20 Ways to Play – No Toys Required!


By Rachel Wells

It happens to the best of us. We want to keep our kids endlessly entertained and happy, and try so hard to find toys that do just that. Eventually we find a toy that we think will solve the problem, but after a few short weeks, it ends up in the bottom of the toy box. Off we go back to the store (or online shopping cart) only to again buy a new toy which enjoys its two weeks of fun before heading to the toy box with the others, never to be seen again. The cycle continues until we realize we have way too many toys and our children are still bored.

While open ended toys such as blocks, Legos, dolls, and arts and crafts supplies are great to have available at all times, we tend to forget that kids don’t actually need toys to play. And they probably spend less time than we think using any of the toys in their play room. I have seen it with my own children – the more toys I take away, the better my kids play. With fewer toys their imaginations soar, there is creativity and innovation abound, and they are generally more calm, focused, and appreciative of what they have.

With these thoughts in mind, check out our list of 20 ways to play with your kids – without toys!

1. Play a game of “Rock, Scissors, Paper”

2. Teach your child some hand clapping games.

3. Play “20 Questions”, “Simon Says”, or “Truth or Dare”

4. Try to be mirror images of each other. Face each other, and choose one person to move, while the other person acts as the “mirror” and tries to copy every movement.

5. Cook together.

6. Practice counting backwards from 100, or 78, or 214.

7. Play “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”, but each time you do it, replace one body part with the word “hmm”. So for the first round you would say “hmm” instead of the times you would normally say “head”. The next round you would say “hmm” instead of times you would normally say head and shoulders. Continue on, one body part at a time, until you no longer say any body parts – just “hmm” for the whole song.

8. Tell each other jokes. Try to make up some of your own!

9. Take turns finding things in the house that start with each letter of the alphabet.

10. Style each other’s hair or give each other a back rub.

11. Go out in nature. Make up a scavenger hunt, jump in puddles, jump in leaves, swim, build a snowman, go bird watching, or look for bugs. We need nature and fresh air to live, so why not spend more time enjoying it.

12. Paint rocks. Create a rock animal zoo, rock pets, or decorate rocks with inspirational messages and hide them around your neighborhood for others to find.

13. Read a book.

14. Build a fort.

15. Have a staring contest, and see who can make the other person laugh first.

16. Make shadow puppets.

17. Play hide and seek, or try a game of flashlight hide and seek at night.

18. Make paper airplanes or dolls.

19. Sing karaoke or have a dance party.

20. Grab some recycled materials – boxes, cups, cardboard tubes – and see what your kids can create with using just the recycled materials they were given and basic arts and crafts supplies. Give them an opportunity to give a demonstration where they can tell you all about what they invented.

Remember, less is more when it comes to toys. Give some of these toy-free ways to play a try, and let us know how it goes! What was your child’s most favorite way to play without toys?

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