Category Archives: homemade toys

The Refridgerator Box Makeover

Months ago I found the Holy Grail of appliance boxes. Lighthouse Furniture and Appliance in Petersburg. Don’t bother going to the chains, just check out the local independent guys.

The owner of Lighthouse Appliance was curious about what I would need a refridgerator box for. I told him i had a 3 year old. He just smiled and asked me to follow him to the back of the store. There, complete with artificial flower landscaping and Dora the Explorer flag, sat a huge refridgerator box house his grandkids had decorated. They spent hours back there.

It turns out, Lighthouse SAVES there boxes just in case people (like me) want them. I could build an entire appliance box village if I wanted to. One of the older grandchildren (maybe in highschool?) took me the the warehouse, helped me find an empty box in good condition and helped me load it into the car. They are so wonderful and I hope that my next trip up there is for a dishwasher ūüôā

Refridgerator Box + Bulletin Board Paper = Endless Possibilities…

Above: The inside of the door is covered with a large sheet of paper so Owen and his friends can draw. I also but of a small piece of velcro so we could change the signs on the door easily. Below: The mail box on the side of the building is just a cereal box covered in duct tape. Now I have a place for our junk mail before it hits the recycling bin.

JoJo was Owen’s first customer. I glued craft foam to a strip of cardboard to make the awning.

That first day The Box was a Grocery Store, but the next day it was a Toy Store. It will be fun to see whatelse Owen comes up with.

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Puppet Theatre

My first attempt at the finger puppet theatre was made from a cereal box. This one at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers (best blog name EVER by-the-way) was my inspiration. Prototype #1 was a disaster. And it was our only empty cereal box.

I tried again with a shoebox. It’s much easier to fit adult hands comfortably into the theatre and I used velcro to hang a piece of felt for the backdrop. And when we are done playing we can store the puppets away inside. Kept the nifty paper curtain idea.

Puppet show with the tickle monsters.

Puppet show with the tickle monsters.

Felt backdrop.

Felt backdrop.

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Doll Houses (for everyone).

I made Owen a doll house. I had been wanting him to have one ever since we went into World of Mirth and he really loved the Calico Critters doll house they had out. A little Rabbit and Mouse family was living in it.

Several months later we were getting some ice cream next door and a little boy’s mother told him to stop playing the patty cake game he was cheerfully singing because, “Little boys don’t play games like that… they play with action figures.”

That sealed the deal. My son was getting a doll house. I got the idea to make one out of a cd holder from Angry Chicken. I’m really happy with it. Owen really really liked it for about a day and now he uses it as a place to park his fire truck… I tried.

I added some felt carpet, cut pictures out of an Ikea catalog and planted a button “garden on the back.¬†It was really fun to make.

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Super cheery doll house complete with pink trim.

Doll house complete with a button garden.

Button gardens attract butterfly stickers.

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Bottle Caps and Egg Cartons.

Eventually this can be used as a memory game. In the meantime Owen likes to match-up the pictures on the bottle caps while they are all facing up.

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Last week we turned the top of an egg carton into a glider. Launching it off of the loft was a fun activity on a very rainy day.

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The next day we turned the bottom portion into a catipillar. (We only had Crayola poster paint. As you can see it chipped off the styrofoam pretty quickly.) While reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar Owen feed the pages of the book to his new friend.

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Felt Board

I’ve been working on a felt board for Owen. Lois Ehlert has written a slew of children’s books and the pictures are perfect for felt board pieces. I used the book In My World ¬†to make some critters. Planting a Rainbow and Color Zoo will be good for more ideas on shapes and patterns.¬†

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I also made some different colored trucks and they’ve been a big hit (copied them off etsy). We “load” matching bean bags on them and they’ve been great for educational play.¬†

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Dyeing Playsilks with Kool-aide

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I’ve been reading a lot about Montessori/Waldorf education and activities in the last few months. The common ground between the two¬†philosophies¬†is simple:¬†The work of a child is to play. (The hands on approach works best.)

Children who engage in creative play in early childhood tend to do better in all spheres of life as they grow older. They excel not only academically but also socially, emotionally, and physically. They tend to be more harmonious and less agressive, and they show a better understanding of other people.

Open-ended toys, like playsilks, inspire creativity. They are perfect for: playing peek-a-boo, a doll blanket, sling, wings, a cape, a river, a turban, pirate’s headscarf, skirt, toga, belt, fort, or anything else a child dreams up…

They can be bought online, however, the DIY version is much cheaper (and fun to make). I purchased the plain silk through the Dharma Trading Co. and picked up some kool-aide from the grocery store (the vinegar was in the cupboard). Below is a picture of the final result (Cherry, Pink Lemonade, Orange Lemonade and Grape).

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I’m still on the hunt for Lime and anything blue. I felt kind of weird buying that much kool-aide at the grocery store (we don’t drink the stuff). The women checking my out was like, “I hope you have a lot of sugar!” I felt the need to explain that it was to dye scarves not to feed to the young lad I was pushing in the stroller.

How To: First soak all undyed silks in hot water with a dash of vinegar (I used distilled white vinegar) for half an hour. For each silk, mix 2 cups water, 1/2 cup vinegar, and 3 packets of Kool-Aid in a glass bowl‚Äďthe kids helped with this part. Add playsilk, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for three minutes. Let it sit for three minutes, stir (repeat three times).

Hang the silks to dry, then washed in cold water. For the second drying, I put them in the dryer with a couple of towels for a very short, cool cycle.

They turned out great! One more thing to add to the Make-Believe Box. These playsilks are 22×22. I plan on making more that are 36×36 size. I think the larger size will be more¬†versatile.

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