Guest post by Bethany Force, stay-at-home homeschooling mom of three
I’ve seen the ads. All the adorable baby toys, delivered straight to your door. They’re educational and age-appropriate. But are they worth the price?
Although these boxes look amazing (and are usually cheaper than buying everything separately from Amazon – check out our series for comparisons), there are ways to get the same developmental benefits for your child without breaking the bank.
Free Lovevery Alternatives for Babies
My main reason for not purchasing a Lovevery box is the cost. I’m a stay-at-home mom who is budget conscientious. I just can’t fork out that kind of money on baby toys. Thankfully, there are many free options for entertaining and educating my baby. Let’s explore a few free alternatives.
The Lovevery kits often have fantastic board books for your baby. If you can’t afford a kit, use your local library to check out age-appropriate books. My library has a baby section filled with various board books. They even have high contrast color books which are perfect for tummy time with newborns.
Peruse from the comfort of your home and request books online. If your local library participates in an interlibrary loan program, requesting online will increase your options.
Also, see if your library offers no contact pickup. With COVID, my local library began doing no contact pickup. You just request your books online, and when they come in, you can call in to schedule a pickup time. You pull into a designated spot, call the number on the sign, and they bring your books out to your trunk. Easy peasy.
Many libraries offer storytime for young children for free. These offerings might have been canceled during covid, but with things openings back up, your library might have begun hosting storytime again.
I used to take my oldest to storytime when she was in preschool, and it was fantastic. The librarian prepared multiple age-appropriate activities that coordinated with the story of the week. She was also really great at differentiating the activities for younger and older children.
Some libraries might also host other free baby groups. Mine hosts BabyTalk on a regular basis. See if there are similar local groups in your area where you can connect with other moms and get ideas for fun activities to do with your baby at home.
Fingerplays are a great option for engaging your baby and toddler.
I enjoy doing Beehive from Early Literacy Learning with babies:
- Here is the beehive, where are the bees? (Clench your fist.)
- Hidden away where nobody sees. (Pretend to look inside your fist.)
- Open it up and out they fly.
- One, two, three, four, five. BUZZZ. (Open your fist and bring out your fingers one by one, tickling their neck on BUZZZ.)
Another fun one for toddlers is Grandma’s Glasses:
- These are grandma’s glasses. (make circles around eyes)
- This is grandma’s hat. (cup hands and place on head)
- And this is the way
- She folds her hands. (fold hands and put them in your lap)
- And puts them in her lap.
Say with a deep voice:
- These are grandpa’s glasses. (make circles around eyes)
- This is grandpa’s hat. (pretend to put on a hat)
- And this is the way
- He folds his arms. (cross arms and fold)
- Just like that!
Sing with your Baby
Classic children’s songs like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” are great for stimulating your baby and toddler.
As a former music teacher, I’m a huge advocate for music in the home. I believe engaging your little one in musical opportunities now gives them a foundation to pull from when they’re older and in music class. You’re helping your child develop rhythm and the ability to feel and create a steady beat along with improving their ear and ability to match pitch.
I love Raffi’s songs for engaging children. You can even have your Alexa play his music; just say, “Alexa, play songs by Raffi”
Some of my favorites are:
- Mr. Sun
- Baby Beluga
- Down by the Bay
- Brush Your Teeth
Repetition and rhythm are wonderful for children, so don’t be afraid to sing the same songs again and again for your little one.
What baby doesn’t love to bang a wooden spoon on a pot? Sure, maybe it’s not insta-worthy, but does your baby care if it photographs well? Not one bit. Will your baby have fun exploring with cause and effect, you betcha.
Take a look around your kitchen, and I think you’ll be surprised by all that you have that baby can play with. Wooden cooking utensils, measuring cups, and plastic cups are all great options for exploratory play.
You might even have all the supplies at home to DIY your own Lovevery toys for free! Check out the next section for ideas.
DIY Lovevery Toys
I don’t deny that many Lovevery boxes contain quality baby toys and promote healthy child development with age-appropriate activities. However, you can achieve the same result with things you already have around your home (or that you can purchase for cheap).
Black and White Contrast Cards
Black and white contrast cards are great for use with your newborn. My sister created a free printable that you can download and print out yourself to recreate this fun Lovevery toy.
Magic Tissue Box
What baby doesn’t love pulling every. single. tissue out of the box? I know mine does! Save an old tissue box or cut out a slit in the top of a small cardboard box and fill the box with scarves.
You can purchase colorful scarves or even better, head over to a fabric store like JoAnn’s and buy a yard of tulle or other lightweight fabric and create your own! Simply cut your fabric into smaller sections, and you’re ready for your tissue activity!
And when your child gets bored of the tissue box, save the scarves for peekaboo and movement activities. I still use scarves with my 8-year-old during our music lessons to show tempo and articulation differences in music.
Ball Drop Box
You can use an old shoebox and balls you already have to DIY the ball drop box. It won’t be wooden, but you will achieve the same objective: exploring object permanence and cause and effect.
I got this next idea from Meriam Villasenor in a Montessori Facebook group. She suggested getting a wooden stand and wooden rings to create your own wooden stacker. I think you could even repurpose a bottle drying rack and any type of rings you already have, like shower curtain rings, to recreate this activity.
Wooden Coin Bank Set
Here’s another cardboard box hack. Cut out a slit in the top of a small cardboard box and use poker chips or play coins to replicate the wooden coin bank set.
I used velcro to attach one of the flaps on the bottom of the box so I could easily open the box to remove the chips. You can cover your box with wrapping paper or scrapbook paper to hide any labels and packing tape or just leave it as is.
Drop and Match Dot Catcher
If you happen to have the game Connect Four, pull it out to recreate some of the benefits of the Dot Catcher from Lovevery.
While it won’t have the same colors of the rainbow, your child still gets to practice their pincer grasp.
Little Grip Canister Set
You can recreate the little grip canister set using jars from your pantry.
Clean out an old peanut butter jar, a baby food jar, and a Tupperware container. It’s not exactly the same, but at least it’s different types of lids and three different volumes.
The goal of the canister set, according to Lovevery, is to teach about volumes, and I think you can do this at home for no cost.
Stainless Steel Jingle Keys
This one’s easy – if you’re like me, you have extra keys laying around, and no one knows what they unlock anymore. Put those on a keychain, and you have a new toy for your baby! You only need two or three keys to create a lot of (admittedly noisy) fun.
Grooved Pitcher and Glass
The small pitcher and glass are ideal for developing hand and eye control, but you don’t need the Lovevery version to do this at home.
Any plastic or non-breakable cup will do. Just grab a sheet tray, put some rice or dry beans in a cup, and help your baby pour it into the other one. It’s a lot of fun, and when they finally pour it without spilling any, it’s such an exciting moment!
Really Real Flashlight
The “really real” flashlight from Lovevery is lightweight and kid-friendly, but you can just as easily use any flashlight you already have. Make a fort and have fun lighting it up!
Stainless Steel Tip & Turn
The stainless steel tip & turn is a very unique toy, but you can get some of the same developmental benefits by using any large bowl you have in your home. Grab a ball and have fun tipping it and watching the ball move around with your baby.
Sticky Shapes Glue Station
You can recreate the sticky shapes glue station with construction paper and whatever glue you already have on hand. The box that comes with the Lovevery play kit is adorable, but you can make it work with items you likely already have on hand.
Squeaky Clean Squeegee Set
The cleaning set that comes in the Lovevery play kit for 28-30 months is small and good for toddler-sized hands, but you may already have something like this in your cleaning kit.
When you go through a cleaning bottle, wash it out and fill it with water. You could even put a cleaning solution in it, as long as it’s kid-safe and non-toxic. Give it to your toddler with a cloth or rag and have them help you clean tables and surfaces!
You can replicate this one from Dollar Tree, too. I bought a small spray bottle for spritzing my house plants, and my children love to use it too!
Things That Move Memory Game
Memory games are a lot of fun for toddlers, but you can definitely recreate this at home.
Print out two sets of our first word flash cards, and just like that you’ve DIY’d your own memory game!
We have a lot of matching game printables free to download – check them out here: 17 Fun Activities to Laminate for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers.
Buy Used Toys
Some of the Lovevery toys are really difficult to recreate at home (like a rattle or the slide and seek ball run). However, you can often find similar toys at garage sales or resale shops.
Search for used toys online, too. You can sometimes find gems on Facebook Marketplace, it just takes a little digging.
Plastic toys are okay, too. I know having toys created with natural materials like wood is a huge selling point for Montessori toys, but if you can’t afford all wooden toys, plastic will work just fine. I know it’s not the same, but I promise you, your baby will love them regardless of their material.
What are you missing out on if you don’t purchase a Lovevery Playkit?
In my opinion, one of the downsides of skipping out on the Lovevery Playkits is the amount of time it takes to plan alternate activities. Your time as a mom is valuable. The convenience of age-appropriate toys coming to your door without having to give it an ounce of your brainpower or time is extremely appealing.
The instructional cards that come with each kit are also something that you can’t recreate at home. Hopefully, this list gives you ideas to pull from to create educational opportunities for your little ones, but it is definitely not a replacement for the play guides that come with each kit.
Although the Lovevery Playkits are professionally prepared with quality toys and instructional guides, they aren’t always in every family’s budget. I highly suggest skipping out on buying the kits and saving that money for other experiences like dance and music classes or zoo and children museum memberships.
Loving your baby well and providing educational toys and opportunities doesn’t have to break the bank. All your baby really needs is you.