Creative Play for your Toddler by Christopher Clouder and Janni Nicol

by Rachel Hilliard

(Gaia Books, 2008).

This is a delightful book, packed with projects, some simple, some more demanding. Not only that, but it is structured around an understanding of children’s development, bringing you through chapters on the self, imagination, interaction and discovery. The projects are carefully chosen to support the role of play in children’s learning, and the play value of each toy is explained.

There are about 25 projects, ranging from fairly simple but satisfying projects like making a felt ball, a hobby horse or felt animals, to more involved projects like a soft doll, a wooden dolls’ house and furniture.

I really enjoyed this book. I used it to make a pair of hobby horses for my girls. These are toys that encourage physical skill – balance and rhythm, as well as developing imagination.

There is a very special satisfaction in seeing your children play with something you have made, and they really respond to the care and effort you have taken.

Creative Wool: Making woolen crafts with children
By Karin Neuschütz (Floris Books, 2011)

Handwork is one of the key elements of the Steiner approach to education. As Karin explains in her introduction, handwork offers the opportunity to develop physical dexterity and creativity but also important skills of perseverance, logic and calmness.

This book is full of interesting projects to make with children of all ages. There are almost thirty projects, from the very simple such as pompom making to the more complex, like knitted dolls and doll clothes. It covers a wide range of creative techniques using wool: spinning, plaiting, felting, weaving, knitting and crochet.   The instructions are clear, though you are left to make your own judgement about the age suitability of the projects.

The book starts with very simple hand spinning, showing you how to make your own yarn with nothing more than some carded fleece and a pair of hands, which children of all ages would find very engaging. For younger children there are projects for spinning, pompom making and finger knitting. Any child that got into loom bands would enjoy the plaiting projects which can be made into lovely friendship bracelets. There are toys to make as presents, to experience the particular joy of giving something you have made yourself as well as projects a child would like to make for his or herself, such as animal masks and puppets.