Who says elves are the only toymakers out there? Prove to Santa and your kids that you are just as cool by whipping up some fun and inexpensive homemade/handmade toys of your own. As a preschool teacher for the past five years I’ve watched time and time again as children choose handmade, recycled, mama made toys over the fancy electronic, single purposed and manufactured options.
Why is this?
Children love open ended toys. Think about a set of keys. To us keys serve a purpose: to open a door, start an engine, unlock a cabinet, etc. To a child however, keys don’t have these limitations. Keys are shiny, jingly, small but heavy, they are solid, and can be cold or if left in the sun turn hot, you can toss keys up in the air, you can hide them…the potential play factor of something so simple as a set of keys is endless to a young child. Knowing this makes it easy to capitalize on the many resources around our homes that can turn into the best frigg’n toy ever!
Children also LOVE to be a part of the creative process. If there is a project that they can be a part of you know for sure that the result is going to be something they are proud of and cherish much longer than something that dad opened up out of a box. Not to knock traditional store bought toys because Lord knows those provide some serious entertainment, but there are a whole host of do it yourself toys that will rival any bestseller out there.
Here are just a few of my favorites (mostly geared towards the infant/toddler age):
A sensory bottle can be made by taking an old plastic bottle (water, gatorade or whatever you have on hand) washing and peeling off the label, fill it with cotton balls, glitter, beans, small toys, colored water, anything you can think of that is fun to listen to or look at. Heck, you can even fill the bottles with cinnamon sticks, coffee beans, vanilla bean, poke holes in the bottle and turn these into a smelling sensory experience. No matter what you chose to put inside, simply hot glue or super glue the lid back on to the bottle and voila you now have a cheap and fun toy! I’ve seen children use these as music instruments, stacking toys,bowling pins…you name it and children have found a way to incorporate it into their play in ways I never would have imagined.
Have an old wipes container on hand? Simply wash it out and fill with different textured materials like silk, cotton, corduroy, felt, rayon or anything that might provide a fun tactile experience for your little one. Sit with your child and help them reach inside and pull out each piece of fabric and run it across their body. Talk to your child about the different textures, colors, throw it up into the air and watch it fall slowly to the ground. This is another great, easy and fun make it yourself toy that you can create with random things from your home.
Playdough and Flubber
Not only do you get to make playdough or flubber but you can play with it too– kids will love this! Playdough and Flubber are the perfect open ended activity for children because they can literally create their own world. Maybe they decide their blob is a cat, a rainbow, a zoo full of animals or mommy and daddy at the park….it’s up to them! Creating the playdough and flubber with your child helps them develop conceptual skills like measuring, fine motor like holding a teaspoon and gross motor by working their muscles to mix and mash. When all the hard work is done kids can play over and over creating anything they like!
Here are great recipes:
The point here is that kids are constantly learning through play and we can foster their development with simple, around the house items and a bit of our time. By looking at the world and objects around us through a child’s eye we can “un”train ourselves from looking at everything with a narrow mind and let our creativity run wild.
One of my favorite blogs to follow is Soulemama.com Here a family creates, plays and loves and their adventures are documented so beautifully by their mother Amanda Blake Soule. If you’re in need of some inspiration hop on over to Soulemama and treat yourself to the simplicity and wonder of this growing family. Amanda has also written a few books that are absolutely wonderful and I highly recommend checking them out:
**I know you moms out there have a ton more homemade toys and activities out there so please share in the comments section!**