Buying toys for your baby can be expensive, and sometimes they don’t last that long! We all want to encourage creative play in our little ones. Before you fork out for expensive development toys, check out our 17 homemade sensory development toys for babies using things around your home.
Your child really doesn’t care about brand names or labels. In fact, they don’t even know what a ‘toy’ is. They really just want something bright and noisy to play and engage with, and begin developing their senses through creative play. All of the toys below will help your baby to develop their senses through sensory experience.
There are plenty of household items that make great toys for baby, and with a little bit of imagination you can turn everyday things into toys with a twist.
In fact, you may just find that baby keeps going back to your colourful wrapped tissue box; bypassing all those ‘development’ toys along the way!
When making your own toys, it’s important to keep safety in the front of your mind. A good checklist to follow is:
Size of homemade baby toys
A general rule is the smaller the child, the bigger the toy. If the toy can fit into a film canister, or it has removable parts that can, then it is not suitable for children under 3 years of age.
Surface on homemade baby toys
Babies put everything in their mouths and can be easily poisoned if a toy is made from, or coated in, a toxic material. Check out paint and adhesive labels before use. You should also make sure the surface is smooth, with no sharp edges or corners.
Make sure any strings or ribbons are not long enough to get wrapped around baby and cut off baby’s circulation. Also make sure they are firmly attached to the toy.
Supervision of babies with toys
Did we mention babies put everything in their mouths? It’s important to remember any homemade toy can potentially cause choking – no matter how well you’ve made it. If anyone can pull it apart, your baby can! Keep an eye on baby at all times.
So with all those safety points in mind, here are some great ideas for turning everyday items into fabulous toys.
17 homemade sensory development toys for babies
1. Magic scarves
Cut a cup sized hole into the lid of an ice cream container and then tape around it to soften any sharp edges. Fill the container with lots of different coloured scarves, ribbons, or long pieces of material, and watch baby have lots of fun pulling them out, then stuffing them back in.
2. Homemade building blocks
Small boxes like those used for tea bags, tissues and cereal, make great building blocks for baby. Stuff the boxes with newspaper to make them sturdy, and then wrap them in brightly coloured book covering. Because the book covering is 100% adhesive, there are no bits of tape or paper that can come off and cause choking.
3. Disappearing ball
Cut a cup sized hole, half way along a postage tube and find 2 or 3 brightly coloured rubber balls. When baby drops the ball through the hole it disappears, but when they pick up the tube to find it, the ball rolls out one end. Babies from 9 months on will be fascinated by how this works.
4. Baby’s first board book
Make your own board books for baby by cutting out pictures from magazines and gluing them onto sturdy card. Cover each page with clear book covering and then tape them together to form an accordion. You could also print out photos of your family and pets, or places around your home, to really personalise the book.
5. Homemade rattle
Put a handful of stones, rice or pasta into a small Pringles tin and tape the lid firmly shut with packaging tape to make a great rattle. Make sure the tape is pressed flat onto the can, so that baby can’t pull off small pieces. Small Milo, baking powder or Quik tins are also a good size for baby to hold. But if you use a Pringles tin, then you get to eat the chips first!
6. Milk formula tin drumkit
An empty milk formula tin, or large milo tin, or similar and a wooden spoon make a great drum kit! And we know just how much you love noisy toys…
7. Wine cask mailbox
Wine casks are sturdy boxes which make great ‘posting’ toys. Cut several different shapes out of one side of the box, some that are bigger than others. Cover the box in brightly coloured book covering, and give baby some small toys to post. They will soon discover that some items fit through the holes, while others are too big or the wrong shape.
8. Homemade activity gym
Make your own activity gym by tying a selection of small toys to a broom stick or long pole and resting it between 2 chairs. Make sure the stick is well secured so that it can’t roll off and land on baby.
9. Glitter bottle snow globe
¾ fill a small water bottle or plastic jar with water and add 2-3 handfuls of glitter. Glue the lid shut and let baby tip it backwards and forwards. When they start crawling they will love chasing it across the room.
10. Scrunchy sound socks
Stuff a sock with crinkly wrapping paper and tie a knot in the end. Baby can safely scrunch the sock and be rewarded with great sounds. This is a great way to upcycle those lost left socks!
11. Bottle cap bracelet rattle
Punch a hole through the centre of several plastic milk bottle caps and then string them together on a piece of elastic to form a bracelet. This makes a great rattle which is light and easy for baby to grasp on to.
12. Homemade stacker cups
Collect plastic lids from various containers to make your own set of stacking cups. Hairspray, shaving foam, cooking oil, and dairy whip all have good size lids. Make sure you wash them well before use.
13. Texture fun
Make great textured blocks by gluing different fabrics and materials onto wooden blocks. Exploring different textures is a great way for baby to begin developing their touch sense, one of the key development milestones.
14. Click-click toys
Old keyboards or calculators are great fun for babies to tap on, especially as they are rewarded with the ‘click click click’ sound. Make sure there are no loose buttons or keys. This is another great toy for developing touch and dexterity.
15. Laundry basket racer
Laundry baskets (or large cardboard boxes) make great cars for baby to sit in. It takes some effort for you to push them around the house, but their giggles will make it worth your while.
16. Homemade ‘walker’
A large cardboard box weighted down with toys and books is a great way to help baby with ‘cruising’ (walking around while leaning on furniture or being lead by the hand). It needs to be light enough so that it moves when baby pushes against it, but not so light that it takes off from under them.
17. Upcycled… anything!
Remember, babies find fun in just about everything. Boxes, tubes, containers, cups, spoons, wrapping paper – you name it. It doesn’t have to be an ‘official toy’ to provide entertainment – the whole world is one big playground. Open up your plastics cupboard and raid the recycling, you’ll be surprised with just what you come up with. Have fun!