What can I reuse or recycle to make small toys for kids?

From making dog toys last week to kids toys this week… We’ve had an email from Petra:

Thank you for your very nice and useful site. You helped me before, but now I have a new (reverse) question:

In a few months, my youngest daughter becomes 3 years old. On her day care, it is common to give the other (little) children a small present or healthy treat.

I prefer to give a small present, especially when it is useful and they can play with it for quite a while. Last year, I made them little bags from foam that was left over from a party.

This year, again, I would like to make something for the children, preferable a nice little toy by recycling stuff. But I’m out of ideas.

Could you or your readers help me with some ideas? It should not take too much time to make, since I need to make 20 of them. And they should be safe for little ones as well.

I’ve not had a lot of experience of making gifts for children en masse so I’m going to have to ask other people to help out here… Any ideas?

One suggestion I would make – and one that might be better for slightly older children – is to take advantage of free child labour ;) Provide them with the materials to, say, make their own puppet or little creature and encourage/help them to put it together/customise it themselves. Any more age appropriate suggestions?

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6 Responses to “What can I reuse or recycle to make small toys for kids?”

  1. Michelle says:

    Kids are fasinated with snow globes…make your own, or bring parts, let them add the snow. Use old jars; if you have small figurines, alphabet foam shapes etc.,
    pre hotglue or E6000 to the inside bottom, bring glitter, beads, ribbon snips etc. for the snow effect…add water, glue lid if you don’t want a mess.

  2. bookstorebabe says:

    You can make a fun, toteable tic tac toe game. (I think that’s naughts and crosses in England? I’m not sure.) Cut a bit of cloth into a circle. (use good bits of old clothes destined for rags, or scraps from sewing?) Punch holes around the edge. Help them draw a grid. They can lace scrap ribbon or yarn through the holes. Use a bead and tie a knot, so the yarn won’t get lost. Add in a handful of pennies-and use heads and tails for the x’s and o’s when you play! Tic tac toe, three in a row. The yard is pulled snug, to make it a little pouch. That’s as specific as I can remember this craft.
    And this is also from an old Highlights for Children magazine. A mancala game.
    Just get an egg carton. The bottom is your playing board-you can cut off the top, or leave it, your choice. I’d leave it. Use beads or buttons for mancala stones. The original instructions had a small paper cup or juice box, cut down to size, glued/taped to each end of the carton to hold the player’s game pieces. Decorate the box as you please. Finds the rules online, I forget! They were fairly simple, I recall. Perhaps write or print them out, attach it inside the lid?
    I used to have to provide crafts for a group of young girls, most in the 5 to 8 age group, and they had fun with both of these.

  3. S James says:

    For pre-schoolers, toys with little pieces may not be the best (baby brothers and sisters, etc). How about taking pictures of the kids and making it into a book with everyone in it. Print out a copy for each child. I did this with my son, and it was a hit. Plus, what a fun way to remember the kids when they’re older. My youngest is 10, and they have a laugh when they see themselves and classmates as pre-schoolers. The parents would probably like it as much as the kids, reading it at bedtime, they can ask all kinds of questions about who’s their friend, who’s the funniest, etc. With Snapfish, Target and other places offering bargains on printing lots of pics, if you don’t have a color copier or printer, you could use actual photos for the book. Just print out the pages with words, and then glue in the pictures.

  4. Petra says:

    Since, it was my qeustion, I really would like to thank you for the ideas. I love the snow globes, but I don’t know where to get 20 empty and small jars on this short notice.
    The games are also very nice, but indeed, more for older children. But I keep that one in mind as well.
    And I’m sure the photobook would be a success, but I really prefer some recycling in it. So, also that one has to wait for another opportunity.
    At the moment, I tend to making sewing charts, like the ones here
    I still have a lot of foam left, so that would be a good start. Only thinking about an alternative needle, like a shoe-lace or so.

  5. kfh54 says:

    i know i’m coming to this late – but similar situations might be coming around with the forthcoming festive season. my 3-year old nephew loves jigsaws and is forever seeking variety, he is delighted to put together a picture from a birthday card, poster or magazine glued onto card that is cut into as many pieces as is appropriate. i love your sewing templates Petra – for smaller children to whom you might be wary of giving even a blunt needle, a thin, round shoe lace with good firm ends works well too. for older children, pieces of binca canvas that allow them to create their own designs are also really popular.

  6. vickie tucker says:

    Petra, I just found this site, so I know you have already completed your project. For future projects when small jars are needed quickly I would ask the infant room at the daycare. They always go through so many jars of food per day it would not take long at all to get what you need. I hope this will help with future projects.

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