Louis C. Petersen, Educational Toys.  
(Manual Arts Press, 1920)


Having youngsters make their own toys is an option too often overlooked in this age of store-bought solutions—one that deserves special consideration for the life lessons it imparts. The upcoming generation more than ever needs encouragement to gain a sense of self-sufficiency—mastery of tools and materials—in the face of electronic consumer culture. Most guides to the "best" toys are little more than buying guides for parents. Perhaps a bit of counter-balance is called for.

Consider Petersen's little book, subtitled "Coping-Saw Problems for Children in the School and the Home." Squarely in the vein of learning by doing, a catchphrase among progressive educators of the early 20th century, it offered kids detailed, classroom-tested plans for building scores of toys. Petersen's intent wasn't to teach carpentry skills but to develop "interest and enthusiasm" in the learning process itself. To him the "educational" aspect of these toys was the actual crafting of them. 

The list below provides a smattering of starting points for DIY toy-making projects. For out-of-print books, first check your local library system or www.worldcatlibraries.org. To search for used books, we recommend www.bookfinder.com or books.half.ebay.com.

Got your own favorites to add to this list? Let us know! 



Beard, D.C. 1900. What to do and how to do it: The American boy’s handy book. New York: Scribners.

Bingham, Sam. 1988. The ultimate wood block book: Building castles, bridges and other engineering marvels. New York: Sterling.
“With simple sawing and drilling, you can make a set of ingenious blocks and dowels (with their own storage block) and then have fun building some of the world's most famous structures.”

Boetermans, Jack, Tony Burrett, Pieter van Delft, and Carla van Splunteren. 1989. The world of games: Their origins and history, how to play them, and how to make them. New York: Facts on File.

Brown, Vinson. 1948. The amateur naturalist’s handbook. Boston: Little, Brown.

Burtt, Kent Garland, and Karen Kalkstein. 1981. Smart toys: For babies from birth to two. New York: Harper Colophon.

Caney, Steven. 1972. Steven Caney’s toy book. New York: Workman.

Caney, Steven. 1975. Steven Caney’s play book. New York: Workman.

Caney, Steven. 1978. Steven Caney’s kids’ America. New York: Workman.

Challand, Helen, and Elizabeth Brandt. 1963. Science activities: 375 experiments and projects from A to Z. New York: Grosset & Dunlap.

Child, Maria. 1834. The girl’s own book. Carter, Hendee, and Babcock. 1992 (reprint). Bedford, MA: Applewood Press.

Clarke, William. 1829. The boy’s own book. Boston: Munroe and Francis. 1996 (reprint). Bedford, MA: Applewood Press.

Churchill, E. Richard. 1990. Paper science toys. New York: Sterling.

Delft, Pieter, and Jack Boetermans. 1978. Creative puzzles of the world. New York: Abrams.

Einon, Dorothy. 1985. Play with a purpose : learning games for children six weeks to ten years. New York: Pantheon Books.

Field, Simon Quellen. 2002. Gonzo gizmos: Projects & devices to channel your inner geek. Chicago: Chicago Review Press.

Grunfeld, Frederic V. 1982. Games of the world: How to make them, how to play them, how they came to be. Zurich: UNICEF.

Henderson, Marjorie, and Elizabeth Wilkinson. 1978. Naturally powered old time toys. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott.

Horth, A.C. 1941. I made it myself: A practical book of working toys, models, and other objects. London: Batsford.

Hunt, W. Ben. 1957. The Golden book of crafts and hobbies. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Ickis, Marguerite, and Reba Selden Esh. 1954. The book of arts and crafts. Association Press. 1966 (reprint). Dover Publications.

Jordan, Nina R. 1937. The home toy shop. New York: Harcourt.

Joseph, Joan. 1972. Folk toys around the world and how to make them. New York: Parents’ Magazine Press.

Keene, Frances W. 1953. Fun around the world. Pelham, NY: Seahorse Press.

Kohl, MaryAnn, and Cindy Gainer. 1991. Good Earth art: Environmental art for kids. Bellingham, WA: Bright Ring Publishing.

Levy, Raymond. 1991. Making mechanical marvels in wood. New York: Sterling.

Lopshire, Robert. 1977. How to make snop snappers and other fine things. New York: Greenwillow Books.

Mason, Bernard S. 1937. Boomerangs: How to make and throw them. A.S. Barnes. 1974 (reprint). New York: Dover Publications.

Metcalf, Harlan G. Whittlin’, whistles and thingamajigs. Stackpole, 1974.
A grandad tells about makin’ stuff, back in the day

Milord, Susan. 1989. The kids’ nature book: 365 indoor/outdoor activities and experiences. Charlotte, VT: Williamson Publishing.

Milord, Susan. 1990. Adventures in art: Art and craft experiences for 7- to 14-year-olds. Charlotte, VT: Williamson Publishing.

O’Dell, John. 1981. The great American depression book of fun. New York: Harper & Row.

Podendorf, Illa. 1960. 101 science experiments. New York: Grosset & Dunlap.

Popular Mechanics Company. 1952. The boy mechanic: More than 500 projects for the young home craftsman. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Provenzo, Asterie Baker, and Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr. 1981. Play it again : Historic board games you can make and play. Englewood Cliffs, NJ : Prentice-Hall, c1981

Provenzo, Eugene F., Jr., and Asterie Baker Provenzo. 1979. The historian’s toybox: Children’s toys from the past you can make yourself. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Provenzo, Eugene, and Asterie Provenzo. 1979. Easy-to-make old fashioned toys. New York: Dover Publications.

Sayer, Philip and Caroline Freeman Sayer. 1977. Making Victorian kinetic toys. New York: Taplinger Publishing Co.

Schnacke, Dick. 1974. American folk toys: How to make them. New York: Penguin.

Slocum, Jerry, and Jack Boetermans. 1987. Puzzles old and new: How to make and solve them. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Slocum, Jerry, and Jack Boetermans. 1992. New book of puzzles: 100 classic and modern puzzles to make and solve. New York: W.H. Freeman.

Smith, Robert Paul. 1958. How to do nothing with nobody all alone by yourself. New York: W.W. Norton.

Studley, Vance. 1979. Making artist's tools. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Tangerman, E.J. 1936. Whittling and woodcarving. Whittlesey House. 1962 (reprint). New York: Dover Publications.

Walker, Lester. 1995. Block building for children: Making buildings of the world with the ultimate construction toy. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press; Penguin USA.
“The ultimate book on block building! Eighteen exciting projects, including Emerald City of OZ!”

Webster, James. 1966. The Ladybird book of toys and games to make. Loughborough, UK: Wills & Hepworth.

Weiss, Harvey. 1971. The gadget book. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.

Wigginton, Eliot, ed. 1980. Foxfire 6. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press / Doubleday.
Special topic: “One hundred toys and games”. The entire Foxfire series is highly recommended.

Wilbur, C. Keith. 1990. Indian handcrafts: How to craft dozens of practical objects using traditional Indian techniques. Old Saybrook, CT: Globe Pequot Press.

Wiseman, Ann. 1973. Making things: The hand book of creative discovery. Boston: Little, Brown.
Also Book 2, 1975.

Wyatt, Edwin W. 1946. Wonders in wood: 46 puzzles and other novelties to make and solve. 1997 (reprint). Fresno, CA: Linden Publishing.



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