Make-It-Yourself: Toys

One thing that I’ve been enjoying lately is learning about different toys that I can make for free/cheap out of household items. My kids love most of these toys as much or often even more than the ones that we’ve spent a ton more on! I know a number of you might be in places with fewer toys available, and I would imagine that all of us would enjoy not spending money if we can find a free (or nearly free) substitute. Most of my ideas are for young kids, since my kids are little, so as usual, if you think of anything to add, feel free. Here are some ideas:


-Indoor sandbox: My daughter LOVES playing with a big plastic mixing bowl full of rice. She scoops and pours it into other smaller bowls, pretends it is food, buries small items in it to try to find, etc.

-Counting and sorting dry beans: Like the “indoor sandbox,” assorted dry beans are fun to run your hands through, practice counting and basic math, and are good for sorting (by color, size, etc). You can also do this with buttons and different types of pasta.

-Painting with shaving cream: I love putting a plastic table cloth over the kitchen table spraying a bunch of shaving cream on top. Then I turn the kids loose for some finger/body painting fun. I wish I had a pictures of this one!

-Painting with pudding: Also a fun project, but paint on paper instead. Hang the finished product up high if necessary or you might find kids, who like me as a young child, liked to take their art off of the fridge to  lick for an occasional snack. Yes, I actually remember doing this in pre-school!

-Homemade play dough: I just paid the equivalent of $16 for a small-ish amount of real Play-doh at Christmas that is already past its prime. That is way too expensive to keep buying, so now it is on to the homemade stuff. There are a number of different recipes here.

-Caps and lids: My friend, Addie, gave me this idea. Save and create a collection of old jar or milk lids, or any small-ish lids really (make sure you watch out for choking hazards). Put them in a big container and they can be lots of fun for pretty much anything for small kids.

-Homemade bubbles: shampoo+water= cheap bubbles. You can wrap yarn around wire hangers and make giant bubble wands. Lots of fun for the summer!collage

-Collage supplies: Cut up your old magazines and have a stock of pictures, as well as stickers, and other things (buttons, glitter, foil…) for collages. Let your older kids cut up old magazines themselves for this purpose, and suggest that they make collages based on different themes, or to describe their week, etc.

-Indoor snowball fight: This year we ended up with over 1,000 ministry fliers that were misprinted and essentially garbage. These have turned into “snowballs” (crumbled up a bunch of them into balls) on a number of occasions and we have had quite a few fun indoor snowball fights.

-Doll diaper bag: Fill a bag full with old baby supplies for your daughter to use with her dolls.

water-playCooking and “Mom” supplies: Set aside items for your kids to pretend to do what you do. My daughter loves to pretend to cook (dishes with a little water or real ingredients in them are especially fun), and especially loves it when I give her a damp rag when I am dusting or scrubbing sticky stuff off of the floor so she can help dust and clean. A clean sponge, an empty spray bottle, a mini-broom…. lots of fun for kids. (I am hoping that this excitement about housework lasts!!!)


24 Responses to “Make-It-Yourself: Toys”

  1. 1 Joy February 21, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    These are such great ideas! I love having them all listed in one place. I’m going to put the link in my ‘posts around the blogosphere’ spot on my sidebar.
    Thanks for sharing!!

  2. 2 alatvala February 22, 2009 at 4:10 am

    Thank you so much, Joy! I have enjoyed you blog a ton since finding it and was planning on asking you if I might be able to link to various posts of yours too! I’ll be doing that soon!


  3. 3 Addie February 24, 2009 at 6:59 am

    Those are all great suggestions for toys! I may be trying a few soon. I’m glad you like the caps and lids idea.

  4. 4 Pink and Green Mama MaryLea March 13, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Love this post! My kids always play with whatever is around the house or yard and I joke with my husband that they spend Christmas morning playing with the boxes and wrapping paper instead of the toys. We’ve moved toward more homemade toys and have started giving some of our “creations” at the umpteen birthday parties we are invited to instead of store bought gifts. I think they are more thoughtful and the kids eyes light up when they open our presents! Your kids would love my Ocean Box, Construction Box and Winter boxes.

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