Creative Toys – Forget Toys R Us, Go Toy Shopping at the Hardware Store

Summary: Kids have no idea of what a “proper” toy is. That’s an adult concept. If it’s fun, that’s all that matters.

Big washers and wooden drawer knobs make for great durable toys.

Big washers and wooden drawer knobs make for great durable toys.

From a very young age my daughter loved metal objects and gadgets. She would routinely ignore her fluffy stuffed animals and go for anything hard and shiny. So I figured, let’s go get some stuff at the hardware store, they have lots of hard, shiny things.

Our first stop was Orchard Supply. I push her stroller down the isles. She’s too young to talk well so I pay close attention to what catches her eye. If she zeros in on something, I grab it and hold it up. If she turns away, it goes back on the shelf. If she looks at it, or reaches for it, it goes on the short list. But first, we need to test it. The test is simple; if it can fit in her mouth, it’s a no-go. If it doesn’t fit in her mouth, I put it on her stroller tray and see what she does with it. If she plays with it, I ask her if she wants me to get it. As I noted earlier, she couldn’t really talk much at the time, so I looked for a nod or a sparkle in her eye.

The list of winners that day included huge metal washers and wooden cabinet knobs. The washers make a wonderful sound when they clank together and they have a nice heavy feel. They are also fun to stack and sort which is one of the earliest activities toddlers do to make sense of their world. The wooden knobs are nice to chew on a provide and nice textural contrast to the washers.

Turns out they were a huge success. She’s been playing with her jar of washers and knobs for years. She’s six now and still uses them. We also added some magnets and marbles to the kit when she got older and could trust her with little objects.

My daughter's project supply drawer

My daughter's project supply drawer

As she got older we bought other “toys” such as fuzzy yellow paint rollers, sponges, string and various types of tape. Recently I bought a portable office organizer and I dedicated the top drawer to her supplies. When ever she gets the urge to create she runs right to the drawer.

Kids love paint rollers. Give then a bucket of water and they can “paint” all day without destroying anything. Tape and string  are open ended. They can be anything you want. Tape can be used to mark out a game board on the carpet or to assemble a cardboard costume. String can be spiderwebs, a decoration or a device to hang things with. Ace bandages are great for costumes, simulated injuries and for playing doctor. Same with athletic tape.

My daughter gets maximum enjoyment out of her rolls of tape. She uses them on her haunted houses, she hangs poster, builds games on the living room carpet, assembles costumes, decorates her clothes and body, makes bandages on her dolls, and incorporates it in her art projects. It’s totally safe and when you buy in bulk it’s really cheap for the amount of use and enjoyment it provides.

Inspired by the MTV True Life Episode "I'm a Sumu Wrestler" my daughter creates a dohyō and an improvised kesho-mawashi (the funny diaper belt thing they wear) She's a natural wrestler, strong as hell, and gave me some serious competition.

Inspired by the MTV True Life Episode "I'm a Sumu Wrestler" my daughter creates a dohyō and an improvised kesho-mawashi (the funny diaper belt thing they wear) She's a natural wrestler, strong as hell, and gave me some serious competition.

That’s it for now.

File Under: Homemade Toys – Kid Fun With Common Offices Supplies – Build Your Own Toys – Unusual Toys -Fun With Office Supplies and Hardware Store Items


2 Responses to “Creative Toys – Forget Toys R Us, Go Toy Shopping at the Hardware Store”

  • Tom J. Says:

    Greetings:
    Just came across SDD here during lunch hour, which has consequently become the longest lunch hour of the week. I’ve only read a few posts, and am digging it.
    What I have read has been sensible and inspiring. Makes me want to likewise “go on an adventure” each Saturday morning with our 2 yr old daughter (maybe to Home Depot to pick up washers and other stackable, durable “toys”?)
    By the way, the post about Choreplay should be mandatory reading for any married male. It seems to be a law of nature, and I’m learning to master it. As one of your readers and you yourself pointed out (as advice to the frustrated), the key is to keep her pleasantly surprised, neither by conditioning her to expect you to be superdad, nor by reminding her that you’re deserving. Just do your heart tells you is right, try to experience pleasure in every aspect of household duties, and her physical need for you will mutliply.
    .-= Tom J.´s lastest blog ..Dr. Pearl =-.

    [Reply]

    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    Thanks Tom. You just made my day. That and the killer waves I just got at lunch.

    [Reply]

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