Children’s toys can get really expensive fast. That’s one thing parents learn pretty quickly. There are some great toys out there, but the expense can be hard to deal with.
Add in that many are plastic and really not so environmentally friendly, and it can be a bit of a problem.
But some toys you can make rather than buy, saving money and even reusing things that might otherwise have been recycled or even thrown out. Here are some ideas to get you started that don’t require a ton of sewing or construction skills.
What child doesn’t love a good playhouse? The popular ones are plastic and can be left outdoors in all weather or kept indoors. And they’re pricey, ranging from about $30 for a cardboard one they can color on, to a few hundred dollars for the fancier ones.
Even that $30 for a cardboard one is expensive when you realize you can get the cardboard pretty easily for free.
My children for a couple of years had a cardboard playhouse that was made from a double thickness box my husband got from the blinds department at Home Depot. He worked there at the time, and just had the night crew save him one. Not a hard thing to ask for, as they’re going to dispose of it anyhow.
That house was strong enough that the kids climbed on its roof regularly as they played. No problem. It tolerated pretty much everything they could throw at it, sometimes literally.
It took some time with a utility knife to cut the doors and windows, but it worked out really well. And being free was a great bonus.
When the box finally broke down enough it went into the recycle bin. We’ll be doing the same soon with a washer or dryer box we happen to have handy.
Play kitchens are also very popular with children, and once again can be rather pricey. You can make one on your own fairly easy, however.
My sister made one from a short dresser she bought at a garage sale or some such for her daughters. All she had to do was paint the burners on there and the kids were happy. That’s just enough for imagination.
You could also make one from a cardboard box, obviously a smaller one than you’d use for a playhouse. Draw on what they need, maybe cut in an oven door and there’s a play kitchen.
You’ve probably seen the plastic bowling sets at the store. While they’re not all that pricey, relatively speaking, you can make your own.
All it takes is soda or water bottles (20 ounce or 2 liter size, your preference) and a ball. If you don’t drink much soda in your family and don’t buy bottled water (yay!), you can always talk to friends about giving some to you. You probably know someone who would have bottles available.
Kids love to be just a little bit taller. You can buy plastic stilts for fairly inexpensive, but they’re really easy to make. My daughter’s preschool had these, and the kids loved it when the teachers pulled them out. There was usually a line for them.
Take two coffee cans and two pieces of rope. The rope should be long enough that, doubled up, it can reach from your child’s hands to the floor with just a little to spare for knots and of course growing room.
Punch two holes in each coffee can, on opposite sides, a short distance from the bottom. Thread the rope through each hole and tie a knot on the inside end. This will form a loop for your child to hold while walking on top of the cans.
Any of these toy ideas can be painted or decorated as you like, but I think it’s best to let the kids decide how to decorate them. It’s just one more part of the play for them.
If you’re really into making homemade toys, consider buying Learn and Play the Green Way: Fun Activities with Reusable Materials or getting it from the library.