Homemade toys that grow with your child: early years

Jenny Diaz shares some simple toys you can make with things in your home, that will grow with your child as they learn and develop.

Making toys that grow with your kids

Image by Jenny Diaz

By Jenny Diaz | jennydiazphotography.com

During the first five years of your child’s life, development happens so rapidly. It almost feels as if everyday something new is happening, so how do you know what toys will best suit your child’s interest for the long-term? Here are some toys that you can make at home in just 15 minutes or less that will aid and grow with your child’s development.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: All toys are always safest when being used under adult supervision.)

Pom pom drop

You will need:

  • Paper towel or toilet paper rolls
  • Pom poms (large for smaller ages, medium/small for older ages)
  • A piece of cardboard larger than the roll
  • Markers
  • Duct tape/hot glue gun

Image by Jenny Diaz

Base Activity:

This is for when your child is first learning how to pick items up and place them in and out of places. To assemble, simply take a paper towel or toilet paper roll and tape or glue it to a piece of cardboard so that it is slightly elevated off of the ground.

Hold it or lean it against a wall and provide your little one with a few pom poms to put down the tube. When they are ready, this activity will also help build pre-math skills by teaching one-to-one ratio as they place one pompom in the tube at a time.

Modification 1:

Once your child is beginning to learn colours, you can add more tubes and colour code them along with the pom poms. Once your child is beginning to learn how to count, you can verbally provide them an amount of pom poms to drop or write the number above the roll if they can visually identify numbers.

Modification 2:

To further challenge an older child, provide them with a fair bit of their own rolls and materials so they can make a course for the pompoms to fall through. You may even want to build two and have a race to see which course is faster.

Variations:

Here is a list of other ways you can make a different toy by using the same concept:

  • Yoghurt container or shoebox with slot cut in the top and buttons
  • Pom poms with empty water bottle
  • Empty wipes box with bottle caps

Puzzles

You will need:

  • Paper plates
  • Scissors
  • Markers
  • Printouts of pictures with whatever your child is interested in (eg. animals, cars, dinosaurs)
  • Random household objects chosen by your child
  • Construction or computer paper
  • Glue

Base Activity:

You’ll want to keep your puzzle simple. Start with matching two of the same items together. Find some images to print of whatever your child is interested in and print two of each. Glue one set onto a piece of paper and have your child place the matching picture on top of it.

You can also cut out various shapes, again 2 of each, to have your child match. Another alternative is to choose some objects from around your house (preferably with the help of your child) and trace them onto a piece of paper. Once you are finished, your child can match each object to their coinciding outline.

Modification:

When you think your child is ready, try puzzles consisting of just two pieces. You can use those same pictures you printed earlier by cutting them in half and seeing if they can match the two pieces together to make a whole. You can also take a few paper plates and have you or your child colour/paint them one colour per plate. Once they are finished, try cutting them into 2-3 pieces. For more of a challenge, cut more pieces.

Variations:

  • Matching socks
  • Empty box puzzles
  • Matching Easter Egg halves together

Dramatic play

You will need:

  • Recycled food and drink materials (washed and cleaned)
  • Plastic or paper plates, cups or utensils
  • Child's clothing and/or your old clothing
  • Empty box
  • Hygienic tools (toothbrush, comb, washcloth etc)
Making toys that grow with your kids

Image by Jenny Diaz

Base Activity:

Chances are that random household objects already hold your child’s interest the longest around this age, so make some safe ones readily available to them. Wash and clean some empty food and drink containers and put them on a low shelf or basket. Yoghurt containers, cereal boxes, water bottles, milk and egg cartons are all wonderful places to start.

While you’re in the kitchen making food, allow your little one to sit on the floor in or nearby the kitchen as well and play with these items. Plastic or paper plates, cups and spoons are also great things to offer them for playtime. Also around this age children start to enjoy learning how to care for themselves so offer a comb, brush or toothbrush so they can “practice” and get familiar with the objects for the future.

Modification:

Once your child gets a little older and gains more self-awareness, they may be interested in starting to dress themselves. Happily oblige by leaving a small bin or few items of clothing out for them to try putting on. You can also use yours or a sibling’s old clothes to play dress up.

If they are beginning to enjoy fantasy play, then paper crowns and hats are easy items to make. An empty box can be decorated to make a car, castle, train or boat. A quick drawing can go a long way. Remember, let go of perfection and just go for it! Don’t worry about spending more than 5-10 minutes on it. I promise you care more about what it looks like than your children do.​

It’s amazing what you can do with everyday household items and just 15 minutes of your time. Not only have you made a toy that will grow with and aid your child’s development, you’ve also saved money as well as the environment by reusing and repurposing some objects that might have otherwise been disregarded.

The cherry on top though? I bet these homemade toys will serve your child’s interest just a little longer than the traditional ones.​

What are your children's favourite homemade toys?​ We'd love you to share in the comments below.

Jenny Diaz

Jenny Diaz

Contributor

Jenny is a former Early Childhood Educator and Montessori teacher of 10 years turned photographer. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband, fur baby and 1-year-old daughter. She remains passionate about child development and education in the early years, and enjoys spending as much time outdoors as possible with her little one. She's on Instagram @jennydiazhomelife

Vedette - June 8, 2017

Awesome ideas Jen!!..love it

Kate Bowern - June 12, 2017

These are amazing, I really LOVE all of them. This is what I wish all children had in their younger years 🙂

Thank you for sharing x

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