Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Making Memories with Homemade Toys

Several years ago, while reading Edith Schaeffer's book The Hidden Art of Homemaking, I was inspired to create some beautiful, simple, inexpensive toys for my children that would last a lifetime. I wanted to begin with a rocking horse for my two toddlers. My husband and I visited several toy stores looking for ideas from other rocking horses. The high-quality wood horses were incredibly expensive. This irritated him and consequently, fueled the fire in him to make his own! I was thrilled.

He not only designed a rocking horse, but decided that this particular one would also be able to glide while rocking. He insisted upon putting it together without any metal screws, but instead, by making wooden pegs. My husband, by the way, is not a carpenter and never attempted anything like this before but he did a great job. We had a wonderful time making it together. I designed the head and painted it. Then I added a mane by tearing out the fur hood from an old jacket and hot glued it to the headpiece. I used scrap leather for the bridle and yarn for the tail. I also added leather ears.

The children have enjoyed this toy for eleven years now. When we moved across the world we managed to take it apart and bring it to Turkey with us in a large suitcase. After the seventh year, it needed a new paint job, so our beautiful Palomino became an Indian paint horse with a yarn mane. It still sits in the children's bedroom and continues to endure abuse from rough, although well-intentioned cowboys and Indians. The tail is missing and the ears are drooping, but it is still beautiful enough to hold a place of honor in our home.

A few years later, I convinced DH to help me make a wooden doll house for our three little girls. This one took more persuasion on my part because we were now living in a high-rise apartment in Turkey with only a tiny balcony and basically NO tools.

Again, he designed and built it, but this time with some 'ho hums' and frustrated muttering. "If I only had the right tools!" But it was so pretty when finished and he was glad he took the time and trouble. I painted and decorated it with wallpaper, made little curtains from fabric scraps and pipe cleaner and used magazine pictures to place in the windows for outdoor scenes. Later, Grandma sent some wooden furniture for the rooms. Now it houses Playmobil people and accessories and is not only a beautiful addition to our home but has provided many hours of enjoyment for the children and their visiting friends. It shows no signs of falling apart and I expect it to last a good many more years.

I think these are great handicraft ideas for the whole family. Thank you, Mrs. Schaeffer. Children can help plan, paint and decorate along with Mom and Dad. You can find more ideas at Angry Chicken and from my handicraft section.
added *The toymaking fair is new to me. There are some wonderful posts over there as well. Just click on the picture at the top of this post.

one step at a time...


  1. I just linked this post in the toymaking fair :)

    What a wonderful job!

  2. Beautiful work! We have an old dollhouse sitting on our porch that I'm now inspired to "remodel" into something beautiful! And I love the tree blocks. Those are so unique.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Oh, Lindafay, these toys are beautiful. I can't imagine what your husband could do if he had the right tools. :)


  4. The toys are lovely. And the book is one of my favorites as well. Mrs. Schaeffer has influenced so many with that book.

  5. Ah, Mrs, you always post the most loveliest things! I love the pictures. Such lovely toys that your children will treasure forever!

    ANd, I hope I have not offended you in anyway - about the banner. If I did, please, accept my sincerest apology! ; )

    You're all very special to me!

    Love you!

  6. Wow! These are real family treasures!

  7. Beautiful. Aren't her books inspiring? My brother and I, then his two children [no in their 20s] and soon my own will be playing with the doll house my grandfather built for me. Such great toys--your kids are blessed.

  8. Wow, the horse and doll house are beautiful!! Thanks for sharing the pictures with us!!

  9. I love Edith Schaeffer! I have read that book! Many years ago. I also enjoyed what is a family.....

    The rocking horse and doll house are precious! My usband also made our children each a toy. The oldest 2 have sleds and the youngest has a rocking horse.

    Thanks for sharing. Lisa~

  10. Thanks for your comment on my blog! Your toys are beautiful! My husband made my daughter a dollhouse too! He makes my son toy guns and sheilds to play army and cowboy and indians! (he thought that was him in the your picture ont he horse! lol)

  11. I played with Playmobil people nearly all the time when I was younger! I loved them!
    Beautiful doll house!

  12. I love homemade toys! I went to Etsy (via link through your site) and am ordering my daughter a handmade doll instead of a cabbagepatch kid doll--thanks for the inspiration! Especially with the toy recall, and the fact that 80% of our current toys come from China, I feel so much better about giving my $$ to someone in Ohio! Plus, my daughter will get to have a truly unique playmate. :) My husband and I have always made toys for the kids' birthdays, but it was inadvertant--we just had ideas that we ran with! My son is very into Thomas Trains (plastic, not wood), and instead of spending hundreds of dollars, we made him his own wooden table and tracks set, and painted it to look like a forest scene, glued trees, animals, painted a pond, etc. It was so much fun! In fact, we've repainted it and added things to it for subsequent birthdays--this year will be the third! He spends hours on it. My daughter really loved playing with those pretend kitchen sets at other peoples' houses; so we made one out of plywood; I painted it pink, painted some burners, added matching curtains and an apron (that I sewed), and bought real utensils from the dollar store. She loved it! This year, we are making another set of table tracks for my son and a doll house castle for my daughter. If you have any ideas for how to make doll-house furniture for size 10" dolls, I'd love the help!
    YOUR SITE IS FANTASTIC, I come here a lot! Thank-you!

  13. Oh, I'd love to see some of your projects, Lisa and Marla. Such great ideas!

  14. Wonderful handicrafts!
    I love the idea of getting away from store bought gifts.