Store bought toys are expensive. They could also be considered wasteful if you think about it — all those resources spent manufacturing and transporting a toy that will be played with a handful of times and then ignored. It seems almost criminal. At the same time, kids love having something to play with, and they need a few toys to flex their imagination muscles. So give your kids the best of both worlds with these five homemade toys that use cheap, easily available, and even recycled materials.
Homemade Toys You Can Make With Your Kids
Guest post by: Adrienne Erin
1. Super Easy Jet Pack — This toy will delight little boys, and probably little girls as well. The homemade jet pack makes use of those empty plastic bottles you have laying around with just a little bit of creativity. Make some for your own kids, or for a fun, inexpensive gift for other kids’ birthdays when you’re on a budget.
All you need are two plastic bottles, some plastic primer paint, silver paint, a piece of cardboard, crepe or construction paper, glue, and a bit of ribbon or duct tape. You could also use aluminum bottles, such as those that coconut water comes in, if you want to skip the painting step. Just be sure to use a strong adhesive if you go that route.
2. Bouncy Balls — Every child loves bouncy balls, and they are so easy to make that you’ll hate you ever spent money buying them retail! These make a wonderful project for any day of the year, and you can even turn it into a fun, at-home science lesson as it comes together.
For this toy, you’ll need glue, borax powder, cornstarch, food coloring, and a bit of warm water. You’ll also need a couple of small cups for your mixing. Your kids will love the mixing and kneading part of this project as much as they love playing with the finished product. Try adding glitter to the mix, or just be creative with the possibilities.
3. Mousetrap Cars — This classic toy is often used as a physics project, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun to make and play with. Mousetrap cars are great for boys and girls alike, but younger children will probably need a bit of help with the assembly.
To make this toy, you’ll need a Victor mousetrap, Bic pens, balloons, eye hooks, soda can tabs, and scrap CDs or DVDs. Of course, you can vary the sophistication level of your supplies based on age and preference. Once you make your first one, you and your children can try coming up with ways to make them even faster.
4. Clothespin Dolls — Clothespin dolls are a popular summer camp craft project, but that doesn’t mean you and your kids can’t enjoy making them sans the camp part. Make fairies and princesses for little girls, and turn your clothespins into action figures for little boys.
You may need to make a trip to the craft store for this one. You’ll need old-fashioned clothespins, craft paint and brushes, material for clothing, scissors, clothespin doll stands and heads, and a glue gun at minimum. If painting is too much, and you aren’t trying to make anything super professional-looking, you can let your kids use markers to decorate the heads.
5. Grocery Bag Jump Rope — Talk about recycling! A jump rope made from plastic grocery bags is a fun, innovative way to thin out that never-ending supply of bags that seem to procreate in dark closets.
This is so incredibly simply it’s crazy. All you need is a few plastic bags, scissors, a strip of painter’s tape, and duct tape for the handles. A little cutting and braiding later, you have a totally recycled, completely free jump rope. Once it wears out, just toss it in the recycle bin with the rest of your plastic and make another!
Adrienne Erin is a crafty mom who is always seeking out new ideas for low-cost and sustainable toys. Building toys with her kids has been a memorable experience that has taught them about social responsibility and patience. You can read more of Adrienne’s work by checking out her personal blog, Pongra.