Friday, June 15, 2012

Buckle Octopus - Easy Toddler Toy

This post is more of an "idea generator" for creative moms, aunts, and grandmothers than a full tutorial, but I thought I'd share the quick toy I made for my 18 month old daughter.

My daughter is currently obsessed with buckles. Specifically, the plastic sort that are common on high chairs, strollers, and shopping carts. The problem is, she (thankfully!) cannot open them again. So she snaps one shut, and then immediately says "Help me! Help me!" until someone opens it again. Of course, I just happened to have a bunch of 'em, and some nylon webbing, in my craft supplies...
Now it takes up to 5 minutes before the "help me!" 
Here's what I made: 

Please note: This was an incredibly "quick and dirty" project. Anyone with an ounce of motivation can make a prettier, cuter, version of this.  I made sure mine was safe* but that's about all.  I didn't even use black thread on the nylon webbing! My excuse?  Aside from being in a hurry (when am I not?!) I don't Really think this toy will have a very long useful life - she'll probably tire of it in a couple weeks.  Anyway.. 
enough hand-wringing.  

* A note on safety:  I was careful to cut the straps short enough to not be a strangling hazzard.  However, it is quite possible, even probable, that pinched fingers will happen, I decided I wasn't going to worry about this because she has access to so many other buckles of the same variety already.  In other words, I am not Increasing the hazard, just concentrating it.  :)  

1. Several sets of plastic buckles.  (I ordered mine on eBay for a different project some time back: you should be able to obtain then for $0.50 a set or so if you order 10 or more.  Or you can recycle old ones from broken packs.  At severe need, buy 'em from the craft store - but they'll be expensive!) 

2. Approx. 7 inches of nylon webbing of the appropriate width for each set of buckles.  (Again, I got mine from eBay in a 25 yard roll.  It was much cheaper than the craft store.)  

3. A piece of fabric approx. 6 inches wide and one or two inches longer than the length of your webbing when laid  edge to edge.  

4. Candle 

5. Sewing Machine, thread, and scissors. 

1. Cut webbing to size using scissors.  I made my pieces were approx. 7 to 8 inches wide, which includes approx. 3/4 inch seam allowance.  
For safety, don't make your webbing any longer than this: I didn't want my toddlers to suddenly start thinking of collars! :} 

2. Carefully run each cut edge of your webbing over a candle flame to melt it closed and eliminate fraying.  You should be able to hold the webbing approx. 1/4 inch from the flame and see it melt.  Be careful, but it's actually pretty hard to actually set the stuff on fire!  
I suppose you could use a lighter, but that seems more dangerous.  You could probably even use the electric burner from your stove, but I really don't want drips of nylon on mine! :} 

3. Thread one end of a plastic buckle onto the end of a strip of webbing.  Fold it over on itself approx. 3/4 of an inch to 1 inch.  Be sure you are leaving enough space for the foot of your sewing machine to pass by the buckle on the right side. 
Sew back and forth over the webbing 2-3 times to make a strong seam.  
Repeat with opposite half of the buckle.  
When you are done, you'll have a strip of webbing with buckle halves at each end which can be connected into a loop.   
Repeat with the rest of the buckles and webbing.  

4. Fold strip of fabric in half, right side to right side, to make a strip about 3 - 4 inches wide and about as long as all the webbing put together.  Sew a seam on the long edge and one of the short edges.  
Turn right side out, fold under the raw edges on the unsewn side, and sew across.  You now have a finished piece of fabric with no raw edges showing about three inches wide and (in my case) about 8 inches long.  
Or, use a non-fraying fabric such as polar fleece and forget about seams: just cut it about 3-4 inches wide by about 8 inches long.  

5. Line all the nylon webbing strips across the fabric, pinning in place if desired.  Sew several times up and down the entire length, attaching them firmly to the fabric.  
Notes: I did not bother pinning, which is actually quite difficult with the stiff nylon.  As a "good enough" solution, I just laid one strip down at a time, sewed across it, back-stitched an inch or so, and then set the next strip in place. Made for a pretty wavy seam, but Oh Well!  
If I had to do it again, I might also sew a length-wise seam close to the edge of the fabric on each side, just so there wasn't an inch or so flopping around on each side.  Of course, if I had to do it again, I'd probably use matching thread too!  ;-) 

6. Give to happy toddler.  If you're lucky, she'll require at least 5 minutes to connect all the buckles (probably all cross-wise, too!) before you have to reset it for her!  


My second daughter is now 18 months old, and has also received many hours minutes of play time from this toy. Sometimes even consecutive minutes! 
Joking aside, this has been one of my more successful DIY toys, and was well worth the 30 minutes or so of construction time. 

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