As with all babies, Baby M has a magical ability to conjure toys out of thin air and multiply them throughout our house. She also managed to charm all of her relatives into giving her noisy, battery-powered things that are easy to trip over in the night.
I think the only toys we have actually bought her have been books and blocks, and those we bought used. But her favorite things to play with have cost me nothing at all, and it might be weird but this is what I want to give all my pregnant friends at their baby showers.*
* Hot chocolate tin or coffee can with a strip cut out of the lid. Include metal juice can lids or large wooden popsicle sticks for insertion into the can. Bonus: the can can be shaken or rolled around for interesting affect.
* Milk cartons and duct tape. Take an old single-serve milk carton (like from school), fill it with beans or other small noisy things and tape it up good and tight. You can use the fun duct tape now available to pretty it up. Baby will shake this for hours on end.
* Small plastic juice or pop bottle. Same as above, but fill with interesting things to look at. Colored beans, bits of sparkly paper, sequins. Tape the top on for safety. You can also fill halfway or so with water, which makes it go in unexpected directions when rolled.
* Old remote controls or cell phones, or broken video game controllers.
I bet you have this stuff just lying around your house! Don't buy plastic crap; give the gift of recyclables to the babies in your life.
* You think I'm joking, but I'm trying to figure out whether my sister-in-law would think I'm a total cheapskate if I made these things for her. I *know* that her baby will like these way better than any commercial product, but I can only imagine the look on her face at the shower: "Oh, thanks, you brought me your trash." :)