Toy-Free Play


When you embrace simple living, you get to embrace more imaginative fun.

This post is about having fun with your kids without toys. Not that toys are bad (at all!) but sometimes you just want to get back to basics and use that imagination for a parenting win.

If your family is in one of the following situations...

  • You're traveling and forgot or didn't have room to pack toys

  • You just moved and the toys have not arrived or been unpacked yet

  • You're not buying new toys right now and your kids are bored of their current toys

  • The kids are stuck inside because of bad weather and got bored of all the toys

  • You're just looking for new ideas on how to have fun with your kids

...Then you're in the right place.

Here are four ideas for how to have a blast with your kids (all ages) with NO TOYS. 

1.    Hand shadow puppet show
2.    Make stuff from trash
3.    Funny chin faces
4.    Blanket fort

These are classics that my own family has enjoyed through generations. If you want more inspiration or instruction (maybe you've never made a blanket fort?) or sense of permission to really unleash your creativity, I've added details and linked to sources for further ideas here:

1. Hand shadow puppet show.

My grandmother, years ago, gave my sister and I a book that we had fun with growing up. I think it may have been the book in the image on the right.

I don't think a book is necessary anymore, though, to learn how to have fun with shadows.

Check out these neat graphics via Pinterest for how to make a dog, a goose, an elephant, and more! All you need is a dark room and a flashlight or low lamp. Oh, and a wall and hands.


2. Make stuff from trash.

The photo above is something my son and I made together. He loves space shuttles and rocket ships. In his eyes, this taped together almost-trash is 3-2-1 blast off to fun. The perfectly curved wings are the tabs from a hinged-top cardboard box (like you'd get from ordering something via Amazon). The core is an empty plastic bottle and the rest is paint, lots of duct tape, and a robot sticker we happened to have around the house.

Check out this amazing gallery from with "18 amazing things parents made for their kids from cardboard boxes." One of my favorites is this DIY Cardboard Camper Playhouse from So creative! (Image below via MerryThought).


3. Funny chin faces.

At some point my dad showed his four children how to have fun with funny chin faces (I'm sensing a theme here - these toy-free games make me feel connected to other generations. Same for you?)

We use a ballpoint pen (or you could use eyeliner) to draw eyes on a chin, then look at it upside down and make the drawn-on person talk in a funny voice. But when I look at these google image search results for "funny chin face" I get so many more ideas. People really get creative - and slightly creepy. See the screenshot:

funny chin face.JPG


Nowadays you can next level the fun by recording video on your phone so that the person playing the chin gets a chance to see exactly how funny their chin-head character is.

4. Blanket Fort.

blanket fort little winter.jpg

There's a great Wikihow for this here . For aesthetic inspiration, I love the image above of a cozy blanket fort from Little Winter. For more details see the original blog post.

Imagine More Buy Less

The list is a reminder that what really lights kids up seems to be the element of imagination.

Sure, your kids can use their imaginations with their toys, but it's even often more fun to start with even simpler, everyday items. For example, there's magic that comes from turning a cardboard box into a highway on-ramp for a toy car, an alien space ship, or a sock puppet theater.

Imaginative fun is part of what grown ups tend to enjoy about minimalist living too.

That moment where you pause before buying something and ask, "Can I make this from things I already have?" or "Can I solve this problem in a different way that doesn't require buying something else?"

Simple living is about buying less stuff and having more richness of imagination and experience.

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P.S. if you haven't signed up for the free 3-Day Decluttering Challenge yet, be sure to do so below so you can get ongoing inspiration for keeping it simple to live your best life.