Old-fashioned fun for big and little kids
When many of us think back to our childhood toys, we don’t think of computers or video games. The majority of our toys didn’t make noises or light up, and we often had to use our imaginations to have fun.
Parents and caregivers can bring back this same kind of joy and wonder for their children. Yes, a lot of kids love the latest and loudest products as seen on television commercials and store shelves, but many don’t realize the entertainment value of quiet, simple and even homemade toys.
As a little girl, I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house. I loved playing there, even though she didn’t have a lot of money for anything extravagant. But I do remember her sewing together little square bags out of extra fabric and filling them with dried beans. She would then take a basket and have us toss these bean bags in there for points. What a great memory for me and my siblings.
There is an abundance of ideas for simple, homemade toys to be found online on sites such as https://happyhooligans.ca/70-awesome-toys-make-kids/, in library books and in magazines. Many of these are made with items already in our homes or even in our backyards. Making toys is also a great way to recycle all those plastic bottles and soup cans.
In her article “Really Cool Toys for Kids to Make Themselves” on rediscoveredfamilies.com, Sharon Harding writes, “Children are naturally creative and have fantastic imaginations. They can make toys out of anything.” She also goes on to cite that making their own toys “stimulates the imagination, helps children solve problems and discover that they can make their own fun.”
Besides having a great time with the end products, the making of these toys can also help children in a myriad of ways. Kids get to use their imaginations while honing their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Oftentimes counting is involved, so it can help children learn numbers and math skills.
In her article, “Why Art and Creativity are Important” on Parents.com, author Paula Bernstein writes, “When children experiment with materials, they dabble in science. Most important perhaps, when kids feel good while they are creating, art helps boost self-confidence. And children who feel able to experiment and to make mistakes feel free to invent new ways of thinking, which extends well beyond the craft room.”
Letting children help with making these toys enables them to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in what they’ve created. This in turn will increase the likelihood of them playing with the things they’ve made and motivate them to make even more. These projects are also a great way for parents and children to spend time together in a meaningful and goal-oriented way.
Here are some ideas for parents and children:
• Want to do a hand puppet show with your kids? Grab some old socks and make faces on them. If you want to get really fancy, glue or sew some buttons for the eyes and nose and maybe some yarn for the mouth and hair. Have kids color a big piece of cardboard (even a pizza box will work) to make the “stage” that the puppets will appear above.
• Speaking of cardboard boxes, the ideas are endless. Have children paint or color the outside. These can become playhouses for kids or dolls, blocks to stack on top of each other, or even a toy box for all those homemade toys. Most kids (and cats) love boxes.
• What child doesn’t like balloons? Take large paper plates and a large Popsicle stick for the handle. Make a slit in the bottom of the plates, slide the “handle” partway into it and tape. Now they can play balloon tennis, which is even safe to play indoors since a balloon can’t do much damage. Use a bed, coffee table or a couch as your “net.” This is a great rainy day activity.
• What about homemade play dough made with ingredients already in your kitchen? For a great recipe, go to https://theimaginationtree.com/best-ever-no-cook-play-dough-recipe/. Then use cookie cutters, small rolling pins and other plastic and safe baking items to make all different shapes and patterns.
• Have your kids find some smooth rocks, paint or color on animal faces, and they’ll have their own set of pet rocks. Or use seashells; these can become sea pets.
• A simple piece of chalk can make a hopscotch board and a small rock can be the marker. This makes for great exercise and balance control.
• Holiday themed toys are also fun. Make ornaments out of old costume jewelry or cut out pictures from last year’s Christmas cards. A simple hole puncher and some yarn and you’re ready to hang it on the tree.
Start collecting things now for future toy making. Rinse out and store bottles, cans, and other odds and ends for fun, easy and inexpensive projects. Remind your children to be on the lookout for anything that can be used in your next creation. Make it a family event, one that will foster great memories now and into the future.
Written for Growing Up in the Valley magazine in Virginia