How to save money on toys by building your own

June 26, 2018 Published by

Play on a budget: Classic toys you can make yourself

Making your own toys can save you money and really encourages your child’s creativity!  Depending on the age of your child, you can get them involved in the making process too. They could even invent their own toys!

Here are a few examples of classic toys you can make yourself for a fraction of the price (with just as much play value).

Soft toys

Use an old pair of socks and some fluff (cotton wool or fabric scraps should work too) to make a new cuddly friend…make sure you wash the socks first.

Craft Passion has some easy to follow instructions on how to make a sock monkey, but really, it can be anything you want it to be!

Soft toys are great for cuddling up to, but they can also go on lots of imaginative adventures with your child.


Dolls’ outfits

This is a great way to recycle old clothes, or you can pick up ‘ragged’ clothing from some charity shops (these are the clothes they aren’t able to sell, e.g. if they have a hole or a button missing).

Felt Magnet has a list of some lovely doll clothes patterns (including some non-sew ones) and once you’ve picked up a basic pattern, you can experiment with your own designs too.

Children will love drawing their own designs first and add all sorts of embellishments, giving them a chance to express their creativity and even extend the personality of their doll (Does their doll like flowery dresses, dungarees, a suit? What’s their favourite colour?). Older ones can have a go at sewing too.

Toy kitchen

Toy kitchens are certainly one of the classic pre-school favourites. They’re perfect for pretend play and great for getting children to play together too. They also help children develop their understanding of routines, and how a kitchen functions. All that squidging, stirring and mixing can also help develop young children’s hand and finger strength.

We are big advocates for outdoor play, so if you have a garden, a mud kitchen is a great way to go. Work with whatever you have available; old wooden pallets, tables or cupboard work as a great kitchen ‘station’. And then you need a sink – a simple washing up bowl will suffice. Pots, pans and kitchen implements can be old ones from your own kitchen or from friends. Used plastic jars and pots are ideal for storing ‘ingredients’ like leaves, cones, and shells.

If you don’t have a garden, you can try your hand building your own play kitchen,  flip a cardboard box upside down and draw the kitchen onto it – it can be as detailed or as simple as you like. Old utensils, pots and pans will work for this one too, but instead of mud and sticks use dry ‘ingredients’. Some things that can work well include dry pasta and lentils.

Dressing up

Role play is good for developing children’s imagination, and developing their vocabulary and storytelling skills as they verbalise their play. Dressing-up clothes can encourage this, and give children lots of practise dressing and be undressing themselves.

Dressing-up clothes don’t need to be purpose made though. Rummage through your wardrobe and jewellery box and create a collection of unloved clothes and accessories – you could ask friends and families to do the same. Children can make their own jewellery too, by threading coloured penne pasta or cut up straws through a length of string.

Children enjoy dressing up just as ‘normal’ people like mums and dads, as well as make-believe characters. Take a look at our World Book Day costume ideas for some inspiration – you can make your own wings, aprons, bows, hats and more!


You can make a simple dollhouse using an old shoebox – you can combine boxes to make multiple rooms with a little glue or sellotape (I wish it was that easy to get an extension in real life!). 

Children can paint the walls or decorate them with paper and then they can use everyday objects to make their furniture; an empty lid can become a table or chair and a small box bed. Children can also use all sorts of toys from other play-sets, and they can make their own peg dolls to go inside it too.

Toy car racing track

Tracks can be built – and rebuilt – just by drawing them out on some paper or card. Thick cardboard can make a good ramp and if you’re feeling particularly crafty, you could have a go at building this fabulous toy garage. Alternatively, you can try your hand at building a toy garage out of a Pizza Box! Outdoors, you can draw the tracks on the pavement with chalk, or lay out some sticks to make the lanes.

Board games

Another great use for a cardboard box! Take a look at Hands on as we grow for step-by-step instructions for making your own board game. Simply draw your spaces on the board however you like, use some dice and figurines (or different coloured beads/buttons), and off you go.

Children will love not just making, but also getting to play their own game – leading to a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Board games themselves are brilliant entertainment for the whole family and a great way to teach children how to win and lose respectfully.

Painting stamps

Painting is a great way of letting children express themselves creatively. Using brushes is one technique they can use (which is great for developing their pincer grip), or they could finger paint, or they could use some stamps.

We are surrounded by objects that are perfect for stamping – you could use some vegetables for this activity, looking at how different ones make different shapes and patterns; or you could go for a walk and collect some leaves, pinecones, sticks and feathers (you could go on a scavenger hunt, with a list of items to look for). 

You could also make your own stamps using an old cork – pick some buttons with different textures and patterns, and glue each one on the end of the cork. Or, try glueing some string to a piece of rigid card – your child could come up their own designs. What different patterns can you create?

As well as homemade toys, second-hand toys are available from many charity shops, car boots, eBay, Facebook groups and more. You could also consider joining your local toy library, where you can borrow all sorts of toys for your child to play with!


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This post was written by Claire Gillies

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