It’s summertime—let’s make toys! Six stupendous starting points

party-wood-bkgSummer is here, with (mostly) lovely weather (at least in the Northern hemisphere). Children hopefully get a bit of time off from school and grownups hopefully get a bit of extra time in vacation.  Perfect opportunity for diving into crafting!

Nowadays, with the explosion of content shared on the web, ideas for crafts projects abound in a rather overwhelming flood. I’ve selected a few of my favorites to share with you that I hope you’ll like as much as I do. When thinking about toys for children, I’m always on the lookout for toys that stimulate free-form imaginative play.

Some of these are things you can make for children, some are things to make with children and some are things children can make by themselves. Exploring these links will bring you into the creative worlds of the makers, where you’ll find lots more toys and activities for summer fun. So let’s make toys!


First, a simple but terrific paper project. Origami folds fashion adorable little monsters by Marie-Laure Pham. Can’t you just see these little monsters going around the house and yard munching on all kinds of things and having wacky adventures? On her site, Hello, Wonderful, you can find complete folding and decorating instructions. And it’s a doorway into lots of other charming activities, yummy food and decorating ideas for children.




It’s impossible to think about making toys without mentioning the marvelous Marilyn Scott-Waters, The Toymaker. She offers a generous selection of free paper projects on her site. I really like the Dog Show, an easy to cut out printable with lots of dogs and lots of awards. If you know a child who likes animals, this is a natural!

While you’re on the site, check out how many creative toys Marilyn makes available for free. There are projects for all different skill levels. And there’s probably a whole summer’s worth of fun in that one spot!


All Material © Marilyn Scott Waters


Next, I’m crazy about these ideas from Mr. Printables. These are the kinds of things I wish I’d thought up myself. Wouldn’t it be fun to turn kids loose with some cardboard, paint, and some of these basic structures? Just the sea creatures are amazing by themselves—check out that shark!!!—but if you’re in the mood for the next step up, the peg people add a whole new dimension of playability. You’ll find complete instructions and downloadable templates on the site.




Here’s a make-for-kids/make-with-kids project from Handmade Charlotte. Wooden spoons + paint/markers + little bits of trim or buttons. I love this project because it has two parts—first there’s making the spoon people (the excellent set below is designed to help with learning colors, but I can imagine a wide range of spoon characters that kids might make if you gave them some animal print papers, faux fur, shiny fabric, yarn, pipe cleaners, gold stars, googly eyes…you get the idea). Let the spoon people’s paint dry and let their glue set. Then they’re ready for part two—to be played with. I’m imagining pirates and monsters and fairies and wizards weaving their stories around the flowers and foliage of summertime…or jumping out from behind the sofa if the day’s too hot and everyone is indoors in the cool of the air conditioning.



In this same vein is the articulated cat puppet from a previous craftdesignworks post. This is a project for children who have good paper cutting skills that’s held together with mini-brads so the arms and legs can move and be posed.


Like the wooden spoon characters, this could go in a lot of different directions depending on the materials you make available…it could go from delicate to swashbuckling with different colors and textures of the papers/fabrics. And even the head shape could be altered to make a different animal or person. These little characters would be a natural for experimenting with stop-motion animation.



This sensational array of vehicles made from recycled bottles might just get you to start a collecting box of likely materials. These are from  How to make simple toys using recycled materials found at home on OneHowTo. This project may call for a utility knife, so for safety’s sake, it may be best for you to make the toys following the child’s instructions. On the same page you’ll also find a multi-stage cardboard parking garage for toy car play, plus a UFO made from things you’re likely to have around the house.




So there you go—six stupendous starting points for summer toymaking.

Please be sure to let me know if you have any favorite make-at-home ideas!


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