Anyone Who Owns These 18 Things Doesn't Need to Buy Their Toddler Toys

toddler playing in kitchen
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How many times do parents give their kids a gift and watch as they unwrap it, waiting with anticipation to see the look of pure delight when they see the toy, only to have them more excited about playing with the wrapping paper instead? This happens on holidays and birthdays, and even when the mail comes. Kids loves the crinkle sound of paper, sometimes more than their most prized toy. And it's not just paper that makes kids happy -- there are so many objects around the house that kids love to play with.

We talked to a bunch of parents to find out what non-toys their kids are truly wild about -- some parents even remembered some of the wildly wonderful things they enjoyed as a toddler. While stuffed animals and building blocks make little ones happy, sometimes it's the things in the pantry or the bathroom drawer that becomes their favorite toy.

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We're talking plastic water bottles, kitchen tools, even ... tampons? Yep, kids will play with the simplest household items, which really takes off the pressure to buy the latest licensed toys and annoying battery-powered gadgets.

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It's also easier on our wallets -- unless, of course, the kid wants to play with that too.

  • Plastic bottles

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    Why put those bottles into the recycling bin when they can be repurposed into a toddler plaything? Jeanne S. of Callicoon Center, NY, says her little one loved playing with soda bottles (empty, of course). "Plastic bottle, with the lid on," she clarifies. Staci N. of Albuquerque, NM, says, "[My daughter] Lucca loved to stack all my empty vitamin bottles." And Leigh W. of New Paltz, NY, adds, "Shampoo bottles!"

  • Tampons

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    "[My son] found a tampon applicator on the school playground and used it as his fidget. He cried when the teacher took it away," says Theresa F. of New Paltz, NY. It may sound wild but turns out, playing with tampons is fairly common.

    "It makes a good telescope for young pirates," says Georgia W. of Clintondale, NY. And Star V. of Walden, NY, adds: "My kids loved taking my tampons and shooting them at one another. They asked for their own box for Christmas a few years back."

  • Camping lantern

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    Kids sure are creative -- and we love that! Laura F. of Tulsa, OK, says that her daughter loves lanterns. "MJ is obsessed with a camping lantern. She thinks that she's finding spooky ghosts!" We recommend getting an unbreakable lantern without small parts to let a toddler play without worry.

  • Wallet

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    Wallets contain lots of fun sensory items for kids, as Shannon P. of Esopus, NY, can attest. "Lia loved my wallet. I tried to make her a fake wallet with empty gift cards, but it didn't work!" Only the real thing would do.

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  • Cleaning tools

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    There could be a good future in store for the parent of a kid who loves cleaning! Kim A. of Poughkeepsie, NY, said, her son loved, "dust cloths and shower sponges" when he was little. "And now, at 8 he still loves to scrub and clean any surface if you give him one." Sidney O. of Mill Valley, CA, says her little one loves playing with "any mop, broom, or vacuum." Don't feel like putting a kid to work is a bad thing -- chances are, they'll love it.

  • Food

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    We're not talking about kids who play with their food when they are eating. Nope. This is about kids who love to play with food all the other times. Lindsay M. of Portland, OR, says, "Someone I know has a son who slept with a lime every night. She had to replace the lime when he wasn't looking every few days before it went bad!"

    Emilie A. of New Paltz, NY, said that her child played with a "big bin of dried beans." Heidi E. of New Paltz, NY, shared that her son felt celery was a toy. "He used to play with it and then chew it, and then pocket it." Sarah A. of New York, NY, said her child played with a can of Old Bay seasoning, and Nikki V. of Kerhonkson, NY, said her kid liked to play with the pit of an avocado. Just keep a look out for any choking hazards.

  • Remote control

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    Maybe it's because parents are picking up and using them so much, but remotes are like gold to a toddler. Rebecca Z. of Brooklyn, NY, says her son "was obsessed with an old tiny remote. He carried it around for months."

  • Adhesive bandages

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    Kids love stickers, so this next one makes sense. Hadley T., of Gardiner, NY, says her kids loved to play with "Band aids. All the band aids." Now we know another reason why there are so many cool designs on them, too. Double duty.

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  • Tape

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    This next favorite non-toy toy kids love is sticky, too. "Masking tape. It's magic," says Rachel L., of New Paltz. And she's not the only one we know whose kids felt passionate about rolls of tape.

  • Makeup & Beauty Tools

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    Putting on makeup is a form of play for many adults, but kids love it, too. Jacqueline B. of Greenwich, CT, says, "Barrett is currently obsessed with one of my daughter's beauty blenders. He calls it his 'chumpy guy.' Chumpy = chubby." 

    For pretend play, Gretchen H. of Highland, NY, says her kids love "empty makeup containers -- they become secret phones and mini computers."

  • Feet

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    Some things kids love to play with are ... well, attached to human beings. Jessica G. of New Paltz, shares that her son loves to play with "his own feet. He can put them in his mouth!" The toy that never leaves you!

  • Pet toys

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    Fido and Fluffy's toys can be quite appealing to little ones. Charles M. of Latham, NY, says that his son loved to play with dog toys. Hopefully they shared well.

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  • Kitchen items

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    Kitchen items have long been an exciting and coveted toy for toddlers. Wendy H. of Honeoye Falls, NY, shares that her little one loved to play with a colander. Jessica N. of New Paltz, NY, adds that an "Old-fashioned hand whisk" fascinated her son and his cousin. A mixing bowl set, turkey baster, and martini shaker all made the list too.

  • Plunger

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    Not all of these items are a great thing to play with, as we learned from Chris B. of Marlboro, NY. "Apparently when I was I kid, I used to play with the toilet plunger. Like, a lot," he says. "My mom was super grossed out with me dragging it around the house and they eventually had to hide it." We suggest other parents do the same. Ew.

  • Lanyard

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    Kids seems to enjoy having things that mom or dad wears. Sarah S. of Sweet Home, OR, says her children loved to play with her work lanyard and badges. Kathena H. of New Paltz, NY, said her little one played with her campus parking permit. Anything that has to do with pretending to be a grown-up is a great plaything. Just watch closely with strings and ribbons, since they can be a strangulation hazard.

  • Baby wipes

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    Marla F. of New Paltz, NY, shared, "My kids liked to play with diaper wipes." Clean ones, of course. 

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  • Rocks and sticks

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    Maura M. of New Paltz, NY, says her child loved to play with rocks. "I still find boxes of them, drawers of them, from younger years. And my son is 20 now." Christie H. of Longmont, CO, says her son loved nature things as toys, too. "Rowan's favorite toy for his entire life has been sticks."

  • Rope

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    Noelle B. of Marlboro, NY, wasn't the average kid who played with toys found in the toy aisle. "I used to play with rope -- to make 'rabbit traps,'" she says. "They were very elaborate with lots of knots!"

    Kids are just so darn clever.

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