet

We’ve witnessed it firsthand on a holiday or a birthday. Wrapping paper is everywhere. New toys clutter the floor. But where is your child? Off to the side, playing with the box that one of the toys that came in. You shake your head and wonder why you didn’t just buy a bulk supply of cardboard boxes and slap a bow on it as your gift to her.

It’s true. Sometimes, the most fun playthings with aren’t really toys at all. I looked around my abode and found seven everyday items that are perfect for playtime. All your child needs is her imagination to make them the ideal tools in her afternoon of fun.

1. Laundry basket. That white tote used to transport clothes to and from the washer/dryer is a fabulous accessory to playtime. Attaching a long string transforms it into a portable zoo for her stuffed friends. Climbing inside magically makes it a spaceship. Turn it upside down and it’s a table for the afternoon tea party. Endless uses for this one.

2. Empty paper towel roll. When you tear off the last sheet on that paper towel roll, whatever you do, don’t toss the brown cardboard cylinder in the trash. Stash it in that toy bin. When your child discovers it, any guesses on what it may be? A sword? A microphone? A telescope? All awesome ways your kiddo can use it over and over again.

3. Soap or anything else that’s squirty. Warning: This may get a little messy, but it’s perfect for a bit of entertainment. Grab a few small bowls and some squirty items (like soap, shaving gel, or toothpaste), and play scientist. Put various combos in the bowls with some water, and see what happens. Do some bubble up? Do they change color? What do they smell like? Experiments are an excellent way to play. If your child is old enough, have her write down what was in each bowl, and compare the different results.

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4. Cushions, throws, and pillows. Before your child came along, you never knew fort building was on the required list of skills every parent needs to know. Lucky for you, you have awesome tools to build one. Cushions, pillows, and throw blanket are all brilliant accessories in your fort-making tool kit. Also on that list: large binder clips that help secure those throws to each other or to the top of the table.

5. Flashlight. Often tucked away in that junk drawer and only searched for when the power goes out during a thunderstorm, this gadget is a must-have for afternoon playtime. Develop a brilliant shadow puppet show when you darken the bedroom and flip on the switch. Use it to play Super Spy Guys and hunt down the evildoers, or just cuddle under the covers and read a great book together.

6. Empty shoebox. You had to get the whole crew new shoes as the old ones were just waaaaaaay too small. Before you take the boxes to the recycling bin, give that empty shoebox a chance to be a part of something whimsical. Create a special bed for Ted the teddy bear, or kick it old school and make a diorama for those mini plastic dinos.

7. Smartphone camera. So, you may be thinking it’s a little insane to hand over your phone to your 4-year-old, but think again. Get him into the camera mode and have him document all of his belongings. Better yet, have him arrange all of his stuffed animals and do a photo safari. You might be surprised by your kiddo’s photographic eye.

What everyday things do your kids love to play with?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

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