Wooden toys are in fashion again, thanks to an awareness around sustainable living and the use of more natural materials in our lives. However they are often expensive and difficult to find.
I have a solution to this, and I thought that I would share my approach to making my own handmade toys from driftwood.
Often as I walk the beach I come across unusual pieces of driftwood that jump out at me because of their shape or colour. I can see the potential for them to be transformed into something unique and practical.
I wanted to share with you, some of the driftwood toys and resources that I have created from these little treasures, and demonstrate how anyone with a little imagination can do the same.
Collecting your driftwood
While you are out searching it’s best not to go out with a particular idea for a toy in your mind. Remain open to all possibilities.
- Look for solid flat, or unusual shapes.
- Sticks of a variety of size and thickness
- hollow logs
- pieces that resemble animals, birds fish
Make sure they are not water logged or you will have to store them for quite some time before they are dry enough to work with. Often this can take between three to six months. I don’t think you will be wanting to wait that long.
Check for old rusty nails or wire sticking out of the wood (you sometimes get this with old fence or boat timber)
Deciding what you will create:
You may already have several ideas and be inspired by the pieces you have found, but if you haven’t, spread out your treasures and see if you can visualize anything. You’d be amazed at what you can come up with.
Think about who you are creating something for and what they might like.
Take a look online and get some crafty ideas, there are many sites for this. Pinterest is a good one for these type of crafts.
Once you have decided what you are going to make, you will need to decide how you will put it together.
You may need to use nails or screws or just a very strong wood glue to hold your toy together.
I would suggest good preparation here, as it can be quite frustrating to be halfway through a project and find you are missing a key component.
Tools and Supplies
Find a clear space where you can spread everything out and be able to leave it safely if needed.
Some of the tools and supplies you may need:
- Sandpaper and sanding block,
- hammer and nails
- drill, hand or electric
- saw or jigsaw
- Strong wood glue
- furniture oil or laquer for finishing (or you may choose to leave it natural)
Now here is where you let your creative side out. Don’t worry if you can’t think of anything yet, browse some images online or wait until that perfect idea comes to you and you feel inspired.
A collection of ideas for inspiration
I have made musical instruments like shakers with bells on from wood with twists and knots in them and beautiful wood grains. These are very simple to make. Do make sure they are sanded back to prevent splinters in tiny hands.
They make wonderful gifts for infants too or an addition to a treasure basket. You can create your own styles depending on the pieces you have aquired.
What about a dollhouse and some furniture. You can even make little people from sticks with faces painted on them.Some of your smaller pieces and sticks come in handy here.
I also made one that children also use as a dinosaur cave and a garage. These are referred to as open-ended resources and can be used in different ways by adding a variety of materials alongside them to stimulate children’s imagination. One toy, many uses. This could keep them busy for hours indoors or outdoors.
- Truck: I recently found an old misshapen plank and immediately saw a potential truck. It has a unique rustic look to it and could be painted as well.
- Boat: Another piece had a kind of diamond shape and was flat and solid. It did take some time for an idea to come to me but eventually I was able to create a boat with again that old rustic look.
- I have several other projects underway, but one of the benefits as you can probably see in the images provided is that these toys are made to last. They won’t break easily and when they eventually do they can be fixed, by just replacing the wood with new pieces that are easy to access.
- turtles and lizards
If you manage to gather a collection of bits that resemble these types of wild life you could also create a treasure or story basket for children to explore. See if they see what you do or can guess what they are.
Another idea is to collect all the leftover smaller pieces that you have gathered and create a natural construction set from them. You can add shells, stones and pine cones if you like. this way there is little or no waste and more toys!
These are just a few ideas, and I could list them all day, but you are going to want to personalize your own.
The last step
So now it is time for you to get out there and start searching for some materials and those inspiring little treasures that will help you create something magical. It does not need to be driftwood that you decide to use.
I do because it it is freely available to me and in abundance. You may want to use branches or old fencing timber or something else along these lines. I guess that really depends on what is available to you. You may also choose to purchase your materials.
So happy hunting and creating your own toys. With Christmas not far away, you could save yourselves some money too.
Feel free to share your ideas and if you would enjoy seeing more posts like this please leave a comment below.