Go down the toy aisle of any store that carries baby/kids merchandise and you will find a slew of fancy, hi-tech toys designed to stimulate developing little minds. Honestly, you can make engaging toys that are just as stimulating without the high price tag or the need for batteries. Babies don’t care if it came from the store or just materials you have at home. They will love playing with these homemade developmental toys just as much.
Call me old-school but I much prefer making things by hand rather than going out and buying it at the store. It just has a personal touch to it when you make it yourself.
Homemade Photo Album
My daughter LOVES looking at pictures of herself as a baby. Most babies do. This is a really neat idea that you can put together to make your own baby-friendly photo book that is perfectly safe for baby to look at (or chew!)
- Either by hand or machine, sew together a few zip-top sandwich bags together from the bottom.
- Cut pieces of cardboard to the size of the bag so that it will fit inside
- Paste photos to the cardboard. Once dried, slip each one into a bag
Now you have a photo album that baby can look at and is safe for little mouths which is where most everything baby gets their hands on ends up. You can easily switch out the pages with new pictures for variety. You can also cut out bright pictures from magazines to cut and paste also.
Black and White Mobile
Rather than buying one of those higher priced mobiles you can easily make this homemade version for your newborn. The bold contrast of black on white is easy for younger infants ( 6-8 weeks) to focus on as well as faces.
- Glue a 4×6 photo of a face (preferably mom, dad or someone familiar) onto a white poster board and cut out the picture
- From the poster board cut out a 4 1/2 x6-inch oval and draw a face on it using a wide felt-tip pen.
- Cut out a 5-in circle from the poster board and draw thick circles on it
- Cut out a 5 1/2 x 7-inch piece of poster board. Draw diagonal lines using the pen about 3/4 to an inch wide of equal distance apart on it.
- Cut out a 51/2 x 5 1/2 square from the poster board and color a checkered pattern on it.
- Using the poster board, make tabs to tape onto the top portion of each of your cutouts.
- Thread a piece of string through each tab on your cutout pictures.
- Tie or thread the pictures onto a piece of string that is tied tightly across the crib from the side rails.
Much like nesting dolls, babies will love the idea of this tin within a tin. You will need to collect several different sized cans in various diameters for this or plastic containers.
- Clean canisters or containers and remove labels
- For aluminum cans, hammer the edges down until flat and smooth. Cover the edges and rims using cloth or vinyl tape to protect little fingers.
- Decorate the outside of the cans using bright, primary colors. (if you have different colored duct tape, this works well to make stripes around the cans)
- Let your baby watch you as you stack the cans within each other then show them how the smaller cans go in the larger ones.
- Turn the cans upside down and stack them to make a tower
A similar concept to the nesting tins, babies like the change in shape of objects. This game will keep your little one entertained while playing in their crib. You will need different sized cardboard cylinders such as an empty toilet paper roll and paper towel roll. Other items you will need include: empty oatmeal cylinder, cylindrical salt box, cloth tape, bright colored pieces of fabric or contact paper, glue, and heavy-duty string.
- Using your various sized cylinders cut four rings 2-4 inches wide. Using the cloth tape cover any exposed rough edges.
- Cover your cardboard or plastic rings with the pieces of fabric or paper using glue to attach.
- Pass the string through the rings then tie each end to the rails of baby’s crib near the footboard.
You can make these using various types of canisters or containers. The sounds are intriguing to babies and helps them learn cause and effect – when they shake it, it makes noise. For older babies and toddlers, using different containers filled with various items that produce different sounds will interest them as they compare the sounds.
- Use different sized empty canisters (some good ones you can use are probably in your pantry. Just keep them when they’re empty and clean them: Pringles can, coffee tin, Nesquick container – easy for younger babies to grasp)
- Use different things as fillers- rice, lentils, buttons, beads, etc)
- Use a non-toxic epoxy glue along the edges where the lid snaps on or treads for screw-on lids. Wipe away excess glue and allow to dry completely.
Those mats you find in stores for babies to play on are great for tummy time to help babies build their neck muscles but some of them are quite expensive. You can make your own from a cheap baby quilt (or even a handmade quilt if you are extra crafty)
- Use a baby quilt to attach toys onto for baby to play with
- If you are crafty and good at sewing, you can make the actual mat instead of using a quilt
- Choose soft material for the top surface. Sew together two pieces of material into a large circle
- Make arms and legs using a contrasting-colored fabric and stuffing and sew onto the edge of the cirlce
- You can find different sewing patterns for your animal head and sew onto the top edge of your mat
- Make loops by sewing pieces of ribbon along the edges to attach toys.
- Sew on various baby toys such as rings, small stuffed animals, and different textured fabrics or attach rings to the loops along the edges.
Colorful Water Bottles
Also featured in a previous article on homemade sensory toys these colorful liquid-filled bottles make great toys for babies, especially crawlers.
- Fill clean, empty plastic bottles (with labels removed) with water and drops of food coloring
- Add glitter to give them an attractive sparkle.
- Use a non-toxic epoxy glue around the threads on the top of the bottle and screw top on tightly. (Be sure to wipe away excess glue and allow to dry completely before letting baby play)
- Let baby roll the bottles and crawl to reach them as they roll out of reach.
You can also teach baby how to take turns rolling back and forth with you.
Safety Tip – Always supervise your babies closely as they play with handmade toys. Do not use small parts which may pose a choking hazard that can come loose. For hand-sewn items be sure the item is sewn securely. Frequently check sewn or glued items to be sure they are not coming loose. Be sure strings or ribbons on handmade toys are not long enough to be wrapped around baby or risk entanglement.
Reference: Make Your Own Developmental Toys