How to build educational toys

What is an educational toy?

The answer is easy: a toy or game that teaches and expands their imagination. Children learn when they play. For them, something as simple as a box can become the best educational toy in the world.

You can build all kinds of educational toys with everyday household items. Remember for younger children, the toys need to be safe. Use the same guidelines you would for buying toys off the shelf. If your child is under 3, be careful of small parts. Don’t use plastic bags in toys designed for this age. For all children, be aware of sharp objects.

Here is a list of items to keep on hand. These items can be used together or separately in a variety of ways to make your own educational toys:

  • Boxes, all sizes
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Paper
  • Paper and plastic bags
  • Fillers (buttons, beads, paper clips)
  • Ribbons
  • Scarves or cloth scraps
  • Old towels
  • Tin cans & plastic bottles
  • Markers or paint
  • Laundry Basket
  • Rope, yarn or string
  • Food coloring
  • Balls, beanbags, clothespins, etc.

With your imagination, you can build a variety of educational games. A towel or laundry basket can become a sleigh ride or a push car. An upside-down laundry basket is now a countertop for a store. Plastic bottles filled with buttons or beans and super glued closed make fun rattles. The string can become a measuring tape. Let your child take the lead in creating some of these toys.

Below are some ideas to help you get started:

PUPPET THEATER: Putting on plays is a great way for children to learn. Not only does it create social skills, it also prepares them for the future. Plus it’s fun! To build a puppet theater, take a big box and put it on its side. Cut out a square to make the stage, or TV section. Take some rags or any cloth and create a curtain. Staple the curtain to the top of the stage. If you don’t have a box, take 2 kitchen chairs and a blanket. Drape the blanket over the chairs and use the chair leg to secure it. Voila, the show is ready to begin!

PUPPETS: You can’t have a show without puppets! Use your imagination for this. You can use socks with button eyes, or take lunch paper bags and let your child create the characters in their story.

PICTURE MEMORY: Memory is a popular children’s game. You take a bunch of square tiles and turn them upside down. Then, the goal is to find the two that go together by turning them over one at a time. Make your own memory game using pictures of your family! Take a box, or piece of cardboard. Decide how many matches you want to make. Divide the cardboard into equal squares and use a scissors to cut them out. Then find pictures of family members, pets or fun items. Pair them up. If you have two different pictures of Susi Q, the goal is to match both pictures. You can also match people. Take a picture of grandma and a picture of grandpa, and the goal is to match them together. Be creative. If you need more cards, you can take pictures from magazines and do themes such as cars, fruit, or red objects.

MONEY CENTS: This is a great game to teach money. You will need 4 different containers or banks. You can let your child decorate them. On each one, put a different symbol for the coins; penny, nickel, dime and quarter. Keep your pocket change and dump it on the table. Let your children sort the money, while explaining their values. Have them put it in the appropriate bank. To use visualization about how much a nickel is worth, count out 5 pennies and then put it next to the nickel.

THE BOZO SHOW: You will need 5 containers (like coffee containers, basket or storage bowls), they do not have to be the same size. However, they do need to be big enough to throw a ball or beanbag in. Ping pong balls work great. Let your child decorate each container. On each one, put a color theme and a number. This way you now have 2 games. One game, say a color, and throw the ball or item into the bucket of the same color. The second game is a math game where you will keep score. You get the number of points on the container that the balls go in to. Make up other games as well!

BACKYARD VOLCANO: Take an empty coffee can or bucket. Let your child decorate it, or take it outside and bury it in sand or dirt. You will need vinegar, baking soda, and food coloring. Fill the can halfway with vinegar and add some food coloring. Then add the baking soda, about a spoonful at a time, and watch the volcano erupt, thanks to the carbon dioxide reaction. Do a search online for more information about volcanos for a discussion.

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