Stroll through the aisles of your local toy store and your wallet will whimper. You may take comfort in knowing these shiny plastic things have been tested five ways from Sunday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, but you're paying quite a bit extra for it.
What you need are reliable toys that last, have a myriad of creative purposes and don't cost a fortune. It costs nothing to create a fort from a few chairs and sheets or a magic wand from a stick. Kids today are the same as yesterday: What held your undivided attention could be equally enthralling for today's generation.
So stop stressing over the cost and complexity of toys. Keep it simple with a bit of DIY magic. Here are six easy toys and games you can make at home.
Mix one-cup water, two-tablespoons light karo syrup, and four-tablespoons dishwashing liquid in a bottle or bowl. Use a flyswatter, pipe cleaners, or clothes hangers to make bubble wands. Bend them into fun shapes and start blowing.
Money Saved: $5 for six bottles of solution
2. Log Blocks
The original Lincoln Log set by K'NEX are beautiful, fit well together and never break. You also pay quite a bit for each set. When you make your own blocks, however, you can customize each beam to the size and shape you want while satisfying the engineer/woodworker within. For detailed instructions on making your own log set visit HowStuffWorks.
Money Saved: Varies depending on materials.
3. Backyard Swing
Don't shell out $25 for a plastic swing that looks like hell after a couple years. Make your own more with a sturdy rope, a piece of wood and a sturdy tree. This Old House has a fantastic video with a DIY demo.
Money Saved: At least $10
4. Water Slide
You could spend as much as $40 on a Slip 'N Slide, which aren't very durable. Make your own version with two 16-foot plastic tarps, kiddie pool, and mineral oil or dishwashing liquid. Find a portion of your yard with a slight incline and remove any rocks, wood or other sharp objects that could cause injuries. Lay the tarps down end to end and secure into the ground with stakes. (Most tarps have grommets around the edge that make it easier). Partially inflate a kiddie pool and place it at the end of the runway. Squirt some slippery goo on the tarp and leave the hose running on high. Then slip and slide
Money Saved: $5 to $20
Using a sock, some extra buttons and fabric and simple sewing supplies, you and your kids can create unique puppets. The paper bag variety is fun to make too, but they don't stand up to serious drama. Check out these directions to create the next moppet.
Money Saved: $10 to $30
6. Paper Toys
I love making paper toys with kids because it helps them see creative possibilities from simple supplies. The best resource for printable paper toys is The Toy Maker. Creative artist Marilyn Scott-Waters posts printable, free cut outs. Some of my favorites include the pouch, penny butterflies and whirleycopters.
Money Saved: Endless possibilities