Homemade Toddler Toys

by Malissa Copeland


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I am always looking for ways to stretch out those dollars to replace toys when they wear out or get broken. I have found so many toys that you can make with your child using things you would normally throw away. I save everything from a cottage cheese container, paper towel rolls, down to babyfood jars. Here are a few things that are a hit with my four children. Use your imagination to create your own ideas. To organize our craft area, I purchased the see thru shoebox containers that you can find for about one dollar. I also use old shoe boxes to keep materials in. We are now starting to make our own containers from various small boxes.

To organize our pens, crayons and scissors we made a holder. Cut the top off of a large kleenex box. Use toilet paper rolls and arrange them inside the box. You can use a hot glue gun to tack them down, or pack them tightly together. You now have seperate compartments to hold different utensils. Decorate the outside with construction paper or cut out from magazines. We always cut out the headlines for articles and use individual letters to spell out something.

My six year old loves to glue things together. Using our magazine cut outs, he glues things onto an 8 x 10 piece of construction paper and decorates how he wants. I bought him a picture frame for his room to display his work of art. My 3 year old loves cars. Using our concentrated juice containers (juice makers, frozen juice containers, or school milk cartons are good) he glues construction paper around container. Using milk lids he glues on the wheels. I then have pieces which I precut for him to glue on headlights and license plates. The cylinder shaped containers makes good train cars. We staple a piece of yarn to connect them together. They will play for hours with these on the floor.

My 19 month old has a shape box that has the 3 different shapes (circles, squares, and triangles) which always get lost. Our home made version consists of milk lids and babyfood jar lids. Using a container like oatmeal comes in, cut holes into the top large enough for the lids to fit through. You can decorate the outside with contact paper to hide the label. I recommend not using markers to decorate or gluing things onto them because of the age of the child who plays with it.

For my youngest, 8 months, I have saved the containers that prescription pills come in. Throughly clean out the container before using. I have three shakers. One has salt in it for a soft sound. The other has rice in it for a medium sound. The third has beans in it for a laouder sound.

For this size I recomend using a smaller size of dry beans or a rounder pill bottle that isn't skinny and tall. After you fill the containers about 1/3 full, apply super glue to the rim of the container and re apply lid. Make sure that the container is completely sealed. Give it to a baby only when you are sure the lid can not be taken off and the filling inside will not come out. I have also put small white feathers inside one container to make my child use logic about why the container does not make noise. They know when they pick it up and shake it, it should make noise. It is interesting to see the looks when it does not do as expected.

I have also helped them make wrapping boxes for their home made gifts for relatives. The metal tins that are usually thrown out after you eat all the cookies and popcorn are great to make into a gift box. Using a fine grit sandpaper, scuff up the outside so it will let paint stick to it. Repaint the surface and allow the children to decorate as they wish.

All my children look forward to craft time during the day. I hope you try my ideas and discover new ideas while you share time with your family. This is a great way to bond to each other and open thier minds to creativity.


Malissa Copeland is a young mother of four children; Andrew 5 1/2, Damien 3 1/2, Anthony 19 months, and Briana 8 months. She also has a child care center in her home for infants and toddlers. She emphasizes incorporating learning in every activity and has found many ways to make toys and crafts with things all of us throw away each day. You can email her at copelandjm@informatics.net.

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