Top 10 Favorite FREE Toys

top ten free toys

Guest post from Katie of Embracing a Simpler Life

As it has long been said, some of the best things in life are free. I believe toys are no different. There is an authenticity and richness in simplicity that is unrivaled by all the blinking lights and cheesy, pre-recorded music of the modern toy industry.

Whether or not you consider each of these to be “free” or “toys,” the greater point is that the essence of childhood is found not in expensive electronics or the latest trendy toy, but in fresh air and imagination. I hope this list will encourage you and your kids to go outside and be kids!

10. Rocks

Collect them. Build with them. Hide them. Decorate them. Make them pets.

9. Sticks and dirt

Make mud pies. Draw in the dirt. Pretend the sticks are pirate swords, cowboy guns, or kingly scepters.

Go on hikes around the yard, using your hiking stick to fend off imaginary lions and tigers. These are some of my favorite childhood memories. I know my kids love it when I play such games with them.

8. Trees

Climb them, swing from their branches, or create a clubhouse or hiding place underneath. Stash your rock and stick collection in a hollow place amid the branches.

7. “Junk mail” paper airplanes or origami

Here’s a use for the paper you’re constantly throwing out, and there are so many possibilities. The library has many how-to origami books with great pictures for kids.

6. Fireflies

On those warm summer nights when they’re out in droves, run among them, catch them, hold them, release them.

5. A homemade tent

Use couch cushions, a sheet, and a broom handle perhaps. Introduce flashlights or other household items to make it a real camping-like experience. Bring books to read or tell stories.

4. Puddles.

Run through them. Jump in them. Splash around. Go crazy! It’s so much fun!

This is truly one of the pure joys of childhood. While you’re at it, run around in the rain and tromp through mud barefoot.

3. A cardboard box

The bigger the better as far as I’m concerned! Decorate it into a castle, a boat, or a race car. Get in it and roll around. Go fishing in the box with sticks and string, while someone else hides inside the box and ties “prizes” on the end of your line.

2. Friends or siblings

Play hide-and-go-seek. Go exploring. Create imaginary games, secret handshakes, and fun hide-outs. Good friends are better than any toy.

1. You, the parent

Your child wants your attention and engagement. It doesn’t cost a thing, and ultimately it means more than any toy you could buy for them.

What “toys” would you add to this list?

Hi! I’m Katie. I’m a young-ish, stay-at-home mom of two adorably-fun little ones, and I live a life devoted to Jesus. I love to write, and I focus my energy on living simply and well. I’m new to the blogging world, recently launching a blog called Embracing a Simpler Life.

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Comments

  1. Chrissy says

    Scavenger hunts, leaf tracing, coffee filter flowers

    Curious, how long do you moms keep your kids art work or box “pirate ships” etc?

  2. sona says

    We have had a life time of fun with do ta do’s. Normal people call them tubes….from tp, wrapping paper, big ones from rugs. The imagination is a wonderful thing!!!

  3. says

    Fireflies in South Florida? I WISH!

    Before we had kids, hubby and I used to have another purpose for our junk mail. We’d burn it in a metal bucket and make S’mores. That way I never had to worry about anyone stealing my identity, and I didn’t need to buy a shredder.

    Oddly enough, when my brother and I were kids, our favorite toys were the canned goods in our pantry. Whenever grandma bought canned goods, she’d ask us to put them away. While we did, we played “store”. One of us would sit next to the cabinet and be the cashier. The other would drag the bag of cans over to the other side of the kitchen, roll the cans across the floor to the cashier, and the cashier would put the can away and say “BEEP!” like the checkout scanner. Technically, this isn’t “free” per se, but if you’re buying canned goods anyway…

    • Doreen says

      This works with almost any household item in your cupboards. My daughter loves playing store with my whole pantry. I am usually glad for a chance to clean up and reorganize the pantry and so when she wants to play, I let her take everything out and when she is done, I put it all back in how I want it! It works great as long as she doesn’t want to play store too often. . .
      Office is another one. Give her a notebook, a real phone that doesn’t work anymore (one of those old cord phones is the most exciting) and a bunch of pens, staples, and scissors and glue. Turn her loose and listen to the imaginary telephone calls she gets at her office and watch her turn a few simple relatively cheap office ingredients into a fun project. That is a favorite, and it is even more fun with a friend.

  4. Mary says

    Old sheets and blankets — for making tents and building forts. Getting the kids to sketch their ideas first takes up more time and it’s fun for them to see if they can make their drawings come to life.

    Worms! My grandson loves to have worm digging contests (his own idea at a young age)

    Helicopter leaves – His favorite “toy” at our house in the spring are the maple leaves.

  5. Meagan says

    Cardboard tubes from toilet paper, paper towels, and wrapping paper

    Bubble wrap

    Plastic tubs (from sour cream, yogurt)

    Empty plastic bottles

    • says

      Empty plastic bottle was my favorite as a baby! My grandmother put some bells and beads inside and then glued the lid on. I used to push it across the floor and crawl after it. Now my son has an empty bottle of his own. :)

  6. Mandy Germain says

    buttons (from worn out clothes and so on) you can sort them, use them as money, create necklaces, hide them as treasure, ect.
    Also if you sew empty thread spools are great fun too :)

  7. Anya Novak says

    Couch cushions and throw pillows — homemade forts are the best for lazy afternoons with Popsicles and a movie!

  8. Sarah says

    Pillows stacked up high and if gas money doesn’t count, free playgrounds and parks, or even the library.

    • says

      We have a couple of different school playgrounds and a park within walking distance of our house – family time, exercise, and great fun all the way around!

      :)
      Lea

  9. Carol says

    We keep a bin of old dresses (like bridesmaid) and suit coats, ties, fashion hats, plastic necklaces and shoes, etc. And a bin of costumes from previous Holiday’s and plays. Great for all sorts of imagination play. (I used elastic and sewed it to the back of the dresses so they fit all sizes, then just cut the bottoms shorter using pinking shears.

  10. Katie L says

    My 8-year-old has been spending at least an hour outside each day, talking to the plants and birds. She’s named them all. It’s a relaxing way for her to have some space from her brothers. Sometimes she incorporates water, sometimes she “harvests” the grass or weeds.

    Today, my kids made board games from old cereal boxes and a few blank wooden blocks that used to be part of a wooden tic-tac-toe set. They decorated the blocks as dice and colored game boards. All free.

    My kids also use our single socks (WHERE do all those matching socks go???) and cut them up for doll clothes, potholder loom loops, or general scrap fabric.

  11. says

    I remember when we had our new stove delivered. That cardboard box became the greatest tunnel that our boys ever had! That is a great free toy – obviously you can get pretty creative with a box.

  12. says

    Great reminders. My kids are teenagers, but they still need to be reminded that there is more out there than technology. I guess I need the reminder too. Great post.

  13. Margery H. says

    Small boxes! Even though my girls, almost 10 and almost 13, are getting older, they make up apartments and houses for all their small suffer animals. One room in our basement has been turned into an entire (stuffed) hamster city! Almost every spare shoe box or internet-order shipping box has been turned into imaginary play.

  14. Margery H. says

    Water! our second favorite free toy is playing in the water. In the creek, washing a car, painting the sidewalk with paintbrushes and water. Make water guns from rinsed-out dishwashing soap bottles, spray bottles, etc. Of course, going to the neighborhood pool is a favorite. I guess it’s not technically free since we pay homeowner dues for it, but we pay that whether we use it or not.

  15. Margery H. says

    Trees and weeds!
    My kids created a “house” under a tree with sticks, rocks, and dirt. They collect various weeds and pretend it’s food. Sometimes they even have imaginary restaurants. They use a big magnolia leaf for a plate and put different flowers, small leaves or berries on it for food. They have hours of imaginative play outside.

  16. Kendra says

    Shows! My daughters loved putting on shows. They’d sing, dance, roller blade, even act our American girl stories. All they ever needed for these was a little attention.

  17. mckenna says

    This is great! Brings back memories of childhood that I want to share. Pull them away from the tablet and leapster and they can have tons of fun using imagination and exploring. Thank you for this post very inspiring :)

  18. LeaDawn Grant says

    Milk Caps – we collect the caps from gallons of milk and keep them in a wipes case. These can be collected, stacked, or just dumped out and put back in. It is the simple things.

    • says

      I love this idea! This would be so perfect for my daughter. She loves collecting and arranging and hiding little thing like that. Thanks for the idea!