We have learned that some of the best toys ever aren't actually toys at all!
In a little cupboard, I keep a collection of cool containers that I've rescued from the recycling bin. I also have both sets of grandparents on alert for any cool stuff they can find. These are infinitely useful for all sorts of fun pretend play. We use them in our sensory bins or just on their own.
Stuff that opens and closes is really fun - it can be filled up and emptied, and lids that twist or snap are great fine motor practice.
Speaking of lids...
Lids are one of the most versatile and easy to collect items in our cupboard. While I was snapping these pictures, my three year old used the lids as tires, cupcakes, lattes (not sure where he got that one...ha!), as well as money to "pay" for everything.
The three lids with the holes cut in them fit on top of old, clean yogurt or sour cream (or whatever) tubs. Then your kiddo can practice fitting lids, pipe cleaners, pom poms, rice, beans...whatever you can think of, through the holes.
I've also picked up a few "tools" that get used over and over again. The spray bottle, teaspoon (we have a whole measuring spoon set but they get used so often for so many different things that they're sort of spread all over the house), and ice cream scoop are all from The Dollar Tree. Funnels are another really awesome tool that comes from the kitchen section of that store, but I couldn't find any of ours. The clear measuring cup with a spout and tea strainer were from a garage sale, and the tweezers were a gift. I always keep my eyes open at thrift stores for cool stuff to add to our cupboard. Pitchers and trays or cookie sheets are super useful.
One last thing - here's my cupboard full of sensory stuff. Not pretty, but functional!
I hope this encourages you to carve out a corner to store these sort of cheap and creative "toys"!
Megan Defferding is the mom to two super fun boys who love to find great stuff to do all around Lane County! Check out her blog series, Happy Adventuring, every Wednesday.