Read these 57 Toys Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Kid tips and hundreds of other topics.
I don't know about the kids in your day care, but mine have favorite stories. The Mitten is a favorite and Miss Spider's Tea Party, or Old MacDonald. Telling the story with a flannel storyboard is a hit too. Here is how I made my storyboard. I have a blackboard for the wall and have put it up with hooks so it is easily turned around when I wish to use the flannel storyboard. I have set up on the back of my blackboard a sheet of flannel (mine is solid green) the same size of the blackboard. Once I adhered it to the back of the blackboard with spray adhesive we are all set to make the characters from the kids favorite stories.
One way to do this is to use tracing paper to create patterns of the figures from the book that you choose to make. Then cut them from flannel and draw or paint the faces, clothes, etc. on the front of the flannel piece.
Because these flannel pieces are somewhat abstract (and I'm not a great artist!) I have found that photocopying pictures from the book, (or scanning and printing them) works really well. They are more immediately recognizable to the children and I only have to glue a shape of flannel to the back to get it to stay on the flannel board. I also know a childcare provider who scans her pictures from the books and prints them onto transfer pages, she then transfers the pictures to an old cotton sheet or piece of muslin. Although a bit more expensive they are very durable and recognizable. I store my flannel pieces in a large envelope and glue it to the inside back cover of the book it relates to, but, I have seen them stored in an accordion file under the title of the book too.
I have seen these recently in stores to buy for the kids. They are so simple to make I don't know why they sell!! Using a straw for the wand staple or firmly tape a plastic ring to one end. Use curly ribbon and the paper ribbon with stars hanging off to tie to the end ring. The kids will love the "crowns" to match that you can make by doing the same thing to a headband.
Metal Bottle Caps
Small Piece of Wood
Another instrument that needs to be made by an adult, however a favorite with the kids. Take metal bottle caps and punch holes in the centers, then nail two back to back (loosely) to a small dowel. Hold the dowel as a handle and shake to the rhythm.
A button buzzer is a fun toy that is easy to make. Thread a 36" piece of sturdy string through the holes of a large 2 holed button. Tie the ends of the string together. Hold one loop of the string in each hand , with the button in the center. Hold one hand still, and rotate the other to "wind up" the string. Wind it up quite tightly. Pull firmly out with both hands until the string is stretched tight. Move your hands closer together, and the string will rewind. Keep moving your hands slowly apart, then together again, the button spins and makes a happy buzzing noise. This is a great toy to share with friends.
This puppet is made from six pieces of newspaper, each 11"x14". Roll five pieces length wise, then wrap the sixth piece around them and tape or glue closed. Make 3" cuts at one end, apart , for the hair. On white paper, draw features with colored markers and glue in place.
Simple, inexpensive, recycled. Great for puppet shows.
Hang on before you holler "NO WAY!" , read on to see how easy and not so messy this is. Day care centers and pre-schools have "Sand Tables" for children to explore in. You can provide this experience at home too! I use a large plastic storage container with a lid, it measures about 2' x 3' in width and length and is about 6 to 8" deep. I change the contents occasionally to one of the following. Cornmeal, Sand, Rice, Pebbles, Garden Dirt, etc. This "indoor sand box" is great for hiding little toys, driving little cars, playing with shoves and pails, anything you might have done last summer at the beach. When you bring the indoor sand box out for your child to play in, set it on a vinyl tablecloth or use an inflatable pool. You will soon find your child enthralled for hours!
There are many household items that make good bubble blowers.
Try using a hula-hoop, with a wading pool of bubble solution.
By putting your bubble solution in dishpans you can use clean fly swatters, berry baskets, children's plastic hangers with designs cut in them, pipe cleaners bent into geometric shapes, soda pop rings from 6-packs, tin cans with both ends removed,
Put your hands in the bubble juice and place your pointer fingers and thumbs together (making a circle). Then you can pull your hands out and blow through your circle. You don't need a bubble wand!
Try filling a Styrofoam cup ½ way up with bubble solution and have the children blow bubbles into the cup with a straw, being careful not to "sip."
Keep a pile of wash clothes and clean water handy for clean up and just in case someone gets soap in their eye.
Cut black construction paper to fit inside the bottom of a shallow b ox. Tape it in place. Cover the bottom of the box with a layer of sand. Show him how to use a finger to draw letters found in his name in the sand. Show how the letters can be erased by gently shaking the box from side to side. If you do this in the winter you could use rice or salt.
Cut eight index cards in half. On each pair of halves draw a different shape (square, triangle, circle or rectangle). Mix up the cards, spread them face down on a flat surface, and take turns with your child selecting two cards. If the shapes match, keep them. If they do not match, return them to their spot on the table, and continue taking turns.
Help your child make a mini puzzle. After your child has colored a picture in their coloring book, have them cut the picture out and cut straight through it several times. Then put the picture back together where the pieces belong.
I have laminated a picture or craft from school and made puzzles like this. They can be stored in envelopes for future use.
For inexpensive building blocks save your milk and juice cartons. Once they are cleaned out cut off the tops.
Slip one of the bottoms upside down inside another, so that the bottoms are at opposite ends to make sturdy blocks. Cover the blocks by gluing on colored paper or use plastic adhesive. With wide marker or paper cut outs, put different colored letters on each side of the blocks.
These are great building blocks. Their light weight makes them safer than wood blocks and their size makes them super for building forts.
Large Dowel or Broomstick
An adult should make this. (I found it too difficult for the 4-year-olds I made it with, and therefore a frustrating experience.) Punch a hole in the bottom of the coffee can, threading the string through the hole and secure on the inside. Tie the other end of the string to the end of the dowel. (You might want to put some heavy tape on it so it doesn't slide down.) To play it, put one foot on the can to hold it in place, rest the end of the dowel without the string on the coffee can or on the floor, which ever is more comfortable for the child, and tilt the dowel back until the string is tight. Then pluck it!
Your child's artwork can be made into great puzzles for them to enjoy for months to come! You will need a piece of cardboard large enough to glue the artwork onto and scissors. A lunch baggie that can be re-sealed is a great storage idea! Simply glue the artwork to the cardboard, being careful not to use too much glue. When it is completely dry, turn it over and draw a puzzle pattern on the back. Keep in mind your child's age when designing the puzzle, making simpler basic shapes for a younger child. Cut the pattern lines and voila!
This is a good gift idea for Grandma and Grandpa. Your child can write a letter on the back of the puzzle before cutting it out and mail the pieces to a favorite relative.
This is a bit tricky, but fun to try!
Thread one yard of string through two plastic straws.
Tie the ends of the string to make a loop.
Put the string blower into the dishpan.
Submerge the string loop in the bubble mixture.
Take it out by holding onto the straws. Pull the straws gently but quickly through the air and watch the big bubble float!
Store your child's beanie babies or puppets on a ring from the dollar store. (The kind intended to hang socks on to dry) With the small clothespins attached they are great to store puppets. They come in several colors to match your child's bedroom and once hung up, these puppets are off the floor!
Use a shoebox to make a dollhouse by placing it on one of its long sides. Use glue and pieces of wallpaper or patterned wrapping paper to help your child decorate the walls. Color the floor with crayons or use paper or fabric scraps to make carpets. Cut pictures of furniture and people from catalogs or magazines and glue them to small empty thread spools to make them stand. Have fun arranging the furniture and people in different ways.
Any round food container with a plastic lid will work. I use coffee tins. You can also use margarine tubs, oatmeal boxes or drink mix canisters with good results. Wrap bright construction paper around your drum and glue it in place. Let your child decorate it with paper scraps, stickers and yarn scraps. Turn on your favorite tape and keep beat to the music with your new drum.
Cut a large (5-inch) circle, square and a triangle out of the bottom of a sturdy cardboard box. Place the box (shapes side up) on the floor. Join the family in trying to toss a beanbag (easily made with a zip-lock bag filled with 1-cup rice or lentils) into the box through the shapes.
You will need a yard stick or paper towel tube
String; paper clips, small magnet
Construction paper, scissors, markers
Make a fishing pole by tying 3 feet of string to a dowel; yardstick or paper towel tube. Attach a small magnet to the end of the string. Cut fish shapes out of different colors of construction paper, Attach a paper clip to each fish. Lay the fish shapes out on the floor. Then let the children take turns catching all of the red fish, then the blue fish, etc. Or play a number game by writing numbers on the fish shapes and ask them to read the numbers they catch, or add them up.
You can buy this game or make your own. To make your own, purchase 2 inexpensive, identical children's picture books, or two decks of "animal identification cards". If you choose a book try to find one with lots of small pictures like a picture dictionary or book on birds or animals. For each child you need a sheet of construction paper on which you will glue 6 pictures. Glue the identical set of 6 pictures on little individual squares of paper. So, for 6 children you would need 2 sets of 36 different pictures. To play the game draw one of the individual pictures and give to the child who has the matching picture on his paper. The first child to cover all 6 pictures wins. Continue playing for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. until all children match all their pictures.
For these very simple tambourines you will need 2 sturdy paper plates for each tambourine you want to make, and some beans, rice or pebbles.
First have the children decorate the bottoms of the plates. They can color them glue on some pictures or paint them. Then place some beans into the bottom plate and invert the second plate over the first and glue the edges together. (I have used tape when the children wanted to use them right away.)
To make them even more fun to use hole punch around the edges and tie some curly ribbon into sides of the tambourine.
Use up your old broken and battered crayons to create
these terrific crayon buttons that children love.
1. Peel off the paper that may remain on the old stubby
2. A. Line muffin tins with paper cups or
B. Use baby food lids prepared with spray oil.
3. Put the crayon stubs into each cup or lid. You can
use as many or as few as you'd like but don't make them too thin for the children to use. Let the kids decide if they want to color sort the stubs or create rainbow crayons by mixing the colors put into each cup/lid.
4. You can also make striped crayons this way, simply
allow the first color to cool before adding another
5. Melt in a 300-degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 to
15 minutes. (Or however long your oven takes to melt
6. Allow to cool completely. Remove the paper cups
or "pop" from jar lids.
These crayons make great "rubbings" over textured
surfaces using a piece of drawing paper.
Indoor or out kids of all ages love obsticle courses.
Building them is half the fun! Use a variety of cardboard boxes, blocks, lawn chairs, balls and pillows. Consider blankets, tunnels, ottomans and tunnels. Every time you make it, it can be different.
Safety of the younger children is of special concern.
Use soft or "nerf" balls, and be considerate of furniture edges or any other hazards.
Empty (and dry) Small Water or Pop Bottle
Glitter or Sequins
Tape or Glue
Filled a clean, dry water or pop bottle 1/4 - 1/2 full with colored noodles, rice, and glitter. The tape (or glue) the lid on and then tie a ribbon around the neck of the bottle. Turned on the music, dance, and make lots of wonderful noise!
Here is a list of just some of the things that could
enhance the children's learning experience and make
sand play more exciting.
Plastic yogurt cups.
Paper towel rolls.
Measuring spoons or cups.
Rubber gloves. (to fill)
Old kitchen utensils.
Cake or gelatin moulds.
Paper cups .
Foil pie plates.
Squirt bottles of water.
Salt shakers with large holes.
Cut v-shapes along the edge of a piece of sturdy cardboard
to make sand combs.
Cut the bottom off a clean bleach bottle diagonally
to make a scoop/funnel.
Paper, about 1x8
Markers or Crayons
Let the child color/decorate her piece of paper. Cut or have the child cut the six straws so that they are all different lengths. (None of the lengths should be less than 1".) Now, have the child prearrange the straws from longest to shortest, touching side by side. (Great cognitive exercise.) Put glue on the back of the paper so that the straws will stick to it when dry. The straws must be placed across the paper so that both ends of the straw stick out. One end of the straws should lie even while the other end is at different lengths. Now simply wrap the paper around the center of the straws keeping them flat and let dry.
Play this instrument by holding it in your hands and gently blowing air over the straws - not through. Lips need not touch the straws.
Cardboard Paper Towel or Toilet Paper Roll
With a pencil, poke 3 or 4 holes in the cardboard roll about 1 inch apart. Cut a 4 inch square of wax paper. Secure the wax paper over one end of the cardboard roll using the rubber band. Your flute is now ready to play! You can also decorate the tube before you put on the wax paper.
2 paper plated
Decorate the paper plates with bright colorful art. Put one paper plat on a flat surface with the right side up. Place a bit of rice on this plate. Place the second paper plate on top of the first one, right side down. This will make a space in the middle. Glue all around edges. Allow the glue to dry completely before using.
I have seen these taped or stapled shut when time is an issue, however tape is very frustrating for the children and staples are dangerous. Use caution if you choose this method.
All children love to play dress up and act like grown-ups! This is a great way for them to do both and learn as they go. These activity boxes will give your children hours of play and adventure. Many of these items can be used in various prop boxes (for example the paper supplies, tables or telephone). When preparing a prop box use your imagination. Red nail polish or red Kool-Aid can be used to "pre-stain" bandages in the doctor's and veterinarian's prop box. You can put a couple of pieces of paper in a paper file holder for doctor's records and they can be used again in the office unit. You can change the contents to better suit the ages of your children or add items that you may have around your home or facility. Imagination is a wonderful thing!
Using a wire hanger you can have simple rackets for the kids. Simply pull the middle of the bottom of the hanger stretching it into a circle. Then slip an old nylons over the loop. I like to take the hook part of the hanger and double it over itself and twist several times so there are no sharp edges.
You can make a simple bell bracelet or anklet for your baby.
Thread a couple of bells on a pipe cleaner. Twist it into a circle for the infant to hold on to and shake. Or twist it around the infant's ankle so that it rings when he moves his leg.
Sing or play a tape of one of your favorite songs and show the baby how to make the bells ring.
Older children love these to shake to the beat of a song.
This toy should only be used under adult supervision as the bells pose a choking hazard if swallowed.
Do not tighten the bracelet/anklet so tight it cannot be turned around on the arm or leg.
Young children are constantly discovering the world around them. Introduce them to the sense of touch by making these great gloves. Get 5 or 6 latex gloves, your doctor's office may give you some if you ask. Fill each of them with items that reflect a different "feel". A few ideas I have used in the past are: oil, water, rice, salt, beads, beans, cotton puffs, wax paper, newspaper, flour... you get the idea. Tie a knot in the top of the glove as you would a balloon. These gloves are great to play with. They should be played with under supervision, as a small hole bitten into one could expose the child to a choking hazard. I store mine in the plastic containers, that baby wipes come in.
Make a simple and inexpensive scoop to catch balls in.
You will need:
Plastic drink containers with handles(the 1 gallon or 4 litre size is best).
electrical tape (colored is nice)Masking tape will do the trick.
Carefully cut the bottom out of a clean plastic jug. Use the colored electrical tape to fold over the cut edge making it smooth. Make as many as you need for each child to have one. They can be decorated with stickers or tape to individualize.
Practice catching a small soft ball or waffle ball with these scoops.
Great outdoor activity.
2 different colors of lightweight paper,
12-inch wood dowel with 1/4 diameter.
Cut an 8-inch square from 2 pieces of paper using different colors. Place the squares on top of each other. Cut a line 4 inches long from each corner toward the center. With an adult's help, use the nail to poke a hole in each corner and in the center of the combined squares. Fold the corners in to the center of the square, lining up the holes on top of each other. Place the pinwheel over one end of the wood dowel. Have an adult help with using a hammer to tap the nail through the holds into the dowel. Take your pinwheel outside and watch it spin in the wind!
A great little guitar can be made with an empty tissue box. Select a rectangular tissue box (I have seen them made with shoeboxes too but are really too big for toddlers). You will also need a paper towel tube and rubber bands and scissors. If you use a box other than a tissue box you will need to cut a hole in the top. Stretch the rubber bands around the box, keeping them over the hole in the top. Glue the paper towel tube to the top of the box forming the arm. You can make an excellent "pic" by cutting a triangle from the side of a plastic milk jug, be sure to round off the corners. Margarine container tops cut into wedges make another good stringed instrument pick.
You'll need thin cotton or nylon cloth, scissors, heavyweight paper, markers, cotton string, and action figure.
Cut a 14 inch wide hexagon from cotton or nylon cloth. Here's an easy way to make a hexagon. Cut a triangle with 3 equal sides from a piece of heavyweight paper. Trace it on the cloth 6 times in a circle, then cut out the hexagon.
Use markers to write the name of your sky diving company with an insignia on the parachute. Cut a tiny hole in each corner. Cut six-12 inch pieces of string. Tie one end of each string in a chute. Tie an action figure on the ends of the string. Bunch up the fabric and throw it up in the air. Watch the parachute float back to you.
. Here's a fantastic idea for all those stuffed animals your kids won't let you get rid of. Turn them into puppets! Cut a slit in the bottom of the stuffed animal and pull out the stuffing. (I have left the stuffing in some parts like the elephant's trunk or teddy bear legs) Few animals need the slit reinforced, but if it does seal the slit with glue to prevent raveling. Voila, lots of new puppets to play with!
Young kids love noise makers. These rain sticks are similar to the rain sticks used by the indians years ago. Color, paint, and decorate paper towel rolls. Cover one end of a paper towel roll with waxed paper or aluminum foil and close it off with a rubber band or tape. Pour a handful or two of dried beans (split peas work well) in the open end, close open end the same as the other. Poke toothpicks through the rolls at different intervals to add a "rain shaker" sound.
toilet paper tubes or paper towel tubes
crayons and/or markers
something to poke holes in wax paper
Have your kids choose a paper tube (doesn't matter if it's long or short). Then they can decorate them to their hearts content, using stickers, crayons or markers. Cut a square of wax paper big enough to cover one end of the tube and using an elastic band, secure the wax paper to the tube. Use a pencil to poke 4 - 6 small holes in the wax paper. Instant musical instruments. The kids (and you) can talk or make noises into the open end of the tube. The sound that comes from the wax paper end is very cool!
5 2-liter bottles.
On the front of the bottle paste two circles in a snowman shape. You can go further by adding hats. Draw eyes and mouth on the face with a black marker, and a nose with an orange marker paper triangles to make Use black construction paper to make feet and glue at the bottom of the bottle.
-Use soft balls (rolled up socks are good) to roll and try to knock the snowmen down. (You can pretend they are snowballs.)
A good way to recycle Styrofoam meat trays and make your own toy.
Draw a side view of an airplane and the top view of a wing and tail sections on the Styrofoam. Cut out all pieces. Cut slits in the side of the airplane body and tail. Slide the wing and tail sections into the slits. Let the kids fly their planes outdoors.
2 Baby Food Jar Lids (or any 2 lids of the same size)
1/4 - 1/2 inch wide elastic
Cut two 4-inch pieces of elastic.
Use the hammer and nail to punch a hole in the center of each baby food jar lid. Be sure an adult supervises this. Push both ends of a piece of elastic through each hole.
Tie the ends of the elastic into a knot.
Now you can slip your finger cymbals onto your thumb and pointer finger and make music!
Using two 1-pound coffee cans, turn each can upside down so that the plastic lid is on the bottom. Using a screwdriver, poke two holes, one on each side of the can. Using several strands of yarn braided or twisted together, or some rope, thread through holes in cans. Tie off inside the can. Cans can be decorated if you like. The simplest way would be self sticking mac-tac.
Baby Oil (will float on surface of water)
Balloons Filled With Water or Blown Up
Bowls & Dishes (Plastic)
Cardboard boxes (small foil wrapped like for jewelry)
Clear Plastic Containers
Fake Flowers On Stems
Ice Cream Scoop
Measuring Cups & Spoons
Ping Pong Balls
Plastic Easter Eggs
Rubber Hose Pieces
Sand (in water)
Snow (will melt in both the water and sand)
Soap bars (Ivory & regular)
Sponge Hair Rollers
Styrofoam peanuts & trays
Toy Animals (plastic)
Toy Garden Tools
Toy Pots & Pans
This game is adaptable to any holiday or occasion. You'll need a ping pong ball and a cardboard box lid - a shirt box is fine. Cut a hole in the center and tape a paper cup under the hole - this will be the target for the ball. Other holes that the ball could drop through should be cut as hazards. Decorate according to holiday with crayons, markers, construction paper, etc. For instance, on Halloween make it a jack-o-lantern. Cut out holes for eyes and mouth large enough for the ball to fall through. To play, drop the ping pong ball into corner of box and have child maneuver box lid trying to get ball in paper cup without letting it fall through any of the other holes.
This is a cloth for kids to play "village" with. A cloth with roads, trees, and landmarks painted on it.
You will need
1 square yard of green felt or canvas,
Assorted sizes and textures of fabric (blue, brown and gray)
Applique the fabric pieces onto the green felt to represent roads, lakes, rivers, fields, etc. Let your child create his own buildings, cars, trees, animals, etc. from "beautiful junk" or use toy/model cars, houses and people. Let them set up their own town, farm, city or neighborhood.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|