I love how the simplest household object can take on a whole new life and purposes in the eyes of a child. Yesterday while vacuuming I folded up the laundry rack and moved it into the living room to get it out of my way. Lewis immediately started playing with it, and figured out how to pop off one of the bars which he thought was GREAT. When I finished vacuuming I showed him how the rack folds and unfolds, and once it was lying on it’s side opened up he began climbing over and through it like some kind of jungle gym or obstacle course. Fun!
Lewis loves chimes. Whenever we hear them from the neighbor’s apartments when we play outside he gets excited and tells me “ding!” He also loves the ones hanging on the porch at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Vermont, and this was the first thing he noticed when we pulled into the driveway there last weekend.
Today he was helping me unload the dishwasher and we noticed how the silverware makes a nice ding sound when knocked together. I commented on how it sounded like chimes, then asked if he thought we should make our own chimes. YES!
Of course he then wanted to abandon our dishwasher task and make some chimes NOW. I finished up with the dishes then told him I would go on my computer to look up instructions for making a wind chime.
He started shaking his head “no, no, no!”
“You want me to be creative and make up some chimes myself?”
Alright, so I put my thinking hat on and started brainstorming what we had and what we could use. We obviously would need something to hang the chimes off of (knitting needles? an embroidery hoop?), something to hang it with (easy – yarn!), something to make the sound (something metal – cookie cutters? crochet hooks!)
After poking around a bit I came across some popsicle sticks. Perfect, except now Lewis was demanding Booba milk popsicles. Sorry bud, we don’t have any of those.
I got out a few colors of yarn and started connecting two of the sticks basically using the method to make a “God’s Eye”. I then simply tied pieces of yarn on the end of each stick with a loop tied into each piece of yarn and then hung a crochet hook off each. (Three size K hooks and one size J although I’m pretty sure there are one or two more size K around here somewhere.) Obviously if you don’t happen to have a surplus of crochet hooks lying around there are plenty of other things that could be hung to make noise, including the silverware we were putting away earlier.
Lewis loved his little chime and spent a lot of the day playing with it. We hung it up for a while but really he preferred carrying it around and especially spinning around while holding it.
The acrylic yarn I used turned out to be a bit slippy so the knots came untied a few times and eventually I added some masking tape to hold everything in place. This was a very quick and easy little toy to make, and I think Lewis will get many more days enjoyment from it!
I have a couple of aprons that I like to wear while baking, washing dishes, etc. I tend to be a bit of a klutz and am prone to messes, so the aprons help keep flour/water/whatever off my clothing. Lewis has always been rather interested in my aprons, but when I wear them and when they are hung on their hook. Since he also is interested in helping me out with my cooking I decided a while ago that I should make him an apron of his own!
Searching around for toddler apron patterns, I came across the brilliant idea to make one from a tea towel or dish towel. All of our dish towels are a bit old and worn, so I picked up a cute snowflake towel when we visited a dollar store a few weeks ago.
This was a very simple project which took me a lot longer to actually finish than it should have! It has been sitting half-done by my sewing machine since before Christmas. I didn’t bother being very careful/precise with this. Lopped off the two curved areas for the arms and hemmed them; folded down the top edge at the neck to make a little tunnel which I then pulled a ribbon through to tie around the neck; folded the towel up to create the pocket and bring the apron to the right length, and stitched two more ribbons on the sides to go around his waist. Done!
Alright, so I obviously had a severe case of Mommy Brain when I wrote my post on sensory bottles the other day! I managed to forget a couple of the things that I had been planning to mention in that post. I blame the fact that I am always trying to write these posts a few sentences at a time whenever Lewis lets me, or trying to fit in a whole post during one of his few-and-far-between half hour naps that he takes in a day.
So, the first thing I realized I forgot to share was this variation on sensory bottles. Sensory boxes from the Little Moments blog. This is a really great example of using what you have. She didn’t have bottles so she used little plastic boxes she already had, and they turned out awesome! I love that they are stackable.
I also really like her point about these being a great way to let baby “explore” some materials that aren’t safe for him to actually play with yet. That was part of my thought with the pom pom bottle I made Lewis. He can’t play with pom poms yet because I know he would just pop them straight in his mouth, but maybe he would like to look at them. Turns out this bottle is too boring for him, but maybe he would like it better if I took some of the pom poms back out so they had some movement in the bottle.
The other thing I meant to mention on my first post that slipped my mind was how perfect these are to pack in a diaper bag to keep busy in the waiting room or on a car ride. If you use small boxes or mini water bottles you could easily fit a couple in a corner of your bag to take along. And since they are so easy to make and have so many different options for filling them it is easy to keep them fresh and interesting.
Well, hopefully my Mommy Brain won’t get the best of me too often and I won’t have to keep writing second posts just to add something I’ve forgotten!
Sensory bottles are a really great home-made toy for kids of any age – infants up through elementary school. Infants can enjoy looking at and eventually rolling, shaking, etc. with the bottles. Older kids can help out with actually making the bottles, which is a great fine-motor activity. When I was working with 2-3 year olds this was an activity that we did periodically. We usually used water with beads or sequins/confetti with my class but any small item that fits through the neck of the bottle works well! During our beach them one year the kids filled them with sand and small sea shells. The more variety the better for infants, since seeing all the different materials will stimulate their sight and exploration. You can also have older kids help fill the bottles with water using a funnel, which would be a great way to learn about pouring and the properties of water. Once we had made the bottles I usually sent one home with each child and also kept a few for the classroom. These often got pulled into pretend play, especially in combination with the play food in the classroom.
Lewis obviously can’t help putting tiny objects into bottles yet, but I made several for him using different materials to fill each and he has enjoyed exploring them. He already seems to have certain “favorites.”
The bottles have:
2) Green rice w/ green wooden beads
3) Red rice w/ yellow and orange beads
4) Water, red food coloring, shiny confetti
5) Small pieces of pipe cleaner
7) Pieces from a puzzle
8) A little water with a squirt of dish soap
9) Water with cut pieces of straws
I chose to use mini water bottles as I thought this would be easier for him to manipulate. Even with the small bottles the ones that are completely full of liquid are a little too heavy for him to really handle well, and he tends not to play with these as much. He seems to enjoy the dry ingredients (the rice, beads, and puzzle pieces) that he can shake to make noise or just look at the movement of them. He also likes the bubbles and likes watching the movement of the water.
These are so easy to make, and really can use just about anything you have on hand. The rice I dyed by mixing it with a small squirt of food coloring and allowing it to dry. For older kids you could use colored (or plain) rice to make an “I spy” bottle with a variety of small items hiding in the rice. This could include tiny toy animals, buttons in different shapes, shaped erasers, or any other little ‘treasures’ you can think of. There are some great ideas in this post by The Imagination Tree. I got some of my inspiration from there, but mostly just went with whatever materials I had on hand and what I found at the dollar store. (Looking back at that post reminds me that I was planning to do one with ripped foil pieces though!).
This is another easy homemade toy that has definitely been a success for us. Since I made so many I plan on only keeping about half of them out at a time, and then switching them out when he seems to get bored with them.
Lewis has lots of toys, but that hasn’t stopped me from wanting to make him some homemade ones! I made a couple that were kind of “fails” since he hasn’t shown much interest in them. One was a crocheted ball, which I’m sure he will enjoy once he learns about throwing things. The other “fail” was a little taggy blanket I sewed for him that he never wants to play with. But I’ve also made a few things that he likes playing with! I love crafting, and baby toys can be made with almost anything you have on hand once you get creative. It is a great chance to up-cycle some things that would otherwise be going into the trash or recycling bin. When I was a kid I remember playing with a bunch of blocks that my mom had made from milk and orange juice cartons. There are six kids in my family and she also ran a childcare in our home, so I guess we went through a lot of milk and orange juice!
I made him some shakers before we went and bought him some music toys to play with, but even with the new toys we still keep the homemade shakers out and they get played with just as frequently. He likes to shake them, bang with them, and of course suck on them! The vitamin bottles were sticky when I tried to take the labels off, so I covered them with some pretty contact paper that I found on clearance at Target. The big vitamin bottle has a jingle bell inside, the prescription bottle has dried beans, and the other two have a few buttons each. I basically played around with putting different things in each one until it made a sound I liked. Lewis can’t take the tops off yet so I’m not worried about him getting into them, but shakers for an older baby would need the lids to be glued or taped on.
I also made a ribbon pull toy. This is an idea from The Imagination Tree that I found through Pinterest (of course.) I just used a yogurt container and didn’t bother covering it over with anything but Lewis doesn’t seem to care. I tried to use different textures and thicknesses of ribbon. Some were too thin and when I knotted them they just pulled through the holes anyway, so I tied the ends of these around buttons. Of course the buttons are his favorite part! They are pretty securely attached but I do keep an eye when he is playing with it just to make sure they don’t come loose and become a choking hazard. This toy often catches his eye on he shelf and he will pull it down. He practices his pincer grasp trying to grab the ends of the ribbons, and likes to suck on the ribbons. I have also seen him bang this against the floor when he gets a good hold on it.
It feels good to make something that baby enjoys, and often it is these simple toys that gives them so much more benefit than all the store-bought things. I am working on a set of sensory bottles for him, which will get a post of their own once I’ve finished filling them.
Have you made any simple up-cycled toys for your baby? Do you remember having toys like this when you were a kid?