Homemade Toys

Homemade Toys and Free Activities for Children

6 February 2023
Posted by: Chelsea

There’s an old saying that children are often more fascinated by the box a toy came in than the toy itself!

That’s why homemade toys and free activities for children are so important.

Homemade toys and free activities for children

It’s possible to dispute the above sentiment and certainly, toy manufacturers might do so!

However, to realise the truths above, it’s only necessary to watch the seemingly endless amount of hysterical fun a 3-year-old will have with a large empty cardboard box. There is an important lesson for all parents and care providers in that – children love to learn by exercising their imaginations.

Anything you can do to provide opportunities for such learning will prove to be beneficial to your child’s ongoing development. That assertion has been supported by numerous studies over many years.

Babies and pre-toddlers

You can see evidence of this from the earliest days. Pre-toddlers love to pick things up, bang them around on surfaces and try to stack them etc. Sometimes those attempts end in frustration and minor temper crying but all the time, they’re helping your baby to develop physically through improving hand-eye coordination and also cognitively as they develop strategies and try to achieve them through their efforts.

There is a vast range of manufactured toys that can be used but you’re likely to get at least as good results by providing your baby with carefully selected household items to play with. A few basic rules to help:

  • make sure the items are entirely safe. That includes being; too big to swallow, unbreakable, containing no sharp edges, can’t form a suffocation or strangling hazard and made from non-toxic materials (given your baby will inevitably try to bite or chew them);
  • try not to hand the items over and walk away. Babies love to have close attention from and the reassurance of, another person while they’re playing. Sometimes they’ll want you to join in and help but at other times, not.

Toddlers and preschool ages

Here, children might need some help in forming their objectives, such as “why don’t you make a house out of that cardboard box?” though most commonly they won’t and will have plenty of their own ideas.

You can use almost anything here providing it’s safe, unbreakable and not likely to be messy. A few suggestions:

  • the ubiquitous empty larger cardboard box;
  • old sheets;
  • carefully selected and safe pieces of furniture;
  • bigger and not-precious cushions;
  • plant pots (unbreakable and preferably clean).

Provide these materials and most kids will very shortly have built their own world, be it a castle, house, ‘city’ and so on.

Messy games

Children simply adore making a mess.

Water, mud, grass cuttings, sawdust and things like them, will be instantly incorporated into their elaborate made-up games.

If you’re brave enough to try this indoors though, be prepared with towels, mops, buckets and vacuum cleaners!


Most parents accept that by the toddler and immediate pre-school ages, most children can’t be subject to constant play supervision. That means, almost inevitably, that they will suffer tumbles, falls and other accidents while playing.

That will happen whether you’re using homemade or shop-purchased toys for them but there are a few things you can do to reduce the risks:

  • toddlers will naturally try to ‘stack-and-climb’. They can be surprisingly ingenious and putting chairs on top of each other (etc.) is an accident waiting to happen. Limit those risks by controlling what they can use as part of their game;
  • if possible, allocate a room or part of a room as their play area. You can put padded floor coverings down to reduce the chances of injury when they fall over – which will happen;
  • check on them regularly;
  • use child-proof safety protectors where electrical sockets are concerned and do not allow things like electrical lamps to be in the vicinity of their play area and games;
  • brief the children on safety beforehand, rather than simply telling them “do not use..” without explanation.

Using some of these basic approaches, your kids will have piles of fun and you’ll save plenty of money on toys etc.

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