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Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Be Awesome at Making Toys

I have been doing a lot of "round up" style posts recently, mostly because I am recapping over a year of blog silence.  Eventually I'll get caught up and start doing more in-depth posts about one specific project, but for now, just think of me as your personal Pinterest tester.

I have really enjoyed making toys for Cricket.  I mean, don't get me wrong.  She has plenty of store-bought toys, too, but there is something fun about making a toy for her, and besides, it's usually cheaper, and it gives me something fun to do.

(I tried to add links to credit the sites I got the ideas from if I actually used a tutorial or read a how-to article.  In a couple of cases, they were ideas I saw floating around several places, so I don't have any one site to credit.)

Crinkle Toy

When Cricket was very little, I made her a crinkle toy, and she loved it. 

It's just a piece of plastic wrapper, like from a bag of dried cherries or a package of printer paper, (basically trash) sewn inside two pieces of fabric, (I used fleece and cotton.), with ribbon tags on the sides for babies to play with.  For a long time, she wouldn't go anywhere without it.  Now it's in the bottom of the car somewhere I think, but it served its purpose.  These also made great gifts.

This was a "cuter" version I made as a gift.

It took maybe thirty minutes from start to finish, and I used scraps of fabric and ribbon, so it cost pretty much nothing.  And it takes zero sewing skills, which is perfect for me.  If you can sew a straight line on a machine, you can do this.  (And my lines aren't always even that straight.)

Discovery Bottles

One of my favorite toys to make for her, especially when she was about six to nine months old, was discovery bottles.  Basically, you take any kind of clear bottle and you fill it with something that looks cool and/or sounds cool when you shake it.  Then you seal the lid on with hot glue and BAM!  Instant toy.  Cricket loves them, so I've made a bunch.

I use peanut butter jars, Parmesan jars, spice bottles, juice bottles, and my favorite: bullion cube containers.  (Again, basically giving my baby trash to play with.)  I fill them with everything:  water beads, food coloring, erasers, necklaces, pom poms, beads, alphabet pasta, Kosher salt and plastic snow confetti, pieces of pipe cleaner, water, bouncy balls, and glitter.  I combine two or three of those things for different effects.  It's really fun.

TIP:  Put hot glue around the bottom edge of the lid once it is tightened.  If you try to put the glue on the threads before you put the top on, the glue will dry with the lid halfway on and leak glitter water all over you. Ask me how I know.

Sensory Board

This next ideas are <GASP> not from Pinterest.  I actually came up with these two on my own.  (Well, ok, I had help from this site for the first one.)  I had some cardboard cake circles left over from something, so I used them to make a sensory board.

I just hot glued a bunch of different textured materials to the cake circle.  I used a gift wrapping bow, some tulle, yarn, a piece of cotton t-shirt, a gauzy ribbon, a piece of felt, and a velvety ribbon.  I later replaced the gauzy ribbon with foam stick-on letters that spelled her name.  She played with it a lot.

Velcro Board

I used another cake circle to make a Velcro board.

I used stick-on Velcro dots and a wooden puzzle that was missing some pieces.  The best part of this is, I can change out what I stick on there and I don't have to make a whole new board.  Cricket absolutely loves pulling the pieces off of this, and as long as I am there to put them back on for her, she will play with this thing for ever!

Ball Pit

I am very proud of finding a trash bag (I'm sensing a theme...) of ball pit balls at a consignment sale for $3!  Then, the next day, my mother-in-law found another bag at a thrift store!  Put them in the Pack-n-Play and you have an instant ball pit!  (You can also put them in the bathtub or a kiddie pool.)  

Cricket's does not fully realize yet how amazing this gift is.  When I was little, if someone told me they had a ball pit in their house, I would assume their parents were the President of the World.  Ball pits were that awesome to me  Now, they've taken them out of most public places (Something to do with sanitation.  I don't know)  so most kids don't understand what an amazing thing this is.  But still.  Ball pit = Awesome.

 Color Cards

Also from Pinterest, I did a couple of activities using paint sample cards from a home improvement store. (You're not really supposed to just walk in there and get some for craft purposes, but surely you have some lying around from the last time you repainted your house.)

First, I used some of the small square cards to just make color cards.  I glued them back to back, using dark and light versions of the same color.  They were pretty cool.  Nice and sturdy, and she played with them some.

Color Book

But what she really loved was this book I made for her. 

Paint sample cards, stickers I got on clearance, binder rings, and some card stock.  Easy to make, but she LOVES it.  She asks me to "read" it to her over and over.  Most of the time, I just say, "Red.  Orange." etc.  But sometimes I get adventurous and read all the silly names they have for the different colors.  It's fun.

Oh, and also, she loves this one.

Stick and Hole Game

Parmesan shaker + dry spaghetti noodles = hours of entertainment.  I saw this one on Pinterest and then had a friend do it with coffee stirrers, which I think would work better because they wouldn't break as easily, but I couldn't find any that day, so spaghetti worked pretty well.

Apparently, the moral of this story is, "Give your child trash to play with."  Not really, but it is amazing what you can do with things we usually throw away.  These also make great toys to pull out when other kids come to play.  They are usually things the other kids have never seen before, so they are interesting.  They are imagination powered, so they hold attention well, and if they break, it's no big deal because it was trash to begin with!

They are like dead toys walking.  Got nothin' to lose.

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