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5 Free Kids' Games That Use Household Objects

Tania K. Cowling
May 25, 2017

Games for kids don't have to be expensive or flashy. Try using these household objects to create your own free games.



You're standing in the family room, surrounded by the countless games your little one has accumulated. Those pricey building blocks and fire trucks haven't been touched in months! What's more, your happy-go-lucky child is just as happy playing with a cardboard paper towel roll. So why not take advantage of your little one's inexpensive tastes (at least for now)?

Save yourself some money, and repurpose household objects into free kids' games your youngster will love. Engaging with these materials can channel your child's creativity and entertain him with some fun creations. Janelle Cox—mom, former preschool teacher, and elementary education expert for About.com—says this will help your kid practice skills like "being more resourceful to solve problems with only the materials they have around them."

These five household items can provide lots of playtime fun:

  1. Reuse Old Egg Cartons
    Some materials for homemade games can come from your recycling bin. Think about all the games you could play using an egg carton. You can mark each section with a color, number or letter, then give your kid squares of colored construction paper or papers with lower-case letters to match the capital letters inside the egg carton sections. How about taking a handful of dried beans or buttons and placing the appropriate amount inside each egg cup to match the number written inside? Challenge your kiddo to a counting game for fun and learning at the same time!
  2. Save Cereal Boxes
    Keep your empty cereal boxes. Invite your child to pick her favorite picture from the boxes and make a jigsaw puzzle. Cut the appropriate number of pieces for your child's age. You can make a bunch of puzzles and keep each one separately in zipper-locked bags. Or you can create you own matching game. "Stimulate your child's memory by taking two cereal boxes with the same picture and cutting them into equally sized squares. Lay the pieces on a table and turn over two at a time trying to make a match," explains Cox.
  3. Decorate Grocery Bags
    Paper bags in all sizes are perfect for making a town or village. Use markers to decorate each bag to look like a house or building. Your kids can create the town of their dreams complete with a bakery, schoolhouse, bank, police station and more. After the artwork is done, stuff a second bag (same size) with crumpled newspaper and slip the decorated bag on top. This town can be set up on the floor or on a tabletop, adding a few toy cars and dolls to make the city come alive. Challenge your kids to see who can make the biggest city!
  4. Bowl With Water Bottles
    Reuse empty water or soda bottles for a game of bowling. Fill each bottle with two inches of sand or water, and cap the top. Set up the bottles in a triangular bowling configuration (with six to eight bottles) and let the kids experiment with different balls -- a rubber ball, soccer ball and even a softball -- to see which ones knock over the most bottles. Keep a tally of how many pins each player knocks down on each turn. This game gets your kids using physical energy as well as hand-eye coordination.
  5. Sculpt With Aluminum Foil
    Older kids may enjoy creating tin men from aluminum foil. All it takes is a pinch here and a pinch there to make them strike a pose. From a 15-inch long piece from the roll, make two cuts down from the top of the sheet and one cut from the bottom. Scrunch together the center of the sheet to form a torso. Then pinch and mold the upper corners into arms and the lower corners for legs and feet. Then shape the upper midsection into a head and neck. "Creative play helps children develop their imagination," Cox emphasizes. Want to make this into a competition? Bring out a timer and see who can make a tin man the quickest.

According to Andrea Coventry, a Montessori educator and children's book reviewer, "Children should be encouraged to use their independence and exploration as a learning tool when playing games." These are only a few of the many free kids' games you can make from odds and ends around the house.

If you're looking for more ideas, check out these 101 Things to Do When Kids Say "I'm Bored".

Tania K. Cowling is an author and freelance writer with a background in Early Childhood Education and parenting.

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