I won't get into the science of marketing (which does leverage every psychological hook possible to get you to spend money). Instead, I'll just show you some fun, easy, and CHEAP ways to engage your baby, helping them learn and grow.
In fact, I plan to make these money-saving posts a common feature in the future. Please leave feedback on topics you'd like to learn more about!
10 Inexpensive Ways to Play With, Engage, and Entertain Baby
- Sorting Laundry. It might be a couple years before they can productively help you sort laundry, but in the mean time, give them a stack of towels or clothes and let them put it in the basket and take it out. Babies love to imitate, so be sure to join them with their pile, or by working separately on your pile.
- Pillow Play. Stack up a bunch of pillows on the floor and let them role around, fall into them, and just have a good time. One word of caution - make sure you have a nice soft floor or put something soft down (like a sleeping bag) - they can sometimes get a little crazy!
- Pots and Pans. This is an age-old noise-making fun idea. Get a few old pots and a wooden spoon, and let them go to town exploring the noises. Join in with some beats of your own!
- Cardboard box houses. Cut a baby-sized hole and let them play like the box is a house.
- Cardboard box coloring. Our kids loved to sit inside the cardboard box and scribble crayons or markers. As they got older they started drawing windows and other house features.
- Mylar Balloons. Babies love to watch those shiny Mylar balloons - especially if they have fun characters on them. Even better, attach the balloon to something that moves or rotates (like the cage of a oscillating table fan) and they'll be entranced by the balloon. Some parents have told me that they will clip the balloon on babies pant leg near the ankle, and baby will kick and move the balloon. That makes me a bit nervous since the balloon has a string (choking hazard!), but under close supervision and while baby is not crawling or rolling, it might be OK for short durations.
- Watching leaves and trees. Take baby outside on their baby blanket (or in a Pack-n-Play) or even in the grass and lay them down so they can stare at the rustling trees. Mesmerizing for baby!
- Empty and Fill a box. There are many toys around the concept of emptying and filling, like this Piggy Bank. Our kids loved it! And you can make your own with an old coffee can or a Kleenex box. Just make sure the items you use are non-toxic and too big to be a choking hazard.
- More fun with kitchen items. Use stacking/nesting plastic bowls so baby can stack and nest them, building dexterity. Use muffin tins or egg cartons for sorting items. Get creative - use plastic easter eggs for sorting, or toilet paper roles (you can cut them into threes to make them go further and fit better). The ideas are endless!
- Water Play. If you don't mind a bit of a mess and a wet baby, water play can't be beat. Put some water in a bowl, in a plastic pitcher, get some measuring cups or other plastic cups, and let baby go to town!
Of course, the options are almost infinite. Hopefully these get the ideas flowing, and you and baby will be off to a day full of fun and learning.