Have you been to a toy store lately? There are gadgets and dolls and blocks and other stuff for every age and every stage. So many options, in fact, that it can get quite overwhelming to choose something for your child. Plus, the prices on most of these toys are absolutely outrageous.
So dig around the house for some raw materials and get back to the basics with this list of DIY toys will help you craft playthings your kids will enjoy for years to come.
1. Baby Gym
Cut a few boards and connect them with a dowel to make your own baby gym. The tutorial is pretty lax because you can make it to suit your individual needs. Once the base is constructed, use links to tie up store-bought (or homemade) toys for playing. The best part? When your child grows out of it, you can sew a cute tent cover for more fun.
2. Kinetic Sand
If you haven't discovered the sand craze yet, save yourself some cash by making kinetic sand at home. This stuff holds shape but doesn't make a mess, so it's easy to pick up. You'll need some fine sand from a craft or pet store. After you've baked it dry, add glue and liquid starch until the mixture sticks together but not to your hands.
3. Rag Doll
So many dolls on store shelves look the same. Give your little one something unique with this DIY rag doll. You'll find patterns for both girl and boy dolls with a detailed sewing tutorial. The difficulty is up to you. The dolls might take some work, but when they're done, you'll be glad you put in the effort.
4. House Blocks
Skip the pricey block sets and make your own stacking house blocks from scratch. You can cut blocks from 4x4 lumber, but I also recommend checking out your local craft store for cheap pre-cut blocks. Once they're all sanded, decorate with non-toxic acrylic paints and finish with beeswax polish.
5. Animal Spools
Or here's another stacking toy using wooden spools instead of blocks. Download the free animal template, cut out the parts, and then tape together. Your child will play for hours making different combinations with the heads, bodies, and legs.
6. Play Garden
Grab an old box and get "planting" with this DIY play garden. You'll use jersey fabric to make round tubes of pretend dirt filled with stuffing. The tutorial describes how to make a variety of colorful veggies from felt. When you've finished sewing, stuff everything together and let your child harvest.
7. Car Ramps
Your kid's cars will zoom faster than ever before with this super simple car ramps project. Cut a few wooden boards to around three feet long. Then paint each black like pavement. Add some yellow dashes for extra flair before placing your new roads on different level surfaces for downhill speed.
8. Toy Treehouse
My jaw dropped when I found this clever toy treehouse made from various found objects. The author of this project used a branch, cutting board, craft bird house, dowels, and some other thrift and Dollar Store trinkets. Better than spending nearly $200 for something similar.
9. Play Kitchen
Start combing Craigslist now! You can use an old entertainment center as a starting point for this adorable play kitchen. Depending on how your old furniture is configured, you can make a shelf the cooktop, the cabinet a pretend refrigerator, and add hooks for play plates or towels. Give the whole thing a bright coat of paint for looks.
Everyone loves oozy slime, especially in metallic colors. Mixing it together takes just a few minutes. You'll combine liquid starch, clear glue, gold powder, and glitter. Use different powder and glitter for different colors.
11. Cardboard Bed
Here's an awesome cardboard bed you can make with recycled cardboard and a handy PDF. In other words: It's free. You'll cut out different shapes to make the headboard, footboard, side supports, and more. Then use the slots to nest everything together.
12. Story Stones
I had never heard of story stones, but they seem like a genius way to get your kid's imagination going. Look around your house, backyard, or at a park for a few smooth stones. Clean them well, then paint with different pictures — preferably around a theme. For best results, paint a white background where your image will go. It will help the colors pop.
13. Mini Foosball Table
I want one of these mini foosball tables for myself. The idea is that cool. You just need an adult-sized shoebox, some dowels, clothespins, and paint. Once you've assembled the playing field, toss in a ping pong ball and keep score.
14. Rainbow Rocker
This rainbow rocker is a multipurpose toy for toddlers that gets wonderfully physical. And the author's inspiration was a toy that retails for $188! To build, you'll need some birch plywood, pocket hole screws, food coloring (to stain wood), and isopropyl alcohol. With materials and printing of plans ($7 at an office supply store), you'll only spend around $50 on this project. Just cut your pieces, sand, stain, and assemble.
15. Play Grill
You can make this pretend grill for around $20. The most important part is a plastic mixing bowl, so if you have one you're willing to part with, it might be even cheaper. Drill holes in the bowl, make a tripod base for it to rest on with thick dowels. The grate is also made from dowels. After a coat of spray paint, you're done.