There are so many baby toys in the shops, but as any mum will realise, babies are often more interested in the packaging or random kitchen implement that you’ve left lying around! You can channel this by making some of your own baby toys from things you might have lying around your house, or if not, easy and cheap to find in the shops (if I can find it in Hong Kong, then it can’t be that hard to come by!). There are so many ideas for making baby toys online – you can scour Pinterest or google to find them. I can’t remember where most of my ideas came from, but I’ve included references where I do know.
Here are some things that I’ve made for my own children. I hope you find inspiration to find some things to entertain your own babies with! (or you could make some for other babies that you know…)
These were the first things that I made, and they comprised woolly pompoms and balls of tin foil.
I made some pompoms before the twins were born and blogged about how to do so here, and I hung these from their activity centre for them to bat at (note: these come apart pretty easily so keep them out of grabbing distance – mine are now almost completely demolished!).
The tin foil balls were the ones that caught their eye the most though, they took quite a bashing! I just scrunched up a large piece of foil into a ball and wrapped some string around it to hang it with. The foil balls did fall out of the string sometimes so you might want to try other ways of attaching the string – perhaps you could glue it inside somehow?
You can see the pompoms and foil in the middle of this photo, although they’re a little blurred. I forget how small the twins were once upon a time!
These are so easy to make and my twins still play with them at 15 months. All you need to do is find some plastic bottles and put interesting things inside them. Here are some of the things that I have put inside our discovery bottles:
- Beads of different sizes and colours (note: my twins didn’t like this when they were really little because it’s actually very noisy when shaken, but they love it now!)
- Pipe cleaners, some curled into twirls
- Little pompoms (bought from a stationary store)
- Coloured rice
The easiest way that I found to make the coloured rice was to squirt a small amount of hand sanitiser into an old margarine tube, mix with a fairly generous amount of food colouring, and add enough rice so that it was all covered and there was no hand sanitiser left at the bottom. You really don’t need much hand sanitiser for this at all.
I got the idea for the discovery bottles here and they have lots of ideas for other things to put in the bottles too! I can’t find the website I used before for the rice colouring, but this one does the same thing.
These are everywhere online, they are sometimes called calm bottles or time out bottles. I ended up looking at a few different websites before I made mine so I can’t give a reference, but they’re really easy to make. A little side note: many people make them with mason jars or other glass jars but obviously that wouldn’t work for babies, so I just used a plastic bottle with relatively smooth sides so you can see the glitter easily.
To make mine, I filled the bottle most of the way up with fairly hot tap water. (Note: I tried using hot boiled water from the kettle but it melted the bottle! Do not try this!) Then I squeezed in two small tubes of glitter glue and poured in some additional loose glitter. I also added some CLEAR glue (again, I know by trial and error that white glue does not miraculously go clear in warm water and you end up with a foggy mess!) which slows the movement of the glitter in the bottle – the more glue you add, the slower the glitter settles. And finally, I added some food colouring.
The reason the water needs to be hot(ish) is to break up the glitter glue. I found that it clumped a bit to start with but after a couple of hours there were no more clumps even though my water wasn’t that hot to start with. If you’re not using glitter glue, you can just use clear glue and loose glitter, and you then don’t need to use hot water, it can be cold.
Here is my green glitter beauty!
And here it is when the glitter has settled…
I made mine in a fairly large 750ml bottle, which makes it quite heavy for the twins to lift and carry (although they still do) – I’d recommend using a smaller bottle, less than 500ml if possible, if you’re giving this to babies to play with.
These were a big hit! I just bought large buttons (as big as I could find) in different colours from a button shop in Sham Shui Po (THE place to buy all things haberdashery in Hong Kong). The twins loved to play with them, bang them together and against anything else, drop them so they made a spinning noise on the floor (like a coin does), or watch while I spun them. It was fun trying to make as many spin at the same time as possible! Sadly, these had to go away when the twins got bigger because their mouths grew enough that they could fit the whole button in their mouths and would walk around like that! I hope they’ll come out again soon when they stop putting everything in their mouths.
I got the idea for the buttons from one of the Babycentre emails, which features activities to do with your babies every week.
This was a bit of free thinking on my part, but partly based on some props used at a music class I go to with the twins. I had some hair bands lying around and bought some cheap brightly coloured ribbon (again, in Sham Shui Po) and just tied long lengths of ribbon to the hair bands. I tied simple knots in the ends of the ribbons to help stop fraying, but I’ve since bought a lighter which I now use to seal the ends of ribbons. I assumed that I would put the hair bands on their wrists, but they just like waving them around in their hands instead!
I also tied long lengths of doubled-up ribbons into a plait. I just did it for a fun thing to do, but Isobel quite likes playing with it.
Something else that I’ve seen at the same music class is that they sellotaped long lengths of ribbon to the end of a chopstick to make a streamer. I fancy doing this myself!
I’m sure there are many other toys you can make with ribbons, just let your imagination go wild!
Water play tray
I got this idea from this website. They used plastic milk bottle tops but I didn’t have any (for some reason the milk here comes in tetrapaks instead) so I used large jam jar lids instead. Also, I used a large oven tray on the floor rather than the high chair tray. My twins didn’t really get the idea of bashing the lids around the water so they float, but they did enjoy taking them out and trying to eat them. And also splashing the water all over the floor. This activity is best to do on a hard floor rather than carpet! As I said, my twins didn’t really get what was going on, but it did entertain them for 10-20 minutes so that gets a thumbs up in my book :)
Some other things that I’ve wanted to make but haven’t got round to yet…
Baby treasure baskets – basically find a basket or container and put things in that your baby will find interesting. Lots of ideas of what to put in on this website
Sensory bag for baby – looks like fun!
Rainbow spaghetti – colourful sensory play
Post the blocks – my twins are at an age now (15 months) where they just love to put things in things and take them out so I think they would love this. It probably isn’t very suitable for babies under 1 year as they won’t have the co-ordination, but you will know what your baby is and isn’t willing to try
Block painting – I’ve not tried much in the way of ‘art’ yet with my twins but this is something I’d love to try soon! I saw somewhere the idea of using plain yoghurt with food colouring in instead of paint if your baby likes to put everything in their mouths, which I think is a great idea!
Update: I have pinned many more things you can make or do with babies on my Activities for Babies Pinterest board – take a look if you’re looking for more inspiration!
Let me know if you have any other great ideas for easy to make baby toys. I’m sure the ideas must be endless!
Thanks for reading!