Looking for cheap ways to keep the kids occupied? Try making these homemade toys! Kids love them, they’re incredibly cheap to make – and even the process of making them will entertain your little ones.
The average parent apparently spends £461 on toys a year, according to insurance firm LV – and most of those probably end up unloved and unused. So why not try these old-school ideas below?
1. Make A Homemade Kite
It’s surprisingly simple to make a homemade toy kite – with nothing more than some string, some sticks, and a plastic bag. See how to make a homemade kite here.
2. Make A Homemade Marble Run (that runs and runs)
Got some old loo rolls knocking about? Don’t throw them away – use them to make a monster marble run! You can make it as big as you like (if you’ve got enough loo rolls, that is). Get the kids to help you plan out the design first. See how to make a homemade toy marble run here.
3. Make A Homemade Parachute
Bombs away! Turn dolls into action men by attaching them to a homemade plastic bag parachute, and drop them from the highest point you can find. They’re simple to make – in fact, why not make a few and create your own paratroop regiment? See how to make a homemade toy parachute here.
4. Make Your Own Playdough
Playdough is a brilliantly messy and creative toy – but you don’t need to buy it, it’s very easy to make your own. See how here.
5. Make Your Own Blackboard
Blackboards are a brilliant way for kids to express their creativity – and they can be used again and again. But you don’t need to buy an actual blackboard – you can easily make your own by buying some blackboard paint. Full-size tins of blackboard paint can cost between £5-£10, but you may be able to pick up some small sample pots for free. You can also use old picture frames to make quite smart homemade toy blackboards, as demonstrated here.
6. Make Your Own Lightsaber
Who hasn’t wanted their own lightsaber at some point? The Force will be with you if you follow these simple instructions – you just need a torch, some cellophane, some paper and sellotape. (Heavy Darth Vader breathing optional).
7. Make Your Own Minion
If you and your kids love Despicable Me, why not make you own loveable minion (or minions)? See how to make them here.
8. Make Your Own Puppet Theatre
If you’ve got a spare cardboard box, some giftwrapping tubes and some paper, you’re well on your way to making your own magical puppet theatre. Discover how to make a homemade puppet theatre here.
9. Make Your Own Magnetic Fishing Game
So simple, yet so addictive! Cut out your fish using paper, card or felt; attach metal studs to them; then make your fishing poles using sticks, string and mini magnets (get your magnets from old fridge magnets – or you can pick them up from Amazon and eBay). Get inspired by this family’s magnetic fishing expedition…
10. Make A Homemade Bow & Arrow
This is an old favourite – though you’re going to need some PVC piping and foam pipe cover to make it (if you don’t have these knocking around your attic, you’ll have to spend more than a pound I’m afraid – but it should still be cheap). Become a budding Robin Hood by following these instructions.
11. Make Your Own Teepee
Making your own teepee (perfect as a den!) is easy – plus you and the kids can have fun decorating it if you don’t mind sacrificing an old bedsheet. See how to make a homemade teepee here.
12. Make A Homemade Hot Air Balloon
This is a magical way to spend an hour or two. It’s pretty simple to make a tissue paper hot air balloon – which are more environmentally friendly than using plastic bags. (Obviously, this exercise requires adult supervision – be careful with candles, and launch your balloon in plenty of space – away from people, trees and power lines). Alternatively, you can make a hot air balloon using helium balloons.
Photo: bkids.typepad.com/Helen Bird
13. Make A Homemade Pirate Treasure Trail & Map
Avast, landlubbers! Tis easy to create ye own pirate treasure trail and map. Uncover the truth here. Aaarrrrrr!
14. Go Plastic Bottle Bowling
Going bowling is great fun, but it’s also expensive (plus you have to wear those stupid shoes). So why not make your own indoor bowling kit? It’s easy (you just need some bottles and a cheap ball) and it’ll keep the kids occupied for hours.
Photo: Jill Dubien
15. Make A Homemade Race Track
Brrrm brrrm! Create your own toy racetrack with nothing more than a bit of masking tape. Such a simple yet fun idea – the kids can get really creative designing their own tracks.
16. Try A Bit Of Target Practice
Chalk a series of circles on the ground, each one a ‘target’. The circles nearest to you have lower points, while the ‘bullseye’ circle right in the middle has the highest number of points. The aim is to throw as many balls/hacky sack beanbags/water balloons into the high scoring circles as you can.
17. Bulk Up With Homemade Sumo Suits
Take some spare pillows and a couple of old t-shirts, and you can create homemade sumo wrestler suits. Kids can sumo wrestle to burn off all that excess energy – may the best sumo win! (This is obviously an activity you’ll want to supervise, so things don’t get out of hand…)
18. Create A Stained Glass Window At Home
This is a great project for a rainy day. Create your own stained glass window with contact paper and coloured tissue. Then when the sun shines the kids can admire their handiwork.
19. Set Sail With A Wine Cork Boat Race
Make use of those old wine corks by making wine cork boats! It’s easy to do, and you can have lots of fun racing them on rivers and streams.
20. Make A Paddle-Powered Boat
To continue the nautical theme, you and the kids can also make your own wind-up powered paddle boat with an orange juice carton, rubber band, and a plastic bag. See how to float your boat here.
21. Go Geocaching
Ok, this isn’t a homemade toy as such – but it is massively fun. Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunt, where you use a GPS device (like a smartphone) to find ‘treasure’. There are thousands of ‘geocaches’ across the UK. Learn how it works and find geocaches near you.
More Ideas For Half Term Fun On A Budget
If you’re after more ideas for things to do this half term, make sure you also check out:
- Half term days out – from Madame Tussauds to Edinburgh Zoo, we’ve rounded up some BIG online discounts on kids’ days out.
- Free (or very cheap) things you can do with the kids this half term – from free football lessons to £1 cinema tickets, we’ve got it covered