What Can You Do With Ribbon, Marbles, Golf Tees and Pom Poms? We Have Some Ideas for YOU!


Going into homes to serve children can be tricky when it comes to engaging them.  Therapists can be tempted to take in their own toys because the child will quickly join in the fun when a new toy is presented.  But we certainly don’t want parents to feel pressure to purchase the toys we bring into the homes.  Contrary to popular belief there is no magic in our toys!  So it is often best practice to play with what is available in the home and sometimes that is very little.  It can be heartbreaking to be in homes with not even a single book or stuffed animal.  Until I worked as an EI therapist I thought EVERY child owned at least one of each of those.  So in order to help these children have access to developmentally appropriate toys we often help families create toys out of everyday items that can be found in their homes.  At the request of another early intervention therapist we are posting this blog with photos of a few homemade treasures you can share with the families your serve or your own family at home!  I think creating homemade toys is a great way to engage children and their imagination and drives home to parents that it is not the toy that matters but the “PLAYING” with it that does!  We hope you find an idea here you like but if not be sure to visit our Pinterest DIY PLAY board for more ideas.  And certainly refer to 1-2-3 Just Play With Me for more fun PLAY at home ideas paired with developmental milestones for kids ages birth to three.  PLAY BUILDS BRAINS people!  Spread the news!



Create crazy creatures with plastic golf balls and pipe cleaners


Putting pom poms into a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off or a paper towel roll tube. Then pull up the bottle/tube for an explosion of pom poms! The mirror adds an element of interest as the little one can watch what they are doing.


Use a lidded plastic container and a few ribbons. Have the child pull the ribbons through the lid.


Color matching with play-doh and colored Q-tips.


Fine motor work with golf tees and marbles. To add more difficulty have the child use tweezers to place the marbles.


Make a Munchy ball by cutting a slit in a tennis ball. This could be used as a reinforcer as well as work on fine motor strength.

Rethinking & Repurposing: Ways to Entertain (and Contain) the Kids

So recently I’ve noticed a big push for repurposing things.  No, I haven’t been living under a rock for the past 8 years…just a little busy with some other things I prioritize above craftiness and “green” living.  So maybe this push has been around for a while, but I’m just now getting the motivation to make the move!  Anyway, in an effort to be more “green” and “crafty” I decided to create some toys for my kids and some toy containers by repurposing some household items.  With the help of my way more creative, crafty and green friends and Pinterest, I have done just that.


My first creation is a shape sorter.  Sure there is only one shape to sort, but my 19-month old loves this game.  She will sit for quite some time slipping the lids into the hole and then requesting I open it again so she can get sorting some more.  A great way to model some verbal (“oh” for open) or nonverbal (sign ‘open’ or ‘please’) communication for her to imitate to have her request met.

juice lids


Blocks!  These blocks are made from pushing one empty milk/juice ½ gallon carton inside another.  They are amazingly sturdy and build one heck of a fort, car, boat or _____.  Let your kids fill in the blank!  While building my little one practices saying, “up, up, up” as we build the wall up and “more” or “again” to have it built up again.  My older one just gets some exercise and works on his fine motor (and gross motor) skills all while having some fun!



Containers, containers, containers!  I love repurposing plastic lidded containers to contain all the little, tiny things that need harnessed out of baby girl’s reach.  Most recently LEGOS have entered our house and believe me, they need to be hidden under a lid, or better yet behind a closed door to contain the chaos!  But because I don’t have an extra room to dedicate to just LEGOS we are storing them up in these old popcorn buckets for now.  We have also repurposed a marshmallow fluff and Crystal Light container to hold colored pencils, paintbrushes and markers up out of baby girl’s reach too!



GIANT plastic containers…leftover from cheese balls, animal crackers, pretzels, etc.  The Hot Wheels…*ouch*…the darn Hot Wheels!  I was tired of stepping on them so I contained them!  Once again I figured out a way to harness the fun of these metal/ plastic wheels by giving them a home up on the shelf and off the carpet.  Big O does a pretty good job of keeping them picked up when he’s not playing with them.  My feet thank him!



And through the years we have saved old food containers to mimic the real thing in the kids’ play kitchen.  They love “pouring” cereal from a real miniature box or “squirting” soap in the sink from an old soap container.  Kids want their kitchen to be as much like mom and dad’s as possible, this helps them get there and bolsters their imaginative play even more.


So if I can do it, you can do it!  And be sure to check out our Pinterest board “DIY Play” for more do it yourself toys.  I’ll be the first to admit that creative, out-of-the-box thinking is not a gift of mine….but even I, non-crafty mom, have figured out a few easy ways to keep play simple, fun and GREEN!