I decided I'd make two activities for the kids that would double as toys for Ashlynn long after the party ended. I will fully disclose now that his is a pretty poor How To post since I neglected to take pictures of the before and early during stages. Apologies for that one!
I first decided instead of a "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" type game, I'd make a felt board. This would allow the kids to move around the felt pieces and stick them to the board. No turns needed or right vs. wrong area of where to put them.
It's also now is a great quiet play option for Ashlynn in the mornings or when I'm trying to cook dinner (usually when she's requesting TV, so any activity that can keep the mindless color box off is a win over here).
I went with a Under the Sea theme to go with our party and because Ashlynn still loves Nemo, Dori, and Ariel. I used cheap Eco Felt from the craft store that I had in my craft room and just cut out my shapes for fish, seaweed, starfish, and a treasure chest. I sewed most of the fish stripes on directly since I'm usually a little messy with a hot glue gun, and the pieces were so narrow. I bought stick-on googlely eyes (proper term) and two large pieces of felt from Jo Anns. I did order two mermaids and starfish on Etsy, they are so cute I couldn't pass it up.
For the board I repurposed an old print, Starry Night, my mom had framed for me back in High School. It was super lightweight, just a plain white plastic frame with a piece of plexiglass covering the print. Not sure how the thing managed to follow me around through college and thereafter, but it was laying in storage and I knew I would never hang it. I had the blue and oatmeal (ocean and sand) felt cut to the height I wanted (24" for the blue and 12" for the tan) since the bolts width were more than enough to cover the width of the frame.
I stretched it around and secured the felt to the back of the frame using hot glue and also glued the sand to the ocean so the loose pieces wouldn't fall between the two. You could easily get a board of plywood and cover it the same and attach a sawtooth picture hanger to hang.
I hung the board in our playroom using 3M Velcro Strips at the top and bottom of the sides. Even if Ashlynn did have the strength (and wingspan) to pull it from the wall, it's so lightweight and glass free she wouldn't get hurt.
I hope when I get some time to make some new fish or pieces with letters or numbers on them to use as a teaching tool. It's not Ashlynn's favorite toy in the world, but something new and I hope as she starts to use her imagination more we find new ways to incorporate it into play.
Next, I decided to make a little bean bag toss. Again, I know the kids weren't going to team up for a marathon game of cornhole like their dads, but just tossing around the bags or dropping them through the holes might be entertaining and fun - toddlers always enjoy the simplest of tasks.
I made six bean bags using scrap fabrics in the teal and light blue colors. I cut 5x5 squares and sewed right sides together leaving a one inch hole at the top to turn inside out and then fill with beans. I used dried Great Northern (white) beans to fill them. I then stitched the hole closed and went around the whole perimeter to finish it and add a little extra security from the bag ripping open and beans flying everywhere.
I bought a posterboard sized piece of foam board for less than a dollar at the grocery store and traced some bowls for the holes. I used a box cutter (carefully!) to cut out the holes and then painted the board and added some 3rd grade effort construction paper fish and sea life using modge podge.
To keep it standing, I attached it to an empty diaper box using spray adhesive that would also double to collect the bags. This was not the prettiest project I ever made, but it was a really quick project that, again, was virtually free.
Ashlynn loves playing with the bean bags. We try to toss them on to random objects placed on the floor and I use them for spatial reference teaching (under the table, on top of the kitchen, behind the school bus, etc). Sometimes the simple homemade games are just as fun as the expensive trendy toys!
Have you made any homemade games? Please share in the comments!