Toys You Don't Have to Buy
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up with forking out for the latest piece of over-hyped
plastic? Answer "What can we do now Mum?" by making
toys from items you will already have around the house.
Shops. Save all your empty grocery cartons for a week
or so and you'll soon have a shop any aspiring grocer
would be proud of. Gluing down the flaps makes cereal
boxes, jelly packets etc. look unopened. Clothes, shoes,
and toys can all be used as "stock". Paper bags and
real or play money add to the fun.
Paper balls. When the kids keep arguing suggest that
they throw something at each other! Paper balls are
easily scrunched up from torn out magazine pages to
make "ammunition". When it's time to tidy up, stand
the waste paper basket in the middle of the room and
see who can throw the most in. A rolled up magazine
makes a good "bat" too.
Doctors/Nurses. A roll of white toilet tissue makes
this game much more fun as Dads, Grans, teddies or dolls
are mummified before your eyes. Plastic medicine spoons
and cardboard box hospital beds for toys are extra props
that make the game last longer.
Tubes. Cardboard tubes from kitchen roll or foil make
instant telescopes for sailors or pirates, or tunnels
to roll marbles through. Babies love to watch things
disappear then reappear out of the bottom. Don't leave
them alone with the cardboard tube though as they will
probably suck it.
Cardboard boxes must be about the best free toys you
can get hold of. Push in the ends of large ones to make
tunnels and caves to crawl through. Draw on windows
and doors with felt tip pens to make a house, add a
flag and portholes for a boat or paper plates and a
steering wheel for a car.
Miniature gardens. The foil trays that pies and prepared
foods arrive in make lovely containers for miniature
gardens. The children can enjoy hunting around the park
or garden for twigs to make trees, moss for a lawn,
stones to arrange as a rockery or a waterfall. Keep
twigs or stones where you want them with a little blue
tack or plasticine. Add toy people or animals and maybe
a little water if the container is watertight. This
can be a very creative and enjoyable exercise if you
have children of very different age groups to entertain.
A variation is to use play sand (not builder's sand
- it stains everything yellow) to make a beach scene,
maybe adding shells, stones and a blue paper sea.
Paper puppets. A picture of anything - colourful bird,
clown's face, animal or cartoon character, carefully
cut out by an adult and stuck to the top of a strip
of card about five inches long and one and a half inches
wide becomes a very easily made puppet. These give such
pleasure and are so easy to make that you will probably
end up with dozens of them. Magazine pictures can be
stuck on to folded card to make theatre set background
Potato prints. After cutting a potato in half, draw
on a simple shape. A triangle, circle or star perhaps.
Cut away the rest of the potato, leaving a shape to
dip into paint and print on to paper.
Skittles. Skittles can be improvised from large plastic
cola or lemonade bottles. A little sand or water in
the bottom makes them more stable. A good game for learning
Dens. Building a den must be one of the most memorable
parts of childhood as we all seem to recall the bliss
of blankets draped over the airing rack in the garden
or over the backs of chairs indoors. Even today's sophisticated
kids seem to find the thought much more exciting than
just erecting the shop bought plastic play house. I
think the secret is to give structural advice about
making the thing stay upright, but let the children
do as much as possible themselves. Really large boxes
of the type that washing machines and fridges come in
can be had for the asking from the big electrical goods
retailers and are useful for rooms within dens. Indoors,
one of the simplest dens can be made by throwing a large
sheet or duvet over a table. Cushions, torches,biscuits
and comics or books will all be needed at the housewarming.
11. String. Children find a million uses for string,
from tying up toy "baddies" to making a washing line
for doll's clothes. It can be tied to chair legs to
make a jump, dipped into paint and twirled on to paper,
plaited, knitted with, made into a parachute or mobile,
used as a measuring aid or for learning how to tie shoelaces
and bows. It need never linger in the kitchen drawer
Sewing cards. Stick a picture on to a postcard or draw
a simple duck, car or teddy shape. With a bodkin needle
push holes around the outline of your design about one
inch apart. Using brightly coloured wool in the bodkin
or a long bootlace, thread in and out of the holes.
Stilts. You need to do a little drilling for this one.
Take two strong tins, coffee or clean paint tins are
ideal, and drill a hole about one inch from the top
on opposite sides of the tin. Insert a length of string
and knot securely. Check that the handle is at a comfortable
length for the child before knotting the other side.
These are always very popular, but never leave young
children alone with them especially near stairs or steps.
Cafes. Children's tea sets are a handy prop for this
game, but a picnic set or microwave cookware is just
as good. Giving the waiter/waitress a little notebook
and pencil to take orders and making a tall white hat
from a cylinder of paper for the chef will add realism.
Sit dolls and teddies around as well as willing Aunts
and Grannies for extra customers.
Playdough. Mix together two cups of flour, one cup of
salt, one cup of water, one tablespoon of oil and a
few drops of food colouring for an easy to make dough
that will keep for about three weeks if you wrap it
in polythene and keep it in the fridge. All you have
to do is knead the mixture well. Divide the mixture
up first if you have more than one colour available.
Obstacle course. An obstacle course can turn a rainy
day into an adventure. Use whatever you have available.
A bench to walk the plank, cushion stepping stones across
shark infested seas, through a cardboard box tunnel,
up a chair mountain or through a duvet cave. The wilder
your imagination the more your children will love it.
Easy boats. Recycle your empty margarine cartons. Use
them as boats for the bath or paddling pool. These are
so easy that even very young children can help to make
them. Cut out triangular sail shapes from white or coloured
paper. Make a small hole at the top and bottom of the
sail so that you can push through a straw to make a
mast. Let the child fix this to the bottom of a clean
margarine tub with a lump of blue tack or plasticine.
They sail extremely well and will even take a couple
of toy people on an exciting cruise.
Capes. Nurses, kings, queens, Batman, Superman - they
all need capes or cloaks. Luckily they are easy to make
by attaching ribbon ties to an oblong of fabric in the
colour of your child's favourite caped character. Keep
an eye on them though as anything tied around the neck
could be dangerous.
Leaf art. Collect leaves and draw around them. This
is fun for little ones and an educational tree identification
game for older children. Colour in the details with
crayons or paints. The leaves could then be stuck on
to paper collage style or dipped into paint and then
pressed firmly on to paper for a lovely leaf print.
Make a puzzle. Stick a favourite picture on to card
and allow to dry with a heavy book on top. Cut into
pieces, how many depending on the age of the child,
for an almost instant and personal puzzle.
Colleen Moulding 1999
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About the author: Colleen Moulding is a freelance writer
from England where she has had many features on parenting,
childcare, travel, the Internet and many more subjects
published in national magazines and newspapers. She
has also published a variety of women’s and children’s
fiction. Her work frequently appears at many sites on
the Internet and at her own site for women and children
All That Women Want.com a magazine, web guide and resource
for women everywhere. http://www.allthatwomenwant.com
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