Are you tired of hearing “Mom, I’m bored!” but don’t want to fall into the trap of indulgent parenting and buy a bunch of plastic toys that get thrown out in a few weeks? There is a surprising solution that you might not have thought about before. Making DIY toys at home is a great way to expand your little one’s creativity, and it also has the added benefit of being more environmentally conscious.
Check out these great toy hacks that are easy to make yourself with environmentally friendly materials.
Recycled Cardboard Play Houses
This environmentally friendly option lets you turn all those old Amazon shipping boxes into a fun activity instead of tossing them in the trash. A cardboard playhouse is a great project because your child can have hours of fun building it and then continue to use it for weeks. Place it outside to get some fresh air or keep it indoors to let the house last longer.
To get started, all you need is a collection of cardboard boxes, some sturdy scissors, and tape. Decorating with water based paint can add a fun touch, but remember to use it sparingly because painted cardboard cannot be recycled later on. There are all sorts of neat ideas all over the internet, or you can come up with your own original design.
Homemade Baby Blocks
Blocks are one of the most classic toy options for any baby or toddler, but they are often pricey and coated in layers of harmful paint and varnish. This project can involve a little woodworking, but it is not always necessary. For those new to DIY and carpentry, making these baby blocks can be as easy as getting precut wood cubes, sanding them down, and applying a finish. However, if you or your partner is interested in things like wood carving, you can customize with carved letters or other cute designs on the side!
The key to making these blocks baby safe and eco-friendly is all about the materials you select. Pick high quality wood that has not been pressure treated or otherwise soaked in chemicals. Use a food safe, penetrating oil like tung oil or linseed oil to provide a protective coat along the outside of the block. After letting the oil soak in and cure, you get adorable, glossy wooden blocks to build towers with your little one!
Repurposed Play Kitchen
Avoid buying unsustainable plastic toy kitchens by upcycling an old piece of furniture instead. You don’t have to be an experienced woodworker, all you need is a little paint and a few screwdrivers! This incredible idea comes from GiggleBerry Creations, and it shows just how much difference a few simple changes can be. Start out with an old TV unit that is just the right height for your little chef, and give it a fresh coat of paint.
With a few additions like a cheap sink faucet, painted on stovetop, and new doors, it transforms into a cute little stovetop, sink, oven, and fridge. You can get all the knobs, faucets, and handles needed to transform the kitchen from broken appliances if you want to be extra eco-friendly. Once you finish this DIY project, your child can pretend to bake, cook, and clean just like mom or dad!
Snuggly Teddy Bears
Skip polyester bears filled with ocean-damaging microbeads and make a stuffed animal yourself. Whether you’re a seasoned knitter or just looking for a new craft to pick up, a knitted bear can be an adorable toy for a child who wants something snuggly. This project is easy to customize with different materials, colors, and knitting patterns.
Wool yarn is an environmentally sustainable material that is gathered without harming the animals, and it has the added benefit of being resistant to spills! For a green filling, consider using buckwheat hulls, kapok tree fiber, or unspun wool. Feel free to use this easy (and free!) pattern from Ravelry, or pick out your own to find one that suits your needs.
Paper Towel Marble Runs
All this neat DIY toy needs is some paper towel or toilet paper tubes. Once you cut them in half and tape them into a fun shape, they turn into a cool track to slide marbles and other materials along. As this fun video from Brick Building Kids shows, there are plenty of neat configurations for a marble run.
In addition to being a great way to recycle cardboard, it can also be a great learning activity! You can generate an early interest in physics and engineering throughout this entire project. We know it might seem like this toy is only going to keep your child occupied while they are building it, but you’d be surprised by how long it continues to entertain. With some toy cars, bouncy balls, or other materials, the marble run can turn into a busy racetrack that provides excitement for hours.
DIY Drum Kits
This is the perfect eco-friendly toy if you just finished painting the house and don’t mind having a bit of noise! To make the drums, you start by simply collecting wood, plastic, or metal gardening and paint buckets of different sizes. Then you and your child can clean them, let them dry, and decorate them with glitter and glue. If desired, you can even hang a few of the lids on a rope or stand to turn them into gongs and cymbals.
Arrange the drums on a flat surface, find a pair of sturdy sticks, and get ready to rock. Of course we know there are plenty of moms who might cringe at the idea of giving their kid anything noisy, but if you have a basement or big yard, this can be a fun project that helps get your child in touch with their musical side.
Fabric Baby Books
Say goodbye to torn covers and creased pages when you create a cute fabric book for your baby to play with. You can choose your material based on your preferred style of environmental consciousness. If your focus is using sustainable materials without chemicals or toxins, consider natural fabrics like unbleached linen or bamboo dyed with vegetable dyes. Moms who love reusing and recycling can cut up old shirts or sheets to make the baby books, which can also be a cute way to incorporate fabric from sentimental clothing.
To make the baby book, start by choosing your design. This can be as simple as shapes and letters, or you can get fabric printed with cute pictures to cut out. Then you just need to cut your pieces to the right size and sew or glue them together. Check out this helpful guide from MySewBliss to get an idea of how to assemble the book as easily as possible.
These fun toy ideas can keep your kids entertained for hours, so you can get some much needed “Me Time.” Since they are eco-friendly, you don’t have to worry about exposing your loved ones to a bunch of chemicals or having the toys pile up in landfills later on. If you’ve tried any of these neat DIY ideas before, let us know how it went!
My name is Ivana Davies and I’m an educator turned stay-at-home mom to a beautiful 7 year old girl and a playful 5 year old boy. Since I didn’t have a clue about raising kids, I had to learn it all in a hard way. I managed to find so much information online, and that inspired me to turn to blogging to share my experiences and struggles as a mom. Being a mom is not easy. In fact, in can sometimes be pretty isolating. My blog, Find Your Mom Tribe, is here to help you connect with other moms, as well as to share mom hacks, information, and tools to help you on this parenting journey. You can catch up with us on Facebook and Pinterest.
Note from Little Family
I want to take a moment to thank Ivana at Find Your Mom Tribe, for crafting this post. It’s chalk full of awesome activities for the Little’s in your life, so hopefully you find these ideas helpful! If you have some time I highly suggest you venture over to her site Find Your Mom Tribe. She has excellent posts on parenting, pregnancy and even recipes!