...without a Playstaion, Wii, or an X-box.
My own daughter is too old now to have many toys around the house. Her interests mainly revolve around fashion, make up and YouTube. However, many of our friends have young children, and I try to keep a few ideas up my sleeve for how to entertain them when they visit. I have neither the space, nor the budget, to keep toys on hand - so I need to get creative.
Junk modelling is always a hugely popular activity. Boys always seem to construct robots, while girls tend to make houses. I make no judgement, I just mention my observations! I am a bit lazy when it comes to taking out the cardboard packaging to the recycling bin, but this pays off sometimes as I often have a sack of 'junk' on hand to build with. The only extra required is a roll of tape.
My button box is a source of entertainment for many young children (as long as they are past the 'shove everything in their mouth' stage). Counting, sorting, shape building etc all go down well, as well as just the sheer pleasure of flinging them around!
Food comes in handy as a source of entertainment in many forms. A sheet of card, some glue, and a few small bowls of rice, pasta and lentils are all that's required for an impromptue collage creation. For really young children, a layer of flour on the tray of their high chair gives them something to draw in, using their finger. This can be a bit messy, but I don't worry too much about that, and anyway lour can be brushed, wiped or vacuumed away pretty easily.
Children love to 'help' in the kitchen, and I make full use of this as a way to entertain them. A bit of water in a washing up bowl, some dirty dishes to wash (maybe plastic, depending on the age of the child), and you have a happy, busy, little guest. Okay, they might splash about a bit, but it's only water, it doesn't matter!
Paper dolls seem to go down well. Do you remember making rows of dolls, joined together at the hands when you were a child? I often cut a row of people shapes, or snowman shapes, for my young guests, and give them a few pens or crayons to give each figure a different outfit. At this time of year, cutting out snowflakes is a popular activity. It doesn't require anything more complicated than a few sheets of paper and a pair of scissors.