Handmade toys are really special gifts for babies and children and often - if made well - end up treasured favourites and keepsakes.
Toys can come in all shapes and sizes and can be crafted in loads of ways: like hand or machine sewn softies, knitted critters and crocheted amigurumi. They can be simple, quick projects or painstakingly time consuming and fiddly - it all depends on the maker and is only limited by imagination.
Turning a toy into a rattle for a baby is not complicated and can usually be made with bits and bobs found around the house.
The only issue is safety. When crafting for tiny folk, you must be mindful of choking hazards.
Amigurumi Carrot Rattle
The following method is one way of placing a noise maker inside a handmade toy. This example uses a crocheted amigurumi rattle in the shape of a carrot.
Firstly, you need to find a suitably shaped container to fit inside your project. Soft plastic toy eggs are great to use, as they are small, won't shatter, and can easily be taped shut.
"Kinder" type plastic egg
You can fill the egg with any dried grain from the cupboard. They will make different sounds, so experiment to find which you prefer. Popping corn kernels, rice, and pearl couscous are all great choices.
Bear in mind, the sound will be muffled once inserted into the toy so use something that makes a decent racket when you shake it.
I filled my egg with brown rice
Once you've filled your egg, it is important to securely tape it shut. Even though the eggs snap closed, in the play arena they can be stood on, chewed and thrown around, and may split open to release their contents. They then have the potential to end up in the mouth of a baby and become a choking hazard. It's too horrible to go into detail of the dangers, so just do a good job from the outset and there will be no need to worry.
Tape the egg shut for safety
An extra safety precaution is to secure the egg in a cotton pouch. The pouch can then be inserted into the toy and, if it does happen to split, the contents can't escape. Job done!
In this example, I lined my entire toy with an old cotton t-shirt, so I didn't put the egg into a pouch.
Top part of the carrot made
As I crocheted this toy, I made the top of the carrot, added some polyester filling, and then inserted the egg into the space.
Insert the rattle
I stuffed in more poly fill after the egg and then kept crocheting down the carrot, stuffing as I went.
Continue crocheting and stuffing every few rounds
I had to use this method as the carrot became smaller toward the bottom. I would not have been able to push in the egg rattle, as the hole would have been too narrow once I had finishing crocheting.
Depending on your toy, you may be able to insert your rattle toward the completion end, just before you sew, knit or crochet it closed.
Ideally, you want to place the rattle into a part of the toy that is big enough to secure it firmly, but also have some stuffing around it so it doesn't feel hard to the touch.
A bit of trial and error is inevitable when doing these types of projects, so if it doesn't work out the first time, don't give up! Take a deep breath, unpick, and start again, the end result will be worth it when you see it being shaken in a pudgy little hand.
Do you have any other tried and true rattle methods or tips you'd llike to share?