We have SO many toys at our place.
So. Many. Toys.
Want to know a secret that I’ve learnt from parenting four very different little people? (Your pocket will thank me for it..)
The toys we’ve made together are often the ones that get played with the most AND last the longest.
Yep, it’s true.
This is good news is if you’ve recently dropped from a DINKs (double income no kids) wage, as these types of toys are not going to dent the back pocket. More bonuses? If you’ve got older children, they can help you to make them. They’re so easy it’s almost embarrassing and I can almost guarantee that they will be loved by your kids too!
Here are some of our very favourite DIY toys, that not only have stood the test of time but are the most loved at our place:
These little shakers are PERFECT for little hands! I’m a recycling hoarder so we always have lots of random bits and bobs on hand (like the empty Crayola brand paint containers pictured), but you could use anything: empty plastic peanut butter containers, small water bottles, pop top bottles…whatever you have in your recycling bin! Fill them with assorted items like beads, bells, rice, beans or small stones and you’re almost done! Use a hot glue gun (or super strong super glue) and fix the lids down. This step is important as items may pose a choking hazard if they come out. This simple and inexpensive idea is perfect for a treasure basket (read more about them here and is one that every one of my kids have adored as babies!
Another go-to DIY for every single one of my kids! All you need is empty water bottles and items like glitter and coloured water. I always look for smaller bottles (300ml) as they’re easier for little hands to hold. You can get creative with what you put in them! Babies and toddlers love squeezing, rolling and shaking the bottles, watching the contents swirl around. Another note on safety: just like the DIY shakers, it’s really important that you glue the lid down. When my oldest was a toddler, I made the rookie mistake of omitting this step and he ended up working out how to take the lid off!
Milk bottle Pom Pom drop
One of my fourth child’s first words was ‘pom pom’ because she loved playing with this type of toy! I cut a hole in an empty milk bottle, smoothed the edges by covering them with painter’s tape and was finished within 6 minutes. WIN! Using GIANT pom poms (the size of her hand so they are not a choking hazard) she quickly learnt how to ‘pop’ them into the holes and tip it out to start again. It sounds so basic it’s almost silly, but TRUST ME, kids LOVE this!!
Warning: this one is messy! Although technically not a toy, Baby Paint is something I’ve always made with my kids and is a much loved thing to play at home. The first few times I tried painting with my boys (around when they were 2 and 9 months old) I soon learnt that it was inevitable that little paint-covered-hands would find their mouths to sneak a taste. Even though the paint packets say ‘non toxic’ I still didn’t like the idea of them eating paint, so we experimented with this alternative: flour, water and a little bit of food colouring! Although no physical product (ie paint on paper) comes from this, babies and toddlers LOVE the process of squishing, mixing and spreading the paint. I always do this outside on a plastic sheet, with my kids stripped down to nappies/undies so clean up is only a hose spray away!
This is my 3 year old’s current favourite toy: a cardboard box washing machine. Made by covering an empty beer carton in $3 adhesive vinyl (from Kmart) with bottle top lids glued on as the buttons. My baby also likes to open and close the ‘door’, putting things in, and taking them out!
These are some of our very favourite simple, engaging and cheap ideas at my place! Check out some more ideas like this over on my Instagram account @PlayfulLittleLearners. Happy Playing!