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Make toys for your kids!

Natural Kids: Make toys for your kids!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Make toys for your kids!

Have you been to a big toy chain store lately? You might be surprised by what you find, or rather by what you can’t find. I was astonished recently when I couldn’t find a baby toy that didn’t light up or make noise. Even simple stacking toys and teethers had batteries! I thought back to when I was a new parent and first started making toys-inspired more by necessity than creativity .  Having a baby immediately after buying our first house made for some lean years. We worried as most parents do, about getting everything our baby would need. Newborn babies really don't need much besides their parents attention and care, but they don't stay little for long.  

My son seemed to instantly become a toddler, his play acting becoming more complex and imaginative, often mimicking our actions in his play. I knew he needed toys and wished we could just run off to the store and get whatever he wanted. But our decision to have me stay home permanently as a full time mom made those kinds of expenses beyond our reach at that time. We improvised, often making things out of  cardboard boxes and whatever materials we had on hand. We made a toy stove out of cardboard and my son used my small saucepan and the toaster oven tray for his "cooking", while I cooked our real dinner. He washed dishes in a big bowl of soapy water while I washed dishes. We made a house out of a refrigerator box. It was purely out of necessity that I figured out ways to make toys, but I discovered that I loved to do it, and my son loved to help.  I cut up old clothes  to make (at first very badly sewn!) copies of the creatures my son drew, and characters from his favorite stories. My sewing skills were not very good then and I would have been embarrassed to show them to others, but my son ( and later my daughter)   was no judge of sewing skills and truly loved them. Where my skills left off his imagination took over. All the time we were making these things I was feeling badly that they were just imitations of what I thought my son really wanted. I couldn't get him the expensive toy kitchen or toy house I had seen in a catalog and I felt badly about that.

When my son developed an obsession for trains we would line up rocks on the path outside and pretend they were train cars. Of course he knew all the right noises to make!  For my son's second birthday we were able to buy him a nice big wooden train set. We were so excited to see his reaction, and thought for sure that he would play with it all day for days on end. He was very happy to see it and did play with it. But he soon wanted to go outside to play with his other trains. We were puzzled until we realized that he meant the rocks that we lined up together. Those rocks were really a train to him. Just as fun, or maybe even more fun than the new store bought set he had just received.
Something finally clicked in my head that day. I had been so conditioned to believe that every child should have that plastic rainbow colored set of stacking rings, an Elmo stuffed animal and whatever other toys were being advertised at the time. Our financial difficulties made it impossible for us to get those things, but it never really occurred to me that I shouldn't want to get those things, and that having them all was not really what was best for my son.

 I had been feeling badly about not being able to provide something for my son, when I was actually giving him something much much better. My son, who is now 15, remembers his cardboard house to this day as one of his favorite things ever. He could draw all over the walls and was a part of the creation of that house.  He remembers the stick villages we built in the back yard and the pipe cleaner people.  How lucky we were to have had the challenges we had, for they taught us great lessons. I  encourage all  parents to try making some toys with your children. They will not care if your stitches are uneven, or if a head is not glued on perfectly.  Why should the toy designers have all the fun of creating? Of course you don't have to make ALL of their toys. There are some amazingly talented toy makers on etsy who still know how to make toys that encourage imagination and don't require batteries. 

However, there is nothing like sewing up the finishing stitches of a doll while your daughter anxiously watches and waits, telling  you what color eyes she wants, or where to put a button. How magic you seem to them-conjuring creatures with your hands.  To encourage a lively imagination in your children  is a wonderful gift that will bless them for the rest of their lives. The time spent together creating is something they will never forget.

this post has been brought to you by Kerstin or chimera


Blogger the 6 o'clock stitch said...

These are all wonderful ideas. I too am learning to improvise when it comes to toys and activities for a busy toddler. My latest was our fabric playscape...perfect for her farm set, cars or her wooden train set!

April 29, 2009 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger D'Andrea (pupapupa) said...

I'm so sorry, I kinda messed up pictures on the first post, hopefully now you can view the adorable shots of Chimera's creations (both crafting and kids!) Lovely post!

April 29, 2009 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Christy in OH said...

I echo your sentiments wholeheartedly. I venture to guess it was because you played trains with your little boy too, that led in part to the stones train being so special. :0)

It was a love for those old fashioned, expensive stuffed animals one sees in craft shops that led me to give animal making a try. I love it! My children love watching, helping and having a new friend. There's some special kind of love in a handmade toy, whether made of wood, cloth, or even stones. We are totally sold on natural and handmade toys, and simplicity that encourages imagination.

April 30, 2009 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Lyneya said...

Wonderful post! I started making toys out of financial necessity! The first 18 months of our son's lives he was buried in plastic chaos. Then I started viciously de-cluttering. Putting just a few things out of a shelf instead of bins and bins to dig through. His change in play was almost immediate! In my quest for non-plastic toys, everything seemed to be out of my budget. So I learned to make some simple ones. And I was able to swap my sewing skills for some of the other toys I couldn't (or thought I couldn't at the time) make myself. It's been a huge growing experience for me, and we see the impact on our son's creativity every day!! It's been almost a year since we started de-cluttering and swapping Fisher-Price for natural and mama-made. And it's been a wonderful journey! :)

April 30, 2009 at 11:42 AM  
Anonymous prettydreamer said...

Kerstin... what a wonderful article .. I really enjoyed it and thinking back on the days...!

April 30, 2009 at 1:37 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer @ Milk and Honey Mommy said...

I have seen an overcrowded living room full of a mountain of toys (mostly plastic). Somewhere the parents should have said no to someone; relatives, kids, themselves.

We don't buy a lot of toys for our children. I have been leaning more towards wood or toys that require creativity from the child to work. My oldest built a toy out of tree branches he found in our backyard. That is the kind of toy I like.

One of our school subjects this summer will be sewing and I can't wait to see what my children create.

April 30, 2009 at 4:42 PM  
Blogger ayelet(nishale) said...

Wonderful post!!!!!!
I love to maake toys for children its fullfill me to see them using and playing with them, even that I do not have my own children

May 1, 2009 at 6:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen to that. My son is now in his early 30s and will still climb into a large cardboard box when he gets the opportunity! It transports him back to his happy childhood of hand-made toys and make-believe. A cardboard 'time machine' you might say!

May 1, 2009 at 2:05 PM  
Anonymous mamabear said...

Great ideas. Wish I had time to make wood and other natural toys. Keep the ideas coming!

May 2, 2009 at 9:17 PM  
Blogger soulyluna said...

i love it! i made a cardboard box house for my daughter after reading this post and it has been the best thing in our house for an entire weekend!!!

May 4, 2009 at 3:04 PM  

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