All the different textures of natural sources provide sensory experiences that help regulate children's moods and improve their fine motor development. Image Credit: Unsplash/Fabian Centeno

What’s your child’s favourite toy? It likely isn’t one of the more expensive ones you bought from the store – it may very well be their pillow fort or box of crayons.

Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we ditch an ‘array’ of costly toys and look for things to keep kids entertained on a shoestring budget.

Here are a few ‘toys’ that require no batteries, assembly, or even money in some cases:

1. You

Especially in the case of newborns, you and moments of your time and attention, can provide valuable company. According to a May 2023 report in the US-based psychology news website Psychology Today, babies love staring at faces. You can connect with them while helping them to feel relaxed and engaged, as they learn to copy your facial expressions. Games like peek-a-boo, for instance, are perfect for helping infants build security as they learn to cope with small periods of separation (the time during which you’re hidden from them). Cuddles and attention are also welcome at such a small age, so enjoy it just as much as they do.

2. Nature

The natural environment around us is an endless playground. Older children can find their own level of risk, for instance, by how high they choose to climb a tree. Give them trees, sticks, water and sand, and they’ll be content for hours, building imaginary worlds, making temporary dams, pouring water back and forth, sifting sand through their fingers and generally enjoying experiments in physics and architecture. All the different textures of natural sources provide sensory experiences that help regulate their moods and improve their fine motor development.

3. Pillows and blankets

It’s likely you have enough pillows and cushions at home for a full-blown pillow fight. Relinquish them to your children and their friends, and let them burn off their energy with active play. Bigger pillows and bedsheets also make for great forts that cocoon kids in a safe space where they can be imaginative and creative. And blankets are ideal for giving kids rides around the house, sliding them along the floor, or tossing them in the air, provided there are enough strong adults available to hold each corner.

4. Everyday objects

Flipping lights on and off, playing with the sock drawer, and banging spoons on a pot can be more entertaining for babies than fancy toys. In fact, you might have noticed a child more interested in the box the toy came in, rather than the toy itself. One of the reasons why this happens, according to the Psychology Today report, is because toys are limited in what they do, often forcing children to play in a particular way. But something like a box, could be used in hundreds of different ways, from a hat to a car to a treasure chest – it triggers the child’s imagination and curiosity in ways most toys cannot.

5. Graffiti wall

A dedicated place to unleash creativity can be a wonderful way to channel a child’s self-expression. Stick up a chalkboard decal on one wall in their room, or use more than two dimensions, and allow your child to glue random objects, like feathers, leaves, or interesting things they found. The idea isn’t to produce ‘good’ art, but to give them a space for fun, joy and self-expression.

What do you think of these budget ways to help kids entertain themselves and develop skills? Play today’s Spell It and tell us at