Without hesitation my absolute favourite category of kids’ crafting would have to be DIY toys. I love them for so many reasons.
For a start they teach kids that fun doesn’t come in a box from the department store (often with an accompanying ridiculous price), nor does it have to be supplied on an addictive digital screen.
DIY toys often involve repurposing items we were going to throw away, so they’re good for the environment and show kids how to be resourceful with what we have at home.
They inspire play, build fine motor skills, and fuel imaginations. They provide an afternoon’s activity which then becomes an object for play – sometimes for years to come.
I can’t tell you how many hours my youngest spent as a preschooler playing with our hand made pretend food, but it was daily for years. She created elaborate cafe set-ups, designed her own menu and served me platters of meatballs with sponge cakes and fish she’d fried in a pan on her toy kitchen stove.
In the 21st century everything, including most kids’ toys, is mass produced in factories. I hope that making our own DIY toys has helped to show my girls the value in doing things by hand – and over the past 5 years we’ve made LOTS of our own toys. More than 50 to be exact, and today I’m sharing them all in one handy place.
When they are grown I want my girls to be able to think outside the box, be resourceful and come up with their own solutions to life’s problems. Maybe, just maybe, their Mum’s obsession with DIY toys and crafts will help get them a little closer to that goal.
50+ DIY toys for kids
Toy vehicles you can make at home
• Turn the humble egg carton into mini helicopters with rotating blades
• Make colourful egg carton trains with compartments for small toys to sit in (these literally were played with until they fell apart a year later)
• We made this egg carton fire truck to put out big, bad bushfires which once destroyed the street I grew up in
• Turn kitchen scourers into sponge boats that float in the bath tub or outdoors in a home made mini-ocean
DIY pretend play food
• Mini sponge cakes look almost as good as the real thing (with nowhere near as many calories!)
• Make some sweet cookies from cardboard and paper
• Rocks we collected on a walk became tasty rock cakes for pretend-play tea parties
• Meatballs with pasta is great for cooking on the toy kitchen stove
DIY toys to inspire imaginary play
• Make an adorable (and easy) finger knit snake
• This Dinosaur small world in a suitcase would make a lovely handmade gift
• Create a small camping world (for the train tracks, no less)
• These craft stick fairies love living in their craft stick castle
• It doesn’t take long to turn a ballon into a bouncing, playful puppy
• Miss K planned, designed and created this flying fairy car all by herself
• Save the stuffed animals from the flood with a cardboard box Noah’s Ark
DIY Dress up ideas
• Kids can become little Aussie koalas with our printable koala masks (also comes in grey like a real koala)
• Use our printable template to create a magical washi tape wand
• Pipe cleaners and foil can easily become a sparkling princess tiara
• Make a cool superhero mask with our printable template
DIY games to make
• Snakes and ladders is nowhere near as fun as a home-made board game from a repurposed cereal box
• Make funny faces galore with your own funny face rock puzzle
• If it’s raining outside turn some recyclables into a DIY mini golf course
• Why use ordinary dice when you could make your own DIY Giant dice
DIY Puppets to make at home
• Make some wooden spoon puppets to look like your favourite super heroes
• Wooooooo… these softie ghost stick puppets are quicker and easier to make than they look
• I hope you’re not afraid of spiders! The bouncing egg carton variety are pretty scary
• Can you believe these sweet seahorses are made from paper rolls?
DIY toys that make some noise
• How many instruments can you make from a paper cup? These paper cup drums with balloon skins are just the beginning
• Paper rolls make the best shakers!
• Strum a little tune on your mini lid Banjo (Ok they look better than they sound)
• NEVER throw away milk bottle caps. They’re way too useful, like for when you want to make some bottle cap shakers
Printable DIY toys
• These cute little paper guinea pigs were inspired by our own Bob and Lucy (and their babies)
• Twirl and whirl the afternoon away with a hand made Whirlygig
• Write some letters to the fairies with this printable set of fairy stationary
STEM toys to encourage creative thinking and learning
• Make a turbo-charged sponge boat that runs on balloon power
• Paper picnic ware and cupcake liners make a pretty awesome construction set (move over Lego!)
• Turn a regular coat hanger into a pom pom catapult
• Use straws and pipe cleaners to create a working toy swing set
• No toy playground would be complete without a working straw see-saw
• Make cardboard skaters twirl on the ice with a DIY magnetic ice skating theatre
• Create a giant bubble wand from a coat hanger to make awesome HUGE bubbles (giant bubble recipe included)
DIY dolls and softies
• Make cheerful dolls from pipe cleaners, yarn and pasta
• Meet Douglas Diplodocus and Sunshine Stegosaurus. You can get the free pattern to make them here
• Super Hero girl peg dolls were a huge hit with my girls!
DIY toys from rocks
Old fashioned fun
• Make some traditional braided yarn dolls
• My girls loved this gold ribbon dancing wand
• Make the most fabulous-looking paper planes from your hoard of scrapbook paper (they also fly well!)
• Pick some cardboard apples form your recycled cardboard apple tree
Whew! What a lot of toys. I hope you found something to suit your little one whatever age or stage they’re at.
Remember, you’re never too old to make your own fun!