Finding Simple | Pittsburgh Newborn and Child Photographer

January 02, 2017  •  3 Comments

Finding Simple | Pittsburgh Newborn and Family Photographer

Young children don’t need expensive toys for learning and development. In fact, with a little imagination, you can turn ordinary household items into homemade toys for your children to enjoy.

Homemade games and free activities at home are a great way to keep children entertained, and to help them learn and grow. They don’t cost any money, and they can really boost your child’s creativity.

It’s easy to come up with ideas for children as they get older. Soon, you and your child can create toys and games together.

You can also give your child things from around your home for some open ended play – for example, young children usually love putting on and taking off the lids of containers, and older children often enjoy playing make-believe with old tea towels. Make sure that the things you give your child are unbreakable and large enough to not be choking hazards. 


You’re the ‘toy’ that your newborn will enjoy the most! Your touch, the sound of your voice, being rocked in your arms, or staring at your face are all so wonderfully entertaining for a new baby. I didn’t realize this when my first child was born; I actually packed a toy in my hospital bag for us to play together in the hospital!

Your newborn will also love being outside when the weather is nice, feeling the wind, hearing the sounds of birds, and experiencing new outdoorsy smells.

Splashing in shallow water or in the bath is also lots of fun. Just remember to always keep your hands on your baby when you and she are playing around water – babies can drown in as little as a couple of inches of water. All three of my children loved “hand swimming” I could entertain them for hours with a cup filled with water for them to splash around in.

You could play gentle music to soothe your baby, or make bath time relaxing with a calm atmosphere and warm water, followed by a warm massage.

Newborn babies respond to music, but it’s your voice that they enjoy most. Hold your baby, sing, talk and make eye contact. These activities will keep your baby entertained, and help your baby learn and get to know you all at once.

All babies are unique and some babies take more time than others to enjoy new sensations, so watch how your baby responds, and see what he enjoys and is interested in. Your baby's cues to help you know when your baby is happy to play or when he has had enough and wants a rest.


Once your baby starts to move around more, she might enjoy more active play with you.

Your baby will love to crawl all over you or grasp and shake objects to try out new movement skills. All young children need time for quiet play too, so watch for cues that your baby needs some downtime.

Play ideas:

  • Make time for one-on-one play every day – for example, talking with your baby or counting his toes. You can make this a part of routine activities like feeding and napping.
  • Blow raspberries on your baby’s tummy and tickle little toes.
  • Make a toy shaker. Fill an emptied, washed and dried juice or milk container with rice, pasta, peas, dried pulses or even old buttons (make sure the lid is secure to avoid choking hazards).
  • Make a drum using upside-down boxes, pots or plastic tubs. Give your child a wooden spoon to bang the drum with.
  • Sing songs, read books, enjoy nursery rhymes


Toddlers are like little scientists. Their play is often about experimenting, observing, testing, trying out ideas and figuring out how things work. For example, your child probably loves to ‘post’ things – often into the front of the CD or DVD player!

Play ideas:

  • Give your toddler some pegs and a peg container. Your child will happily move pegs in and out of the container – over and over and over again!
  • Cut pieces of cardboard into small envelopes and decorate them. You could also make a ‘post box’ by cutting slits into the front of an old ice-cream container or cardboard box.
  • Make play dough and build towers, pancakes, trees or just shapes – whatever your toddler likes. You can even just squelch the dough between your fingers.
  • Put together a box of old clothes for some dress-up or pretend play. You could use an ice-cream container to make a fun dress-up hat. Cover it with foil, and your toddler is an astronaut. You can also paste material, fake flowers or pom-poms onto a container to turn your child into a fancy guest at a tea party.
  • Go outside in the backyard, local playground, beach or park.


Play ideas:

  • Show your child how to stuff old stockings with paper or material scraps to make creatures like a snake or caterpillar.
  • Make a sock puppet using old socks. Sew on buttons or paste other bits of material for eyes, nose and hair.
  • Fold newspaper into a pirate’s or magician’s hat. Let your preschooler cut out and paste on colored pictures cut from old magazines.
  • Let your child’s imagination turn old cardboard boxes into toys – a car, clubhouse, shop counter or kitchen stove.
  • Visit the local park or a friend’s house, or just take a walk in your local neighborhood. These are all sources of adventure and fun for your child.
  • Tape some scrap paper together to make a simple book. Let your child create the story and decorate the pages either by drawing the characters herself or cutting and pasting them out of old magazines.

School-age Kids

Play ideas:

  • Find some big, old boxes and see what your child can do with them. They could become a clubhouse, rocket ship or hide-out. You could ask your local supermarket or electrical retailer if they have boxes you could take home.
  • Cook with your child– start with some simple family favorites.
  • Encourage your child to have play dates.
  • Turn old sheets into a tent by draping them over the backs of chairs, or make a clubhouse by draping a sheet over the edges of the table.
  • Let your child help you out with small household chores and tasks. Children often enjoy collecting the mail, helping to fold clean washing or watering the garden.
  • Play word games – for example, make up silly rhymes and riddles.

Share your ideas in the comments below!

Laura Mares is an experienced photographer specializing in capturing timeless family keepsakes. Laura works on location and in her fully equipped home studio, located in Mt. Lebanon, eight miles south of Pittsburgh, PA. Laura’s style is creative, natural, and timeless. Would you like beautiful portraits of your newborn baby, to update your child and family portraits or to document a milestone in your life such as a wedding, graduation, birthday or reunion? If you are interested in high quality, timeless photographs, book your session today, call (412) 654-3367 or email [email protected]. To view a wide range of gorgeous portraits and to get great tips, advice and beautiful inspiration follow us on Instagram and Facebook.


Laura Mares Photography
Thanks for commenting, Nancy and Ann! I love hearing your thoughts. Now, I remember how my own newborns loved looking in the mirror and watching balloons. If everything else failed, that was what worked. As well as the rain stick!!
Ann Frazer(non-registered)
I once read an article that said..."a tree makes the best baby mobile"
Nancy Booth(non-registered)
Remember how much your kids liked to look in the mirror and also play with balloons?
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