Toys… tools that can keep your child distracted for hours at a time. Every store you visit nowadays has a toy aisle and most of them are a treasure trove of childish distractions.
Unfortunately, as the years have gone on, toys have become more advanced and, as a result, more expensive. This price increase can make buying toys for your children a challenge – especially considering that they’ll grow up and stop playing with them eventually.
So, how do we get around this problem? Well, over the last few years, there’s been a major push for people to recycle things like plastic bottles and cardboard. See where I’m going with this?
You can easily make toys for your kids using whatever you’ve got lying around the house – you could probably make a pretty good side income out of it at the same time.
With all that said, let’s look at what DIY toys you can make for your kids.
Crochet is very much like knitting; you use a small hook to link loops of yarn/wool together to make whatever you want. My mom and sisters do this stuff quite often and their work often sold well at the various flea markets we worked. So, what kind of toys are we going to see here?
1) Olaf, the Snowman
Disney’s Frozen was released in 2013 and was (and is) incredibly popular. I still hear people singing Demi Lovato’s ‘let it go’ from time to time! One character that audiences found adorable was Olaf, the snowman so it’s no surprise that someone made a crochet Olaf doll, is it?
You can get the pattern/instructions for this one here.
2) The Black Bird from Angry Birds
Okay, so Angry Birds, this is something I’ve heard about but haven’t really seen much of. I know there’s a movie and a mobile game and that’s about it. Still, I saw this one and had to include it because it’s just so…cute.
The pattern for this one is here.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I’m a huge anime fan – I even have a series on Vocal where I review various titles.
My Neighbor Totoro is a Japanese animated film that was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and released in 1988. The character of Totoro is considered one of the most popular characters in Japanese animation and serves as the mascot for Studio Ghibli, the company that animated the film.
With all that out of the way, is it really a surprise that somebody made a Totoro doll? I don’t think so!
You can get the pattern here and make your own!
4) Tree Sloth
Yes, a tree sloth. One of the joys of crocheting is that you are only limited by your imagination. These are just cute pieces to make and they’re definitely going to start a few conversations with visitors.
You can get the pattern for this one here.
5) Harry Potter
If you and your kids are fans of the Harry Potter franchise and would like to have your own doll, then this is the pattern for you. It’s a pretty easy piece to do and it’ll provide ample fun.
Get the pattern here.
6) Harry Potter’s Wand
Yes, you can have your own magic wand from the Harry Potter universe. You and the kids can swish and flick spells at each other all day every day just for fun – just don’t get caught with an unforgivable curse or a stinging jinx.
Here’s the pattern for you.
7) The Golden Snitch
A huge part of the Harry Potter novels and films is the game of Quidditch which is the Wizard’s equivalent of football. You have a ball called the Quaffle, and you have three ‘chasers’ who aim to throw the Quaffle through one of three hoops to score points. Keepers defend the hoops.
Then, of course, you have the golden snitch, a flying golden ball about the size of a golf ball that, when caught, results in a default victory (150 points is pretty hard to beat after all).
If you want a snitch of your own, here’s the pattern for it.
8) The Sorting Hat
One last Harry Potter craft and then we’ll move on. The sorting hat is a talking hat that essentially decides which students will go to each of the four houses at Hogwarts. This pattern recreates the iconic slouchy, singing/talking hat complete with a face! How cool is that?
Get the pattern here.
9) DIY Cars and other Vehicles
You can make all kinds of cars and trucks or other vehicles if you’ve got the wool and the patience for it. These will give your kids something fun to play with, without the risk of choking on small parts.
Get the pattern here.
10) Owl Plushie
My sister is crazy about owls, and this design would drive her positively moggy! It’s a big, googly-eyed owl, you don’t get much cuter than that!
You can get this one’s pattern here.
11) Mario Plushie
Calling all gamers, calling all gamers! If you’re a fan of the Mario franchise, then you can make your own Mario plushie. The kids will love having a videogame icon in the house, especially if they can play with him.
Get this one’s pattern here.
I don’t know many people who would willingly let a caterpillar (or any other creepy crawly) into their homes. With that said, these are just cute, and I can see many people making exceptions to the ‘no creepy crawlies’ rule.
Make your own caterpillars with this pattern.
Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. This is a good one to hang above a baby’s crib or, to place at the top of the Christmas tree. It’s a simple design that your kids will love.
Get the pattern here.
14) Teddy Bear
Teddy bears are a crucial part of childhood, they provide something fun for kids to play with, but they’re also a source of comfort and security. Bears can be the recipients of many childish confidences and tears but at the end of the day they won’t judge.
Homemade bears have a special significance for children. There’s just something special about knowing that the bear in your hands or on your shelf was custom-made for you by your mom or dad. You can get a teddy bear pattern here.
15) Sonic the Hedgehog
More fun to be had with this crochet version of Sonic the Hedgehog. If your kids are huge Sonic fans or you have a friend who’s a huge Sonic fan, then they’ll love having their own little blue lightning bolt. Get the pattern here.
16) The Cat Bus
Another entry inspired by the film My Neighbor Totoro, the cat bus is…well a bus with a cat’s head and legs – hence the name. It’s a fun piece which your kids will love to play with. If you want to try making one of these yourself, here’s the pattern.
17) Rainbow Fish Game
A game of fishing with each fish holding a strong magnet to make ‘catching’ them easier. This is a fun game for the whole family; I know it was a personal favorite when I was a kid. If this sounds like something you’d like, you can get the pattern here.
Flying is the way to get to most places nowadays, but obviously two-year olds can’t be pilots…or can they? Well, if the plane is made of wool and not carrying any passengers or cargo, why not? Make a plane for your little one and let them go on their crazy adventures. Here’s the pattern for you.
19) Coraline Doll
There are very few animated films out there that can be both whimsical and nightmare-inducing, but Coraline is definitely one of the few. It’s creepy, but not so much that you can’t watch it with your kids.
Dolls, of course, form part of the film’s narrative and if your kids want their own Coraline dolls…well, now you can make them.
Here’s the pattern for you.
Star Wars…I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that this is a juggernaut of science fantasy and while the last few films didn’t do too well with audiences, the Star Wars brand is here to stay. With that in mind, there aren’t many things cooler than swinging your own lightsaber around.
Make your little ones their own lightsabers for their own travels to the galaxy far, far away! Here’s the pattern for you.
21) Gingerbread House
Ah, the gingerbread house, a source of many children’s first nightmares! Seriously, I heard Hansel and Gretel many times as a kid and the witch in the gingerbread house scared me witless! With that said, if you’d like your own gingerbread house (without the witch, of course), you can get this pattern here.
22) Finger Puppets
Okay, so the pattern I’m sharing here is for a shark puppet but realistically you can make anything you like. Finger puppets are fairly easy to make, and I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t like puppet shows.
These kind of remind me of a TV show called Ahhh! Real Monsters!
The show aired throughout the early 2000s and was a staple of the Saturday morning cartoon block. They’re quirky, they’re fun, and your kids will have a great time coming up with names and powers/skills for their monsters. You can get the pattern here.
24) Pacman and Ghosts
Pacman was an arcade-style game that was a huge part of my childhood. I wiled away many weekends as the little yellow ball chasing and being chased by ghosts.
That said, I didn’t think I’d see a physical version of this…until I did. You can make your own Pacman and ghosts for an IRL game of Pacman! How cool is that? You can get the pattern here.
25) Jump Rope
If ever there was a toy that stymied me, this is it. I never got the hang of skipping rope like the other kids – not that my terrible eyesight helped much. With that said, jump ropes seem to be getting more expensive nowadays so if you want to get one; why not make one?
Here’s the pattern for you.
This is one mouse that is impossible not to like. If you’re a lover of all things fluffy/furry, but mice tend to give you the heebie-jeebies, make one of these. It’s certainly not going to make as much of a mess as a real mouse would and your kids won’t be exposed to dangerous bacteria or at risk of bites.
Get the pattern here.
27) Waldorf Doll
Waldorf dolls are a bit more complicated to make and require more practice, but of boy are they gorgeous! Fortunately, this step-by-step tutorial will make the learning curve easier.
Paperclips are incredibly useful, and with a bit of creativity you can make cheap, durable toys to keep your kids entertained for hours on end.
This is fairly simple to make. All you do is straighten the clip then bending it again; into the shape of a two-pronged fork.
The upper sections of the prongs should be bent slightly. Tie a thick rubber band across the prongs and make sure it can’t move around. Voila! You’ve got a slingshot.
Bend the middle part of the clip upward at a 45 degree angle. Halfway down the end, you’ll add a 90-degree bend which you bend again to touch the other side of the clip. Now wrap in electrical tape to form a ‘shelf’ and voila!
Use a few tiny balls of crumpled tin foil as ammunition and have fun!
30) Fidget Spinner
This project requires a paperclip and two sewing bobbins. Bend the two ends out into a V-shape. Slide the bobbins into the loops and close the loops slightly so that the bobbins can’t fall out. Congratulations, you’ve made a fidget spinner!
31) Spinning Top
You can bend a paperclip of any size (larger clips are usually more stable) into a circular shape with a top and bottom leg. This is seriously cool! I grew up playing with spinning tops of all kinds and they still fascinate me – I have one that sits on my desk for when I need to reset the ol’ human computer!
Straighten the outer loop of your clip as much as possible. Bend the other loop upwards at a 90-degree angle; fold it over again to have a double loop. Now, fold a bit of electrical tape (a small square is best) over the straight end. Hook the double loop over an elastic band, pull, and let ‘er fly!
33) Bouncing Clip
Bend the clip out on both sides to form a V. From here bend the two ends out to form a triangle. Bend one of the ends slightly upwards (this is to create tension) and secure one end under the other.
The clip can now be bounced on a table, the tension on the clip acting like a spring of sorts, providing ample amusement for you and your kids.
Wood can be a great medium for DIY projects because it’s lightweight and relatively easy to get.
Growing up in the early 2000s, I used to see loads of those hokey Barbie ads – you know, the ones with the silly music, kids obviously reading off a script, they always advertised the same thing: a new doll.
Of course, dolls need houses… apparently, and Mattel, the company behind the Barbie line, was quick to oblige. Most new sets came with a dollhouse of some sort which drove up the price point significantly.
With that said, if you were clever, patient, and you had the tools you need (drills, saws, hammer, and nails, etc.) you could bypass that whole problem and make a custom dollhouse for your son and/or daughter.
35) Pop Gun
Ah, the pop gun. I have a love-hate relationship with this one. When I was a kid, it was one of the coolest toys you could get. As I got older, I found that listening to little kids running around popping pop guns started to irritate me. Still, it’s a simple toy to make and kids still get a kick out of them.
36) Chess and Checkers Sets
With the right tools and a bit of patience, you can make your own chess and checkers game sets. It’s as simple as cutting a square of plywood and marking it with the respective light and dark squares of the board.
Then you cut your game pieces, using varnish/stain to darken one set so that you have black and white (chess) or black and red (checkers).
Note: considering that the cutting is probably best done with power tools, it’s probably not a good idea to let little kids make these.
37) Bow and Arrows
Making a bow is surprisingly simple; grab a long, flexible tree branch that’s got a decent thickness to it – you’ll have to experiment a bit to see what works for you – and tie a string between each end.
Voila! You have a bow, the smaller sticks around you make up your arrows.
My cousin and I did this many times as kids, we’d play cowboys and Indians in my grandmother’s garden for hours at a time.
Much like the bow and arrows, it’s pretty easy to make wooden swords and knives. There are two ways to do it.
The first way is to just cut everything to shape in one go, cut your whole sword out as one piece. The other way is to go the traditional bladesmith route; cutting and shaping your hilt, cross guard, pommel, and blade as separate pieces and then assembling them.
Whichever route you decide to take, this is always going to be a fun project which, if you’re a knife nut like me, will be a great conversation starter.
39) Peg People
These are interesting toys that will keep your little ones busy for hours on end! These are essentially felt dolls with wooden peg tops for heads. They’re quick and easy to make – once you know how – and your kids will love them.
40) Tree Branch Blocks
I didn’t even know this was a thing, but it makes perfect sense. The name says it all; these are blocks made out of tree branches. You can use them for memory games and/or whatever you feel like. Great fun and easy to make, you won’t regret trying these ones out.
41) Jenga Set
Have you guys ever played Jenga? If not, then you’re really missing out! It’s a game that requires some patience and skill.
The game is played by two or more players who take turns removing blocks one by one from a tower of 54 blocks. The idea is to get as many blocks as possible – without collapsing the tower.
Cut 54 equal size blocks with a tower case of sorts to hold everything together and have fun!
Toys from Recycled Materials
The last few years have seen a major push towards recycling whatever we can, this means you’ve got more toy-making materials from which to choose.
42) Cardboard Spacecraft
It’s no secret that kids have vivid imaginations and what kid doesn’t want to go into space? Whether it’s to the moon with Neil Armstrong, Vulcan with Captain Kirk, or the various planets of the Star Wars universe, space travel is fascinating, and kids can have all kinds of fun travelling to these places. All they need, of course, is a shuttle to get them there.
43) Tin Can Stilts
One of my favorite things to play with as a kid was a pair of plastic stilts. Essentially a pair of yellow buckets turned upside down with two holes drilled into the bottom with a long rope/cord looped over between them. You’d stand on the buckets while holding the cords and walk around trying to keep your balance.
44) Paper Arctic Fox
Some paper and a bit of know-how and you can make an arctic fox with a 3D/pop-out snout! This is really cool, and you can use it as a means to educate your kids about animals. Cute and educational? Sounds pretty good to me.
45) Tea Box Circus Train
Take old tea boxes and turn them into train cars for your kid’s favorite toy animals. Quick, simple, and fun. This one is very creative, and it’ll give your little one hours of entertainment.
46) Tin Can Drum
I didn’t know a tin could drum, did you? Okay, okay, bad joke but this is one toy that will likely drive you bonkers! Your little one will walk around tapping away at it for ages at a time and you’ll wonder why you made it in the first place! Still, I guess if it keeps them out of trouble it’s worth it.
47) Egg Carton Camera
Okay, so I got my first camera as a 13th birthday present, and I’ve used it on and off ever since. The bulk of its present use is in YouTube videos – go figure. Now, an egg carton camera is perfect for little children who want to join you in the photography game but aren’t quite old enough to work with an actual camera. They’re easy to make and cost practically nothing.
48) Play Dough
DIY play dough is basically a recipe but your kids will have just as much fun! Why spend money on commercial dough when you can make your own with salt, flour and cream of tartar?
Fun and Games Galore!
These are only a handful of DIY toys that you can make at home; each one will allow both you and your children hours of entertainment. There are so many more to choose from that it’s not even funny, so you have a lot of variety to work with which means you won’t be bored anytime soon.
As always, I hope you guys enjoyed the article and that it got your creative juices flowing. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you for the next one!
Greg is a South African farmer and homesteader who’s been around animals ever since he can remember. he’s also an avid camper and hiker.