Homemade toys

Fun from the odds 'n ends drawer

By Judy Ann Sadler
Homemade toys

The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play...

It's your turn to be the Cat, and pull some magical fun out of your hat. Imagine how impressed your toddler will be when you create, on the spot, a wonderful new plaything.

Yes, you have the makings around your home for some fun and easy toys (and it doesn't have to involve your lampshade or your new red dress). An egg carton, water bottle, single sock, fruit basket, scraps of yarn and other odds 'n' ends can all be transformed into great toddler toys. Your child can help in the creative process by choosing colours, snipping yarn, squirting glue and helping with the decoration of your collective creations. What a wonderful way to spend some unhurried time together. It's also great for kids to see that all toys don't have to come from the store. Some of the very best are stitched with love and stuffed with playfulness.

To keep the whole experience enjoyable, keep a close eye on your child when you are using scissors, a needle or small items such as beads. You'll find that it's as much fun to make toys as it is to play with them!

Noise-maker Shaker

Try making shakers in a variety of clear plastic containers to get different sounds. Then add to your marching band by using an ice cream pail for a drum and lids from pots and pans for cymbals. Let the noise begin!

You will need:

    * a clean, dry, plastic water bottle
    * assorted small items: buttons, beads, coins, bread tags, tiny toys, marbles, bells, pebbles or paperclips
    * strong tape such as cloth or duct tape


1. Get your little helper to choose and drop small items into the plastic bottle.

2. Screw the lid on and give the bottle a shake. Add or take away items until you are happy with the sound.

3. Screw the lid on as tightly as possible. Tape the lid on securely too.

4. Shake! Shake! Shake! You can also have fun with the shaker by playing games with its contents. How many marbles are in the bottle? Do you see a blue bead? What colour are the bread tags?

Pull-along Caterpillar

This toy makes a gentle jingling sound as it is pulled across the floor or sidewalk. He won't make much progress on a carpet, though. (If your child still puts everything in her mouth, you can draw on the eyes and leave off the tail decoration, or use very large ones.)

You will need:

    * an egg carton
    * scissors
    * crayons or markers
    * a pipe cleaner
    * yarn or string
    * large jingle bells and beads


1. Cut the bottom of the egg carton in half so you have a strip of six egg cups to make a caterpillar.

2. Use the markers and crayons to decorate the caterpillar. Draw on a face,too.

3. To make antennae, bend the pipe cleaner in half. Use scissors to poke two tiny holes into the top of the first cup. From the inside of the cup, poke the pipe cleaner ends through the holes. Wind the pipe cleaner ends around a crayon or marker to make them curly.

4. Poke a larger hole on each side of the head. Cut an arm's length of yarn. Thread the yarn through both holes and knot it in front of the caterpillar. Tie a bead on the other end of the yarn.

5. Poke a hole at the very back of your caterpillar. Cut two or three pieces of yarn and thread them through the hole. Knot the yarn together. Thread a few bells and beads onto the yarn ends. Knot the yarn around the last bead on each piece of yarn to keep the other beads from falling off.

6. Try out your caterpillar. If it tends to flip over as it is being pulled along, tape or glue a 15 cm (6 in.) long strip of cardboard across the underside of the last segment.
Sock Baby Doll

Do you have an odd sock in your drawer or one with a hole in the heel? Here's an adorable doll you can make out of it. You can use an adult or child-sized sock depending on how large you'd like the doll to be. Or make a whole sock family just like yours!

You will need:

    * a sock
    * scissors
    * a blunt needle and yarn
    * polyester fibre stuffing
    * dimensional fabric paint

1. Cut off the foot part of the sock just above the heel. Set it aside. Turn the other part of the sock inside out.

2. Use the needle and yarn to run a line of long stitches right around the sock, just below the cut edge. Leave a yarn tail at the beginning.

3. Take the yarn out of the needle. Pull the yarn ends tightly to gather the top of the sock. Knot the yarn ends together.

4. Turn the sock right side out and stuff it. Stitch the bottom closed.

5. To make a head, knot a doubled piece of yarn around the sock near the gathered end.

6. Thread the needle with yarn again and pull one end so both strands are even. To make the doll look as if it has a waist and arms, poke the needle through the doll from the centre back area to the front. Leave a tail at the back. Now poke the needle from the front to the back. Cut the yarn from the needle and knot the ends tightly at the back. Trim them.

7. Cut the heel off the foot part of the sock. Roll up the toe part to make a hat. Sit or stitch it on the doll's head.

8. Use fabric paint to draw on a simple face. Allow the paint to dry.
Baby's Basket Bed

Change a cardboard fruit basket into a perfect, portable doll bed.

You will need:

    * a fruit basket
    * a measuring tape
    * cotton or flannelette fabric (see steps 1 & 2)
    * scissors
    * ribbon (optional)
    * white craft glue (optional)
    * 2 squares of felt
    * a sock baby (see above) or another small doll

1. Measure the outside of the basket down one end, across the bottom and up the other end. Add 25 cm (10 in.) to this measurement to get the length of the fabric you need.

2. To get the 425 of the fabric you need, measure the outside of the basket from one side at the handle, across the bottom and up the other side. Add 25 cm (10 in.) to this measurement.

3. Cut a piece of fabric the size that you've calculated.

4. If your basket has a wooden handle, wrap it with fabric or wide ribbon to avoid getting splinters. Cut a strip of fabric 60 cm (24 in.) long and about 3 cm (1 1/4 in.) wide. Tie it to one end of the handle and wind it around and around the handle to the other end. Glue the fabric or ribbon to the side of the basket to keep it from unwinding.

5. Place the fabric good side down on the table. Sit the basket in the centre of the fabric. Wrap the basket by bringing the fabric up over the ends and sides so the extra fabric is in the bottom of the basket. Fold over the side edges of the fabric to go around the handles. It is optional to glue the fabric to the inside of the basket. If you do not glue it, you can easily remove it to be laundered.

6. Fold one of the squares of felt to fit into the bottom of the basket to make a small mattress.

7. Place your doll in the basket. Cut or fold the other piece of felt to make a blanket to tuck around your baby doll.

This article was originally published on Oct 24, 2011

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