Difficulty Level: Easy Time to Completion: 30 minutes
Katie has arrived at the stage where she loves taking things out of other things. She empties drawers, cabinets, toy boxes, and baskets. If there is something in something else, she will take it out. Not to play with, just to take it out. This is a developmental stage. I remember Gabi going through something similar.
A fun way to encourage this is to make a Stuff Box. I call it a Stuff Box because you stuff things inside of it for your baby to take out. Later, when they move on to the putting things into things stage, the Stuff Box retains its ability to entertain. Also, it’s got stuff in it. All you need to make a Stuff Box is a box and stuff to stuff it with.
I’ve found that the best kind of box to use for this is an empty tissue box. Not the short ones with the huge openings. Those aren’t much fun to stick your hands in. You want to get one of the taller cube-shaped ones with the small opening.
What do you stuff in your stuff box? With Gabi, we stuffed it with old Mardi Gras beads. In retrospect, this was not the greatest choice. Aside from the fact that they were probably coated in layers of lead-based paint, they were a choking and strangulation hazard. It was always a little nerve wracking watching her play with them. We had to be careful not to let her chew them too enthusiastically or put them around her neck.
A far better choice is fabric! If you’re crafty, you may already have fabric scraps lying around. If not, head out to a fabric store! You can usually get small pieces, remnants, for 50% off or more.
No one wants to sit around hemming a bunch of fabric scraps, but there are a variety of fabrics that don’t need hemming. Select fabrics that won’t fray and will have interesting texture:
- Polar fleece
- Some knits
If you aren’t sure if a fabric will fray or not, you can kind of pick at the raw edges. If it doesn’t release a bunch of strings, you’re good to go! Dangly strings are a safety issue, so if you do find a really neat piece of fabric that you must have, but that will fray, plan to hem it with either a rolled hem or a simple zig-zag along the edges. If you don’t know what that means or you don’t have a sewing machine, just get pieces that don’t fray.
Stuff Box Instructions
You will need an empty tissue box and a colorful and textural selection of washed fabric scraps.
- Remove any leftover plastic (labels, around the opening, etc) from the tissue box for safety reasons.
- Cut your fabric into pieces about the size of your own hand. It was easiest for my to use my cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter to slice off 4 inch squares, but they don’t have to be even. You just don’t want long strips or small chokable pieces.
- If you wish, hem any pieces that need it.
- Stuff the pieces in the box.
- Give to baby and watch her explore!
Katie’s Stuff Box has several pieces of polar fleece, a weird knit fabric that I found with a wrinkly texture, flannel, a rough homespun-type fabric, netting leftover from a tutu, a quilted square (thanks Mom!), a piece of denim, some plain cotton fabric, and some seersucker.
As long as I’m willing to stuff the stuff back into her box each time she empties it, Katie will happily take that fabric out all evening. This toy buys me enough time, generally, to get food on the table.
I’m looking forward to when she reaches the putting things into things stage! Maybe then my house will look a little less like a disaster.
Does your baby have a favorite homemade toy that was easy to make? Share your ideas with our readers in the comments below!