17 Easy Toys You Can Make at Home

Never run out of fun things to do with these clever ideas!

Cardboard Boxes

  • Turn an empty large appliance box on its side and let the kids use it as a “garage” for their wheeled vehicles. They can also use a smaller box as a garage for miniature cars, trucks, and buses.
  • Use to make a puppet theater. Stand a large cardboard box on end. Cut a big hole in the back for puppeteers to crouch in and a smaller one high up in the front for the stage. Decorate with markers or glue on pieces of fabric for curtains.
  • Turn a large appliance cardboard box into a medieval castle. Cut off the top flaps and make battlements by cutting notches along the top. To make a notch, use a utility knife to make a cut on either side of the section you want to remove, then fold the cut section for-ward and cut along the fold. To make a drawbridge, cut a large fold-down opening on one side that is attached at the bottom. Connect the top of the drawbridge to the sidewalls with ropes on either side, punching holes for the rope and knot-ting the rope on the other side. Use duct tape to reinforce the holes. Also cut out narrow window slits in the walls. Let the kids draw stones and bricks on the walls.

Cardboard Tubes
Got a bunch of bored kids driving you crazy on a rainy day? Cut three small holes in the middle of a paper towel tube. Then cover one end of the tube with wax paper secured with a strong rubber band. Now hum into the other end, while using your fingers to plug one, two, or all three holes to vary the pitch. Make one for each kid and let the band play!

Forget spending money on expensive sand toys for your budding archeologist. A simple inexpensive plastic colander is perfect for digging at the beach or in the sandbox.

Duct Tape

  • Got a couple of would-be swashbucklers around the house? Make toy swords for the junior Errol Flynns by sketching a kid-size sword on a piece of cardboard. Use two pieces if you haven’t got one thick enough. Be sure to make a handle the child’s hand can fit around comfortably once it’s been increased in thickness by several layers of duct tape. Wrap the entire blade shape in silver duct tape. Wrap the handle in black tape.
  • Make rings by tearing duct tape into strips about 1/2-inch (1.2-centimeter) wide, then folding the strips in half lengthwise — sticky sides together. Continue to put more strips over the first one until the ring is thick enough to stand on its own. You can adjust the size with a scissors and tape the ends closed. To make a stone for the ring, cover a small item such as a pebble and attach it to the ring. Make a bracelet by winding duct tape around a stiff paper pattern.
  • Duct tape is great for puppet making. Use a small paper lunch bag as the base for the body of your puppet. Cover the bag with overlapping rows of duct tape. Make armholes through which your fingers will poke out. Create a head from a tape-covered ball of wadded paper and affix buttons or beads for eyes and mouth.See more uses for Duct Tape.

Pack a clean dustpan with your beach toys. It’s a great sand scoop and will really help the castle builders in their task.

Just because you choke every time you open your phone bill doesn’t mean the kids have to, too. Use two small plastic funnels to make them a durable string telephone. For each funnel, tie a button to one end of a length of kite string and thread it through the large end of the funnel. Tie another button at the bottom of the spout to keep the string in place and let the kids start yakking.

Garden Hoses
Transform your old garden hose into a fun new telephone for the kids. Cut any length of hose you desire. Stick a funnel at each end and attach it with glue or tape. Now the kids can talk for as long as they want, with no roaming charges.

Ice-Cream Scoops
On your next trip to the beach, throw an ice-cream scoop into your bag. Your kids will have a fun tool for making their sand castles down by the shore. The scoop allows them to make interesting rounded shapes with the sand.

Make some tasty lip gloss for little girls playing dress-up. Let the girls pick their favorite presweetened Kool-Aid flavor. Blend a package of the drink mix with 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, then microwave for one minute. Transfer to a 35mm film canister and refrigerate overnight.

See more uses for Kool-Aid.

Pipe Cleaners
If you’re worried about having a bored, wiggly child on your hands during your next long car or plane ride, throw a bunch of pipe cleaners into your bag. Whip them out when the “Are we there yet?” questions start coming your way. Colorful pipe cleaners can be bent and shaped into fun figures, animals, flowers, or whatever. They even make cool temporary bracelets and necklaces.

See more uses for Pipe Cleaners.

Plastic Bags
“I’m bored!” cries your child as you’re trying to finish your yard work. Here’s a simple solution: Make a jump rope by twisting up several plastic bags and tying them together end to end. Talk about cheap fun.

Shoe Boxes
Kids can get creative using a collection of shoe boxes as building bricks. Tape the lids on for them. You can even let the little ones color the “bricks” with poster paint.

Pull toys are perennial favorites of young children, but you can spend all day untying the knots that a toddler will inevitably put in the pull string. By running the string through a plastic straw (or a series of them), you can keep it untangled.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest