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Embrace simple toys for the holidays

By on December 1, 2007

photo by alexdunn
rubber band ball
I receive countless desperate letters from readers who are experiencing hard times. Many are concerned about not being able to afford Christmas gifts for their young children. Now is a good time to get started preparing for the holidays.

One way to plan ahead is to make homemade toys. Many can be created with common household items. If you’ve got the holiday covered, these make-it-yourself toys are great fun as boredom busters, too. Ads will tell you that only shrink-wrapped toys from the local toy store will do, but anyone with small children knows that they’ll play with anything.

STUFFED ANIMALS: If you have an old stuffed animal that’s been tossed aside, make it into a puppet by cutting off the bottom and removing some stuffing. Simply stitch a hem afterward.

OLD SHEETS: Use a sheet to create an indoor hopscotch or a checkerboard game using milk caps or pompoms as game pieces.

EMPTY PLASTIC JUGS: Use an empty milk jug and clothespins for a pin-drop game, or create a scoop-ball game out of a plastic milk jug or a bleach bottle. Cut the jug in half and save the handle side. Can use wadded socks or plastic bags as the balls.

YARN DOLL: Wrap yarn about 40 times around the long side of a book or cardboard that is 6 to 8 inches long. Cut yarn at the edge on both sides. Tie yarn bundle tightly in the middle with a small piece of yarn. Fold in half at the tie. Wrap a rubber band tightly around the doll from the top to form the head and make a neck. Gather about 15 pieces of yarn at each side for arms. Wrap rubber bands to make wrists. Wrap another rubber band in the body section to make a waist. Split the remaining yarn in half for legs and rubber band to make ankles. Trim any ends.

PARACHUTES:
Cut a 12-by-12-inch piece of a grocery bag or use a handkerchief. Tie a piece of string to each corner of the fabric or plastic bag. Fill a film container or leftover aspirin bottle with some pebbles for weight. Tuck the loose ends of string into the container and snap the top in place. If you don’t have a container for weight, you can use a clothespin. Fold the parachute up and toss it into the air.

RUBBER BANDS: Use aluminum foil crumpled into a ball and rubber bands wrapped around it to make rubber band balls.

CARDBOARD BOXES: Boxes make great cars and playhouses. Smaller shoe boxes can be made into doll houses.

POP BOTTLES:
Save 2-liter pop bottles or collect large coffee-creamer containers to make a bowling game.

HANGERS: Make a tennis game by bending a wire hanger into a diamond shape. Make a round handle from the hanger hook. Cover it with a pantyhose and you have a racket. Use balloons for balls.

JUICE-CAN LIDS: Use juice lids, pictures from magazines or leftover gift wrap and create a matching game by cutting out the pictures and gluing them on the lids. You can make a fishing game, too, by using a dowel, ribbon, magnet and juice lids. Tie a piece of narrow fabric ribbon around one end of a dowel, then tie a magnet to the end of the ribbon to make a fishing pole. Decorate juice lids any way you’d like and use them as the fish.

Be creative and start looking at ordinary household items and how you can make them into a fun toy or game.

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