Making toys for kids

Kids have way too many toys these days. I know that makes me sound old but really they do. Ask anyone what their kid plays with and the answer is, what every they can get their hands on. Boxes, spatula, mud. They are all free and kids will find so much more enjoyment in them than anything we buy. Case in point my son grabbed a piece of wood yesterday and played pizza man for an hour, using the wood as a pretend phone to take a pizza order (no idea what he got that from, cough). Of course we want our children to have beautiful things around them but that doesnt have to equal expensive. Here are a few of the things my son plays with the most.

Gnome home
This is made with a plank of pine (about $18 from the hardware store and heaps left over). Some branches and some glue. My son loves having anything he can find play on it, peg people, transformers, cars, even just using his fingers as people. I used a Jigsaw for the whole thing so you dont need any particular skills or tools, the rougher the better. I put a beeswax finish on mine which was about $10 from the hardware store. This just helps it be waterproof and hold up a little better over time.
Play fabrics
I love the look of play silks as used in waldolf environments but couldnt justify the cost. These fabrics as you can see in the pic above are actually Chiffon. They are 100% cotton so natural and super drapey and soft. Mine were half price at spotlight so about $3 a meter and I got 2m of the green and one of blue. Then at home I turned the edges over and ran a straight stitch across to stop them fraying. They can be used as capes, cubbies, small words (look like grass or water).

Peg dolls
I cant tell you how much i enjoy making these. You can get a bag of peg people off ebay for about $10. You can paint them, wrap them in felt. Make Christmas themed ones, elves, gnomes, paint number or letters on them for learning games, make a family. The sky is the limit. Sweet elm does some amazing things with them which I'm trying out myself (no spend remember).

Rag/ baby dolls
My son has a plastic babydoll that i got for around $10 at BigW. He loves her to bits and often carries her in telling me to be quiet as she is sleeping and then tucks her in on the lounge. Its too sweet to see how caring he is for her. Remember this activity teaches children to care for others by emulating their feelings onto another person. Our nature compels us to nurture and for kids this means dolls. I got the plastic one because i wanted him to be able to bathe it but if you want something natural then Waldolf or rag dolls are the way to go. Yarn hair and natural wool stuffing, the baby ones are also weighted to make them more realistic. Just beautiful but also very pricey, they retail for around $200-$300 so if you can make one yourself this is a much more cost effective solution.  (photo credit: flicker)

Mud kitchen

This one is just so much fun. We used free pallets for ours but be warned they are super hard to get apart and are really heavy. The sink we picked up from the recycling place at the tip for a few dollars as well as some pots and pans.

For smaller children and babies i recommend some sensory activities. Cook some spaghetti with food coloring for a touchable and edible activity. Create a small world area with blue jelly and yellow dyed coconut as sand. Add some plastic sea animals and vola. A basket full of interesting objects, a whisk, cd, balls, tongs, these kept my son amused for at least 10mins which is a long time when you are 1. Casey from Little Lifelong Learners has all the answers to toddlers and play.

What toys can you recommend that your kids loved?
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