101 Ways with a Theme: Make a toy!

I am soooooo excited about this new series, 101 ways with a theme. Whether it’s a main lesson block, a circle time theme, a literature-based theme, a particular season or holiday, or just something your little one is interested in, I’m going to share with you ideas to extend that theme with activities that are both meaningful and fun. They’re listed in no particular order, but I’ll include links as well as examples from our own family activities.

At any given time, we’re working with several themes around here. Right now, for example, it’s autumn. There’s a theme. And Halloween/All Saints Day is coming up, so that will be another theme. Daniel’s circle time theme is “Apple Picking” and next week we “say goodbye to the fairies and hello to the gnomies” (according to him, at least!) and we’re also talking about music in Nursery Rhyme Nursery School. We’re hitting on ancient Egypt in history and plants and flowers in science. All themes, all with a chance to extend them beyond just our regular schoolwork.

1. Make a toy.

This is one of our favorite ways to extend a theme or learn a lesson. The Toymaker is a great site with loads of free paper toys you can make. I found a whole page of Halloween toys here. I especially like the Magic Pumpkin!

Toymaking with Children by Freya Jaffe is a classic is Waldorf circles and really does have some cute ideas. I also like The Children’s Year for handmade toys.

Any toy catalog can be an inspiration for handmade toys. Two of my favorites are Magic Cabin and Hearthsong. A quick search using “autumn” on Hearthsong gave me several ideas, including cardstock leaves for to attach to a cardboard tree trunk or an autumn fairy fort. You can do the same with Etsy, although to be honest, more often than not I end up buying because it’s usually such a great deal and I love supporting WAHMs.

One of my favorite ways to look for any sort of idea is to do a google search and use “images”. What can I say, I’m right brained. Searching for apple toys, I found these little red apples that would be great in our play kitchen (I would fill ours with wool and use cotton fabric), a felt apple that looks a little more complex but still doable, wooden apple trees, and these little darlings. It says they’re coasters, but I think they would be fun flannelboard pieces, or maybe you could add a little magnet.  Hmmm… I bet these could also be a fun way to learn fractions.

Older children can get in on the fun as well. While they might fancy themselves too big to play with toys, they might enjoy making a toy as a gift for a younger brother or sister. Another idea might be to make a toy representational of a certain period or culture. This Egyptian shaduf reminds me of the little movement toys children find so fascinating, and this past week we made Egyptian paddle dolls from cardboard.

One thing I’ve been wanting to do to help us learn about the saints are make peg dolls. Like these or these or these, but really, really simple because I am Not Crafty. And rather than making it an alphabet project, I would like to start on All Saints Day and make them throughout the liturgical year. Guess I better pop over to Casey’s and order some peg dolls.

No matter what your theme is, toymaking is a fun way to explore an idea!