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I am always on the lookout for things I can repurpose and use to create new thrifty toys for Gv (see posts here, here, and here for more ideas), but usually I find my supplies from stuff already lying around the house. But last fall I came across an idea that used pool noodles to practice patterning and fine motor skills and the idea stuck.
I couldn't remember where I'd seen it or the details behind making it, but I knew it wasn't a complicated idea and I'd be able to figure it all out when the dollar store started stocking pool noodles again in the spring.
To start with, I bought 3 different‐colored pool noodles and a 10‐pack of Wiffle golf balls from the dollar store. I used a shoelace that I'd already had around the house, although it had originally come in an 8‐pack from the dollar store.
I knew I wanted to go ahead and make a few extras of this toy to have on hand for birthday gifts (like these and these), and I was able to make 4 sets total from that one collection of supplies.
For each set, I cut 4 rings out of each color of pool noodle in both 1" and 2" widths. I used a plain old bread knife to cut them, which worked great. Next, I threaded a Wiffle ball with a shoelace and tied a knot (really several knots, one on top of the other) on either side. I tucked the stub of the shoelace on the knot end back through its hole, just to keep it from flopping around and being all pokey:
That was the hard part (and it wasn't hard, at all!) because all that was left was to thread the noodle pieces onto the shoelace. I went with an ABC pattern, alternating the wide and narrow pieces:
I'd cut both wide and narrow pieces to create two "levels" of this toy. Gv's little fingers can easily thread the narrow pieces right now, but the wide pieces present her with a bit of a challenge ‐ which is a good thing in terms of helping to develop her fine motor skills.
At the moment, Gv just threads the noodle pieces on willy‐nilly, but as time goes on, she'll be able to work on all sorts of other patterns (you'll have tons of possibilities for different patterns if you keep all the noodle pieces for yourself.)
Store everything in a small bucket, basket, or box (which you can also get from the dollar store, if you don't have something on hand already). As a bonus, your child can dump everything out and even stack the pieces like blocks, when not lacing them onto the shoelace.
You can't beat this for a great thrifty toy idea ‐ you'll wind up with several sets that cost less than a dollar a piece. Do you prefer homemade toys, or store‐bought? I'd love
to hear - leave a comment or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot)
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