Six Great Toys Made from Repurposed Items

I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly look for something for my kids to do. And what happens without fail every time I spend money on a craft item or game? It gets broken or the pieces get lost, and I’m left feeling like maybe that ten bucks wasn’t quite worth the five minutes of play time. First world problem at its finest, I’m sure.

If I’m one thing, however, it’s stubborn. So I began my quest to find a project that actually occupied my kids. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a few tricks that not only captured my kids’ attention for longer than a few minutes, but also cost me absolutely nothing. Did I mention that all of my discoveries  functional and environmentally friendly too? Without further adieu, I present my finds.

1. Water Balloon Catcher

While this particular game isn’t exactly winter-friendly, everyone loves water balloons in the summer. This game adds another dimension to the fun by making it more than just a chaos infused water balloon fight.

First, Grab an empty milk jug and cut out the bottom. Next, line the edges with duct tape to make them smooth. You can then use these jugs to toss and catch water balloons back and forth, increasing the distance between yourself and your partner with each toss. When this gets old, there’s always the traditional water balloon option.

2. Milk Jug Igloo

What’s that you ask? Put simply, a milk jug igloo is much like a fort but without the sheets and overturned furniture or bulky store-bought playhouse. Instead, this is built from repurposed recyclables. Since milk jugs are typically white, it’s an igloo. Plus, calling it an “igloo” makes it sound more exciting to the kids. Or maybe that was just my experience.

Get extended life with this project through creativity. Paint your jugs, decorate them, and once you’re done with your fort all involved can let out any excess energy with some good old fashioned fort smashing. It’s multipurpose functionality at its best.

3. Cornhole Box

Cornhole is awesome. Truth be told, it’s one of my favorite outdoor activities and the kids love it. Since I love it, I already have my own board and equipment, but when I found out the kids could easily make and customize their own using a cardboard box I couldn’t wait to give it a go.

Simply take a carboard box and cut a circular hole through one side (a bigger box and a bigger hole are recommended for younger players to make it easier). Next grab some old socks, fill with dried beans and tie a knot in them to make bean bags.

Decorate the boxes with paint, colored tape…whatever you desire, and you have your own homemade bean bag toss! Yes, there are official cornhole rules, but I like to throw caution to the wind and let the kids create their own for longevity.

4. Bubble Maker

My kids love bubbles. The love blowing them, popping them, and chasing them. Their affinity for bubbles most recently resulted in tiny plastic bubble blowers from my in-laws. These plastic contraptions required batteries and managed to work for all of 5 minutes before dying. Cue the waterworks. With a little online digging, I discovered that a 20 ounce plastic bottle and an old piece of cloth is all that is required to make your own.

Simply cut out bottom of the bottle, place the cloth over the hole, trace a line on the cloth about an inch above the hole, and cut out the circular piece of cloth you’ve traced. Finally, secure the cloth in place with a rubber band and fill the bottle with a mixture of biodegradable dish soap and water (roughly two parts soap to one part water). By blowing through the top of the bottle you can create an amazing, wiggly soap snake! No batteries, no plastic, and no tears.

5. Plastic Bottle Bowling Set

We all have those days where motivation is non-existent. If you’re looking for something easy that requires almost no effort, look no further. With just a few old two-liter soda bottles the kids can have their own home bowling alley.

Collect ten similarly-shaped plastic bottles and grab a ball. If you’re feeling festive, have the kids paint the bottles in an array of fun, bright colors. Once the bottles are dry just set them up, grab a ball and go bowling.

6. Shoebox Guitar

A classic, easy DIY toy is the shoebox guitar. For this you’ll need a shoebox, a paper towel roll, four popsicle sticks, four to six rubber bands and some glue.

First cut a hole in the middle of the shoebox lid, roughly three or four inches in diameter. Next, glue the popsicle sticks together, one directly on top of the other, and then glue the stack of popsicle sticks onto the shoebox just beside the hole you’ve cut out (this will serve as the bridge of the guitar).

After you’ve done this, stretch the rubber bands lengthwise across the box so that they are perpendicular to the stack of popsicle sticks. All that’s left is to glue the paper towel roll onto the side of the box opposite the popsicle sticks, and your guitar is ready to jam.

Hopefully you can benefit from one or all of these discoveries. Just remember: Before you throw something out, take a second look – you might unlock a world of creative possibilities. At the very least, you might find a way to keep your kids entertained without spending a dime. 


The Beginning
About Jules

A mom of three with a little sass and a lot of character, possibly attributed to borderline insanity. Constantly chasing the myth of adulthood.


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  1. Tanya says:

    Great ideas. Do you have pictures you could add to this post? I’ve never heard of Cornhole but it sounds fun!

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