Beyond the toy aisle: 5 nontraditional playthings kids will love


We have all seen the videos of the toddler, ripping open the brand new, expensive toy, only to cast it aside and play with the box for hours. Whether it’s a cardboard box or some old newspaper, kids can turn almost anything into a plaything. For parents on a budget, parents looking for ways to engage their children’s creative thinking or parents just tired of the same old toys cluttering their living rooms, there are a ton of options that can be found beyond the “toy aisle.” In fact, most of these items can be purchased at your local hardware or dollar store or supermarket or even lying around your house.

1. A fishing/butterfly net

Near our house in Orange County New York, there is a beautiful little playground with a tiny creek that runs through it. On our first trip there, I noticed several children with fishing nets playing near the water. My oldest immediately wanted join in the fun, and lucky for me, one boy was kind enough to share his net. My son delighted in his attempts to catch a fish and I knew I had to get him one of his own. Soon after, I bought him what is technically a butterfly net, but still works quite well in the water. Sometimes, he uses it to fish, other times it is for collecting rocks and leaves. Either way, it has more than proved it’s worth, unlike the more expensive toys currently collecting dust in our living room.

 2. A magnifying glass

Little explorers will love examining things up close with this handy tool. A trip to the backyard becomes an adventure A magnifying glass is also a great addition to the dress up station; your mini Sherlock will revel in looking for clues.

3. Pipe cleaners

I don’t know of a single person who uses pipe cleaners for their intended purpose, but for everyone else, these things are amazing. They can be made into fun sculptures, stylish bracelets and other crafts. I even turned a few into wands to use with homemade bubbles.

4. A toothbrush

Chances are you have at least one old toothbrush lying around. Before you toss it in the trash, toss it into your kid’s craft kit. My oldest and I discovered it made a fabulous substitute for his missing paint brush. We enjoyed seeing how it’s texture created a different effect. I imagine it would also be fun to experiment with play dough and other materials.

5. Cereal boxes

You can do a lot with most of your recyclables. Cereal boxes are especially versatile. Use the front panel to make a DIY puzzle.  Gather up some old paper towel rolls and construction paper, and use the cereal box as the base for a home-made robot. Cut an opening in the front and glue on some small toys for a diorama. The possibilities are endless.

What are some of your favorite unconventional ways to play? Comment below.

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