Homemade Toys for Infants and Toddlers

By Erica Loop

Toys can get expensive. Before the costs get you down, get creative with a few do-it-yourself toy projects. Homemade toys for your baby or toddler can inspire, entertain and even educate as well as -- if not better than -- the store-bought versions. Before you begin, consider what materials make the most sense to use and are the safest for your child’s age and developmental stage.

Eliminate the Bad

Safety is the primary concern when creating homemade toys for your infant or toddler. Store-bought toys that are intended for use by children 14 years old and under are subject to federal safety guidelines, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. While no government agency oversees your homemade creations, avoiding unsafe materials remains important. Avoid any item that poses a choking hazard. For young children and infants these include coins, buttons, marbles, small balls, pen caps, batteries, rubber bands, balloons or anything that can fit all of the way into your child’s mouth, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics on HealthyChildren.org.

Items to Engage the Senses

Your infant is using her senses to explore the world around her, according to the website PBS Parents. Without the words to express herself, your tot is touching, listening and watching. Play to her curiosity with items that engage her senses. For example, a wooly towel that you sew over a foam ball is a tactile adventure, while brightly patterned papers glued to the inside of a cardboard box make a visually engaging dollhouse. Opt for bold versions of the primary colors -- red, blue and yellow -- along with striking patterns. Even though it’s tempting to rely only on soft, fuzzy textures, try a variety of feels and include other types of surfaces to explore.

Putting Toys Together

The way in which you put the toys together is just as important as what you make them from. When your baby or toddler explores the homemade toys, he may tear or rip at them. Instead of using flimsy clear tape or school glue, you may need to use something more substantial. For example, if you want to turn fabric scraps into a cuddly hand puppet, stitch the sides together with needle and thread. Avoid toxic glues as well as staples, tacks or other potentially dangerous closures. You can also create toys that don’t require assembly. For example, punch holes along the edge of craft foam shapes and give your toddler yarn to make a lacing toy.

Reused Homemade Toys

You don’t need to go out and buy all new materials to make your own baby or toddler toys. Your 1- or 2-year-old doesn’t know the difference between a brand new plastic drum and one that you’ve made out of a reused yogurt container. You can make musical instruments from old containers. Give your child wooden spoons for drum sticks. Search your house for safe items that you can recycle into homemade toys. For example, turn an old sock into a puppet or stuff and sew it to make a pretend play animal friend or doll. Another option is to add the reused items to a water or sensory bin. Washed pudding cups can become scoops for water play and a box of scrap fabric can turn into a tactile play bin.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.