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Non-Toy Playthings

When Nathaniel Belman was 6 months old, his favorite playthings weren't toys but the metal lids from baby-food jars. "He'd shake them, bang them on the wood floor, rub them across the carpet, and put them in his mouth. We washed and collected them in a bucket for him," says his mom, Donna Oetzel of Washington, DC. "To him, it was a pot of gold."

To curious babies, anything they can get their hands on is a potential toy. They're especially fascinated with everyday items they see you "playing" with all the time, like the TV remote or hairbrush, says Roberta Golinkoff, coauthor of Einstein Never Used Flashcards.

As long as the stuff is safe, it can be a great way to build your baby's imagination and problem-solving skills. Give her space to figure out ways to play on her own, but join in from time to time. Try filling an empty wipes container with small toys so it rattles, or with baby socks to pull out through the slit on the top.