I think a lot of parents these days are looking to minimize the gear they purchase for children, especially when it comes to toys. To reduce toy clutter, this is our guide to common household items that double as toys. Charlie has loved playing with every single item on this list!


1) Plastic cups – Cups are great for water play, sand play, stacking, scooping, hiding and color sorting things. We always make sure that we have a cup when we go to local playgrounds with water features because they make water play for Charlie infinitely more fun!

2) Paper towel or toilet paper rolls – There are so many things you can do with paper towel and toilet paper rolls — this is an entire site dedicated to toilet paper roll crafts. We’ve even painted with them on Hellobee! But Charlie’s favorite way to play with them is to use them as a musical instrument. When he was 1 and we flew to LA to visit my parents for the first time, playing paper towel roll “trumpets” was the only way we could keep him distracted (he wasn’t used to sitting in a car seat since we don’t have a car). Charlie thought it was the most hilarious thing in the world!

3) Colander – Charlie recently took a colander out of our cabinets, put it on his head, and wore it around the apartment like a hat. A colander is a great bath toy, but it’s also a perfect item for your child to practice fine motor skills — have them push pipe cleaners through the holes (also works great with an empty spice bottle)!

4) Wooden spoon – This was one of Charlie’s favorite toys when we introduced it at 7 months old. It’s big, easy to hold onto, and made of all natural wood!

5) Potato Masher – This was another of Charlie’s favorite toys from 7 months+. The rubber handle made it easy to grasp, and the metal was a cool, contrasting texture with lots of interesting curves.

6) Whisk – This was Charlie’s favorite toy from 7 months+. Doesn’t it just look like a fun toy? Every time we were pushing Charlie in his stroller and people saw him with his potato masher or whisk, they would laugh and strike up a conversation! Now Olive is playing with the very same wooden spoon, potato masher, and whisk!

7) Water Bottles – You can fill water bottles with just about anything to make age appropriate sensory and discovery bottles. Fill them with items that make noise like buttons or styrofoam packing peanuts to make rattles for babies. Hide small items or charms in rice to create I Spy discovery bottles. Fill them with oil, vinegar, corn syrup, food coloring, etc. to teach your older children about different textures. The possibilities are truly endless.

8) Swiffer – Like most kids, Charlie has been obsessed with vacuums, brooms and mops since he was a wee baby. The Swiffer is perfect for him because it’s lightweight and easy to maneuver, and of course it’s never too early to teach your child to help with household chores.

9) Retractable tape measure – This is still one of Charlie’s favorite toys. You can pull out a tape measure and it retracts! Need I say more?

10) Cardboard boxes – Since we don’t have a car, we get a lot of boxes from Amazon, Diapers.com and Fresh Direct (a local grocery delivery service), much to Charlie’s delight. While he naturally prefers the big boxes, no box is too small for Charlie! He will squeeze his little butt into the smallest of boxes. Sabrina over at Hello Lucky even threw an awesome cardboard box party for her twin sons — genius!

11) Empty Wipes Containers – Charlie is OBSESSED with wipes. The boy loves cleaning with them! But empty wipes containers can be used in so many ways! Children can push objects through the opening. But my favorite way to use wipes containers is to fill them with fabric scraps and allow your child to pull them out!

12) Containers with lids – Starting around age 1, Charlie loved putting lids on containers and taking them off. He still does!

What are some of your favorite household items that double as toys?