Our Favorite Items Under $50 to Entertain Babies + Kids at Home
Come rain, snow or school closures, these educational toys are the perfect boredom busters.
Like many parents, I've recently found myself trying to balance work and the immediate needs of my curious toddler. He doesn't understand why I'm home all day but not giving him my full attention. Enter: Mom guilt. Now that this new reality has set in, I've had to come up with engaging, educational ways to keep my little guy occupied while I send emails or join Zoom calls.
While I love a good DIY activity, I just don't have time to put together a daily sensory bin or craft project. That's where these age-appropriate toys and supplies come in handy. I specifically picked items that encourage independent play, inspire creativity and stimulate developmental growth. And, best of all, they're all less than $50.
It's all about sensory and motor development at this age. Toys and objects that engage all five senses will delight and excite babies younger than 12 months. Activity play mats are wonderful for curious babies just learning to grasp, reach and roll, while smaller manipulative items teach cause-and-effect.
Curiosity and a limited attention span make this age group particularly difficult to entertain for long periods of time. Luckily, the simplest things will keep them occupied. A magnetic drawing board or stack of books are sometimes enough to give you at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time. And, if all else fails, stick 'em in the tub with some waterproof crayons or shaving cream. Water play is always a hit.
At this age, kids are pretty independent. They love imaginative play that mimics real-life activities. Toys that give them space to express creativity and autonomy will keep them occupied for long amounts of time. Items like the circus tent give them a spot to retreat and play quietly, while a puppet theater or Magna-Tiles allow for endless outcomes.
Once kids are in school, they're likely able to come up with their own sources of entertainment. But on the days when "I'm bored" is the only thing coming out of their mouths, remember that number one, boredom is perfectly OK. (In fact, it's pretty critical for brain development.) Number two, physical activity and outdoor play are wonderful energy boosters and boredom busters. Stuck inside? Opt for games and toys that offer undercover educational opportunities, like a cash register for pretend play and honing math skills.