Homemade Toys: Safe, Inexpensive and Wonderful
Toy Manufacturers Are Sometimes Negligent
With the recall of over 1.5 million toys by Mattel there is a new concern for the safety of toys. After all, these are found in every household that has a child, and many that do not. Nearly, if not all, every school, preschool, day care, hospital and doctors office have a collection of toys on the premises. Like everything, with most manufacturers profits are the main thing so they use outsourcing to countries where workers make the toys for pennies a day.
Many of these countries do not implement the safeguards that the United States does and so we have huge recalls, small recalls and recalls of recalls. This time it was for lead in the paint. In prior recalls there have been toys that do not work properly and pose a threat, toys that were designed badly and pose a threat, toys that break under normal use...and pose a threat. The maddening thing is that these toys are often not only badly made but overpriced as well.
Homemade Toys Are Special
Homemade toys have amused children and caught their imaginations for generations. Not needing batteries, or electrical sources, with no video screen or techno-music things like rag dolls and wooden cars have created imaginary worlds and hours of creative fun. With the concerns of lead and other dangers in commercially produced toys, homemade toys are a great alternative.
There are literally thousands of instructions for making everything from marshmallow shooters to rag dolls on the Internet, so this is by no means an all inclusive list but rather a starting point and jumping off place for your own imagination and needs. Often there is not that much skill needed - just love and a desire to make a child happy.
If you find that you enjoy making toys consider making them to donate to your local children's hospital or police department. When my son was 2 years old he nearly died from a retropharyngeal abscess that was not discovered until nearly too late. As he was being rushed around the emergency room having MRIs and other tests and exams a volunteer came by with a smile and a stuffed animal for him to keep. It was not much to look at - little cat shape made from bright fabric scraps with permanent marker eyes, nose and mouth.Do you know, he still sleeps with that cat, four years later, and I bless the hands that made it every time I see it because It was a comfort to him during a very scary time.
Making Your Own Toys
Here are some ideas to get you started. Some require little skill some require more. All are guaranteed to bring hours of fun tot he lucky recipients!
1.Jump rope- This can be as simple as getting a length of clothesline and making large knots in the ends for handles. You can get the big wooden beads (unpainted) at craft stores with large opening s and paint them yourself. Then feed the rope through them for a weighted jump-rope.
2. Bean bags. These can be sewn from various fabrics from denim (old jeans) to cotton flannel (old shirts!). Cut 2 squares, sew right sides together around 3 sides and turn right side out. Fill with beans or rice and close.
3. Wooden puzzles- This takes a bit of skill with a jig saw. Cut a 12" by 12" square from plywood. Either paint your own picture on it or decoupage a printed picture on it. Let dry completely and then with a jigsaw cut picture into shapes. Be sure and coat the pieces with a 0 VOC child safe varnish.
4. Checkerboard- Cut a large square of plywood and paint the checkerboard on it using a stencil for best results. Use something for checkers, making sure that there are two definite groups of checkers that can be sorted by color, size, or type. Some of my favorite checkers materials are polished stones/rough stones, red buttons/black buttons, walnuts/pecans. Use your imagination. This makes a wonderful toy!
5. Marbles- Make your own from clay. use different colors and experiment with different techniques.
6. Transform an egg carton into a mancala board and use pebbles for playing pieces.
7. Newspaper kites- I spent many happy days in my childhood flying kites. Watching them soar in the clouds is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
8. Matching Cards- Use 3x5 cards and glue pictures to them. You could use old magazines to have things like parent animals/baby animals, or animal homes/animals, or artists/painting. After you have made the cards, laminate them so they will last a long time.
9.Dominoes- cute rectangles of wood in the desired size and paint the dots on with low voc child safe paints OR burn them on with a wood burner.
10.A favorite of my children is a game I picked up for road trips. It is a clear cylinder with small beads in it and small items placed in the beads. There is a list of things that they need to find. The same thing can be accomplished with a Wide mouth mason Jar and a mixture of dried beans/rice and some items from around the house like pennies, eraser toys, etc.
11. A Yoyo- these are fun to use and fun to make! Try different sizes until you find exactly what you like.
12. A Marshmallow Gun- These are everywhere it seems. Better than nerf because you can eat your opponent's artillery
13. PVC Musical Instruments...You can make many things from pvc pipe. Try making a flute or a xylophone
14. A Fishing Game -cut out paper fish and laminate them.Attach paperclips to the mouth area. Make a fishing pole from a long thin stick, a string and a magnet. If it is for a child under the age of 3 please be sure the magnet is big enough that it cannot be swallowed!
15. A rag doll- These can be made in a variety of ways and are always well received!
16. Felt food- use bits of felt and stuffing to create cookies, cakes, breads, and other pretend foods.
17. Swing- Have you ever swung on a rope or tie swing hung from a huge old tree? Allow your child to have the same wonderful memories
18. Blocks- when I was small I remember spending a few days with my grandparents. They had no toys and I was very bored until my grandfather spent a morning in his workshop and presented me with a box of blocks that he had created in wonderfully exotic shapes.
19 . Puppet
20. Weaving loom- make a weaving loom by using a frame and nailing finishing nails spaced evenly along the top and bottom.
21.Playdough- homemade playdough is easy and you can make scented playdough by coloring it with koolaide powder! Be sure to use the traditional unsweetened kind in an envelope that you add sugar to. You can also use gel food colors.
Here is a recipe that I use:
7-8 cups flour
3 cups salt
3 tablespoons cream of tartar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 cups hot water
Mix seven cups of flour together with the salt and cream of tartar in the bowlof a mixer.
Mix in the oil and water
Knead for 10 minutes
Add more flour to get a soft, workable dough.
Store the dough in a sealed container to keep it from becoming dry.
22. Sorting Toys- Make a sorting toy by filling baby food jars or other small containters with objects to be sorted by color or size, shape or type
How to Make a Marshmallow Gun
The following video is from Polar Bear on Youtube. it is not my video, nor was it made with any input from me. It is posted here merely as a resource that compliments this article.
Planning ahead is imperative when making gifts. If you will be making toys as Christmas gifts choose your projects and create a schedule by the end of september so you will have plenty of time to finish. Always be sure the toys you make are child safe and made with suitable materials. A google search of homemade toys, homemade gifts, or homemade toys for children will produce a myriad of ideas and instructions. Most of all just have fun with it.
Homemade toys are good for your budget and good for the environment. Use recycled materials when you can!