10 Toys Made From Upcycled Items

Designed to spark the imagination, these DIY kids' toys can be made in an afternoon with items you probably already have around the house.

Photo By: Emily Fazio

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Photo By: Emily Fazio

Photo By: Cassidy Garcia

Photo By: Emily Fazio

Photo By: Emily Fazio ©2016

Photo By: Emily Fazio

Photo By: Emily Fazio

Photo By: Emily Fazio

Photo By: Joanne Palmisano & Susan Teare

Craft a Shoebox Guitar

All you’ll need to create a totally toddler-friendly guitar is a paper-wrapped shoebox with a hole cut in the top and front. Attach big rubber bands over the hole, demonstrate for your kid how to hold and strum the instrument, and sit back and enjoy the show. Plink-plink-plink!

Watch the Video: 5 DIY Shoebox Toys

Make a Pool Noodle Bowling Alley

Set up a kid-friendly bowling alley indoors or out to grant hours of easy entertainment. Pool noodles create the “bumpers” that surround a thin yoga mat, and recycled potato chip canisters are wrapped and labeled as bowling pins.

Get the How-To: Turn Pool Noodles Into a Backyard Bowling Alley for Kids

Create a Tiny, Self-Contained Play Scene

A small mint tin is a perfect base for a miniature, self-contained toy world. On the inside of the tin, line both surfaces with a scene, whether it’s hand-drawn or a picture you found in a magazine. Find other graphics that can be glued to magnets, and let your kids tell their own stories within this moveable fairy tale. (This is perfect for car trips!)

Watch the Video: Mint Tin Travel Games

Upcycle a Tablecloth Into a Playhouse

Make your own no-sew canopy that transforms your dining room table into the perfect indoor playhouse. An old, large tablecloth and hook-and-loop adhesive tape make it easy to bring your vision to life. Use old cloth napkins or other fabric scraps to add curtains and doorway accents.

Get the How-To: How to Make a No-Sew Tablecloth Playhouse

Cook Up a Toy Pizza Oven

Sure, we have a store-bought toy kitchen complete with a microwave, toaster and fridge, but you wouldn’t believe how many paper pizzas I’ve been served since I introduced this cardboard box pizza oven into our home. Refinished with spray paint and a couple of painted knobs (which are actually just hole saw scraps connected with a bolt), the oven itself is a simple design. Trim another piece of cardboard to mimic a pizza peel, and paint a few round pies to get the pizza shop up and running. Sit back and get ready to play the role of very happy customer.

Leave Tracks With DIY Animal Footprints

Help your little birdies make their own wandering tracks through the beach sand to mimic the wildlife they observe. Footprint “stamps” are made by affixing pieces of old, trimmed flip flops to lightweight plywood, and a total joy for young kids to play with during beach adventures.

Get the How-To: Make Animal Footprints for Kids’ Playtime in the Sand

Upcycle Clothespins Into Tiny Toy Cars

Paint old, broken clothespins to mimic tiny race cars, complete with wheels made of buttons, beads, washers or whatever little bits you have at your disposal. Set up the cars on the track – or use tape on the floor to create your own roadway – and take them for a spin.

Use Cardboard to Create a Doorway Castle

Save the cardboard from your next appliance purchase, and make a doorway castle for your kids on a rainy day. Keep it temporary by cutting the width to be 1/4” wider than the doorway so that it wedges firmly into position, and use tape to attach cloth napkins to simulate a doorway. Find all of the toy horses and the princess garb, and let imaginations soar.

Assemble a Clever Hidden Object Game

This is truly a perfect road trip game. Choose a variety of tiny objects and take a photo of them all laying out on a table so you remember all of the pieces. Fill an old, clean, plastic container 2/3 with rice, and then add in the objects. Seal the bottle, give it a shake and let your kids revel in the challenge of spotting all of the objects that are hidden in the rice. Make it more challenging by creating two identical games, so kids can race each other through this micro scavenger hunt.

Get the How-To: Road Trip Game: Search and Find Jar for Kids

Upcycle Cabinetry to Make a Custom Kid-Sized Workbench

Foster the minds of young builders with a custom workbench that’s just for them. Nearly any type of cabinet, bedside table or old shelf will work as a base. From there, choose special details that’ll make the unit purposeful, such as a pegboard backsplash, smooth rolling casters for ease of moving it about the “shop,” and a reclaimed plywood work surface.

Get the How-To: How to Turn Old Furniture Into a Kids' Toy Workbench

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