I am a little more primitive than ya all🤣
I found sticks, acorns, pine cones, and pretty leaves wandering in the house and getting used as much as the expensive plastic stuff.
Flowers in the garden and interesting leaves get used when we are out doors about as much as the plastic toys. I had a flowering house plant for a while so my daughter could pick flowers indoors.
With an old rubber band, a stick can be made into a bow or sling shot. We used those as kids.
White clover makes necklaces. We did that as older kids.
A large branch a sword or staff. A small one a wand. I've turned these into gifts. I think there's a picture in the homemade gift post in the frugality forum of the wand.
Certain rocks draw and different colors too which is exciting.
A friend had a party and with some willow branches, string, and beads the kids made dream catchers.
A feather is a tickler.
A bin of potting soil must be sealed because otherwise it's too enticing for little arms to reach and feel.
Sticks and old blankets can turn into a fort.
Gourds and pumpkins are also intriguing.
These things aren't perhaps the most marketable toys, but -and maybe it's because so much is plastic now- these things are especially exciting.
I grew up with a craft room and have one now. It's like Thomas Edison's lab. There's a little bit of everything in there (not mercury tho!) and as kids we were taught basic skills and cautions to use it. When my daughter had friends over, they almost always disappear into that room making things out of scraps of wood, fabric, paint, etc. I've heard this is better for brain development than a toy with specific purposes or uses.
As for my teeny fella, he loves looking at house plants and sometimes kicking at the leaves. I guess I could give him a slice of hardwood branch to chew, but we have so many other exciting things and 2nd generation toys, I haven't seen the point.
I'm bad at instructions for construction, but I guess link over to the homemade gifts in the frugality forum for more stuff like this.