Although stores offer a multitude of toys, you can create kits and playthings that provide enjoyment and encourage your child to be creative.
The following are suggestions for games, toys, and gifts for twoto five-year-olds. The kits take time to assemble, but probably no more time than searching stores for the “right” toy. And your child will have fun helping you put these playthings together and decorating storage boxes with crayons or contact paper. Choose materials that are appropriate for your child’s age and supervise as he plays.
In a plastic or cardboard shoe box, place any of the following supplies: colored pencils, magic markers, crayons, chalk, yarn, string, pipe cleaners, watercolor paints with brushes, small sheets of paper, a small canvas, glue, tape, tissue paper, felt, scraps of fabric, a ruler, old greeting cards, Popsicle sticks, strips of cardboard or balsa wood, scissors, and a hole puncher.
In a large plastic or cardboard file box place any of the following: a calculator, a clipboard, a clock, an old cell phone, a toy computer, a loose-leaf binder with paper, stationery, a calendar, 3×5 index cards, Post-it notes, folders, pencils and pens, envelopes, paper clips, an eraser, stickers, stamps and a stamp pad, and rubber bands.
For three-year-olds and up, make a kit including basic tools, measuring tape, sandpaper, wood pieces, and Styrofoam pieces. Use toy tools for the youngest children. Older children can use real tools under your close supervision.
To make your own play dough, use the following ingredients: one cup of flour, one-half cup of salt, two teaspoons of cream of tartar, one cup of water, two tablespoons of oil, and one tablespoon of food coloring (optional). Combine the first three ingredients in a large saucepan. Gradually stir in the water mixed with the oil and food coloring. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until a ball forms. Remove the dough from the heat and knead it until it is smooth. The dough can be stored in plastic bags or containers, and put in a kit with a rolling pin, small cups, an empty egg carton, empty thread spools, plastic knives, or other objects that would be fun to use with play dough.
In a cardboard box or a lunch box, place cardboard, poster board, large plain file cards, a hole puncher, string, buttons, a plastic needlepoint needle, yarn, burlap, and scissors.
Forest Ranger or Camper Kit
In a knapsack or cardboard box, store a canteen, a flashlight, a compass, nature books, binoculars, a whistle, a walkie-talkie (pretend or real), a disposable camera, a water bottle, a magnifying glass, a hat, and boots.
Hair Salon Supplies
In a large box put a mirror, curlers, hair pins, a blow-dryer (toy or real with the cord cut off), combs, brushes, small towels, magazines, empty plastic shampoo bottles, emery boards, toy nail polish, play makeup, jewelry, a pencil, paper, play money, and an appointment book.
You can use a plastic bucket to store a hat (which you may find for free at a paint supply store), different-sized brushes, a paint roller, an old sheet for a drop cloth, a rag, and sandpaper. Your child can paint outdoors with water.
Fire Fighter’s Equipment
This kit, which can be stored in a big cardboard box, can include a fire hat, a raincoat, boots, an old cut piece of garden hose, a pretend (or real) walkie-talkie, goggles, and gloves.
In a plastic box, place cotton balls, a play thermometer, empty pill bottles, labels, paper, pens, an old white shirt, bandages, Band-Aids, plastic syringes, and a toy stethoscope. You can get some of these from your pediatrician.
Sets like these can also be made for police officers, scientists, nurses, shoe salespersons, grocers, astronauts, magicians, and waiters/waitresses. You can vary the contents as your child grows and changes.