Baby activities for cloth nappy families
Guest post

#14: Recycled fun

Meet Nikki. She’s a mum for whom cloth nappies were a starting point to making more environmentally friendly choices for her family. With COVID-19 restrictions meaning her usual swimming lessons, mothers group meets and play dates were cancelled, she set to making toys and other baby activities out of recycled items for her 10-month-old daughter. Today, she shares some of her ideas with you in the hope of inspiring more families to keep their children busy using whatever they can find around the home.

Welcome, Nikki @home_bound_baby_

Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, my family and I have found life changing very quickly, as we all have. It was time for me to put my thinking cap on for ways to fill our day with fun and engaging activities that weren’t going to cost the Earth and could keep little miss busy while I got some work done.

The current economic climate hasn’t allowed me to splurge on new fancy climbing frames or store-bought toys to keep my little girl entertained, nor do we have the storage to keep more stuff. I am also a bit of a minimalist who loves a good clean out anyway.

This is where my toy-creating journey began. I collected a few bits and pieces that would have normally gone straight into the recycling bin, such as milk bottles, small juice bottles, cardboard boxes and formula tins. I then raided the pantry for some pasta, dry lentils and zip lock bags, as well as my craft/ teaching stash (Nikki is currently transitioning back to work part time as a teacher working from home, which she says brings its own challenges – ‘big time mum guilt’) for some paint, ribbons, paper binders, beads, buttons and anything else I could find. At least if little miss didn’t enjoy whatever it was that I had created, I hadn’t spent any unnecessary money and it could always just head back into the recycling.  

Some quick Googling led me to my first activity idea, which was the little bags of paint stuck to the sliding door. I simply took a few zip lock sandwich bags and added a small amount of paint and water to each of them and masking taped them to the sliding glass door. Miss 10 months quite enjoys grabbing them and watching the colour swirl around the bag. This activity took no longer than 10 minutes to set up, yet provided hours of entertainment. This made me feel quite inspired to see what else I could create.

Probably the simplest of the toys and activities I have created has been some small juice/soft drink bottles partly filled with dry pasta, rice or paper binders. Clean and dry the bottles, fill them with whatever you want and hot glue the lid shut – easy! Miss 10 months loves anything that makes a big noise and these creations were no exception. We have even built (and subsequently destroyed) towers with them, which was a big hit.

Following on from that idea, I simply took some clean, empty formula tins and filled them with small toys. Simply opening them up to discover what was inside brought so much joy and fun to my little girl. Banging the tins on the tiles and making a racket was also a hit. My next plan for formula tins is to collect a few more and turn them into a baby drum kit.      

After researching some info about Maria Montessori and her methods and ideas, I was further inspired to use recyclable items for learning some specific concepts, as well as just fun play. Using a few cardboard boxes, a huge amount of masking tape and some paint, I made little miss 10 months an object permanence box. As I write, she has just had her first little play with it and she thoroughly enjoyed herself.  The idea behind these boxes is to teach infants that objects (and people) continue to exist even when you can’t see, hear or smell them. My little girl loved it when I put the ball into the opening at the top and it slid into the tray at the bottom; she had a very amazed look on her face. Such a fun activity, though it needs to be closely supervised as the cardboard wouldn’t withstand too much of a beating from a baby.

The possibilities really are endless. I have also done things like tie ribbons through a slotted spoon, make play dough and gather a box of kitchen utensils for her to explore and use to make lots of noise. Being a crafty person, all I have really needed to do is engage my creative side and give it a go.

So far our family is really enjoying and thriving on spending more time at home and slowing life down, with the exception of my husband who always seems to find an excuse to leave the house for something. As concerned as I was that miss 10 months would quickly be bored with being stuck at home, I have in fact discovered the opposite. Just like me, I think she is thoroughly enjoying finding joy in the simple things that life has to offer. Sitting on the lawn for afternoon tea is also becoming a favourite pastime of ours. Instead of focusing on the inconveniences that the current time has brought with it, I have embraced the joy that little things can bring. I am so thankful that we have been forced to slow down, stop and smell the roses. And if there is one lesson that we can take out of this time, just relax. Don’t rush back to the ‘old’ life, evaluate what you need and go from there.   

About the author

Nikki, her husband and 10-month-old daughter live in Dalyellup, Western Australia, about 200kms south of Perth. There they have a house with a huge backyard, which Nikki says is such a blessing at this time. It was the ‘cool, groovy prints’ that come with cloth nappies that compelled her to begin her cloth journey when her daughter was 5 months old. Though, Nikki says she also cringed every time she had to empty the nappy bin full of disposables, and her husband liked the idea of not needing to remember to get nappies every week and not needing to do those late night dashes to the shops to buy nappies.

Here’s more from Nikki on her experiences using cloth nappies:

I just love all the amazing prints that are out there. I am a bit addicted to be honest! I have been banned by my hubby from buying any more nappies until we have another baby. And, I really love how much rubbish we are keeping out of landfill. I was shocked when I learnt how long it takes for a disposable nappy to break down in landfill.

We use cloth during the day. At night, our daughter still wears a disposable. I am wanting to investigate cloth for the night time though, as she sometimes out wets a disposable. Cloth nappies really aren’t that much extra work. I was initially scared of the washing commitment, but it is really only 1 extra load every 2 or 3 days. The time commitment for stuffing them back together again isn’t really that much either, I just sit and do it when I am watching TV in the afternoon.

I want to leave the earth knowing that I have contributed to a sustainable future for my children and future generations. Next on my to-do list is to start recycling soft plastics.

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