Banish Summertime Blahs With Homemade Toys

One might be a little noisy, another might be a little messy, but all of these homemade toys have one thing in common: they're fun!

| July/August 1980

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    Take a couple industrial-sized tin cans with one end removed, a can opener (to punch a couple holes at the closed end), and a couple pieces of rope and you have can have yourself a pair of tin can stilts.
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    If you're handy with a saw and tape measure, your homemade toys could be a set of wooden blocks.
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    Instead of modeling clay, make your own modeling dough with flour, salt, and water.
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    Two variations on a theme: Can you swing all the rings out into the air and catch them on the stick? Can you catch the puff ball in the plastic jug? 
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    Old denim, buttons, string, a broom handle, and rags or other material for stuffing can become a hobby horse.

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Here are four ideas for homemade toys you can put together yourself with a little manual dexterity and a minimal investment in materials. 

"Yipee-I'm Bigger-Than-You-Are" Tin Can Stilts

They're a little noisy, maybe ... but these down home walkers will occupy children for hours at a time. To make them, you'll need a couple of large vegetable or juice cans. (The institutional-sized metal containers are best ... you might be able to find some free-for-the-taking leftovers at a local restaurant.) Cut one end completely out of each can and leave the other intact. Then using a large can opener or a screwdriver punch two holes (opposite each other) in the sides of the container, at its closed end.

You can then make simple handles for the stilts, using two pieces of rope, each of which should measure about four feet long (the length will vary, depending on your child's height). Thread each line through the holes in the can, tie its ends together in a loose knot, and see whether your young "skywalker" is able to grasp the ropes while standing up straight on top of the cans. When the length is right, just tighten the knots, and presto, you have a custom made pair of stilts.

An Indian Game

This traditional native American toy is easy to make ... and it's bound to have everyone in the family trying his or her luck at it.

You'll need a straight stick (about one foot long), a four foot length of heavy twine, and seven large rings. (You can make the hoops—which would measure about three inches in diameter—by bending thin rawhide strips or pliable tree branches into circles, and tying each one up with string ... or you might want to use canning jar rings and open metal screw lids to save time.) Secure one end of the string to the stick near its tip and then thread six of the rings onto the cord. The seventh hoop should be fastened to the end of the line ... so it will keep the other rings from sliding off.

The object of the game is to swing the string out and cause the hoops to fall onto the upright stick. Allow each person two or three tries ... and the winner will be the one who scores the most "dead ringers." Sounds simple, huh? Well, just wait till you try it!

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