Book Review: Made to Play! by Joel Henriques

Made to Play! Handmade Toys and Crafts for Growing Imaginations by Joel Henriques is a collection of thirty-five crafts from a father that has tried and tested everything detailed within with his own children. Imaginative and open-ended play with home made toys, built manly from recycled or purposed material. The projects are great for the crafty to take and make their own, and for the easily intimidated to follow instructions, use provided templates and create great toys for their children. I already have a few projects from this book that I am eager to give a go, since my children love all kinds of play that involves imagination.

The craft projects in Made to Play! are organized by themes; like Zoo, House, Blocks, Cars and Trucks, Dress-Up, Music, and Art. The crafts come in a variety of forms, ranging from drawing to sewing and light woodworking. The toys are all simple; meant to stimulate pretend play, confidence, artistic appreciation and old-fashioned fun. Most are more fun to play with a parent, friend or sibling; however, they are all enjoyable for alone play as well. Some, particularly the tiny vehicles and animals, make for great travel toys for entertainment out in restaurants or other places away from home. The best part about the book, at least as far as this relatively crafty parent is concerned, is that most projects were good for a variety of age groups.

Each project is introduced with some background information of the how’s and whys behind the initial design, and encouragement to try the craft with your own special touch or twist that will make it a bigger success in your family, better fit your skill level, or better fit the materials you might have in your home. The descriptions and instructions for all the projects were easy to understand, which is often a challenge in craft books. The material list often includes possible substitutions, but also included the author’s material preference, and where you could obtain the mentioned material. I also loved that some projects were incredibly simple while others took some skill. There really was something for everyone. The projects are paired with full-color photos and hand-drawn instructional illustrations. Templates for the projects are included at the end of the book, completing the thorough instruction for each project. Some of the projects include a complete dollhouse with furniture, zoo animals, musical instruments, puppet theater, exploration gear and an alphabet game. If intrigued and looking for more ideas from this crafty father and author, visit the Made by Joel blog for more crafts and ideas.

I recommend this book for parents that have noticed that a paper bag, a couple stuffed animals and a cardboard box can offer more fun and learning potential for their children than any flashy gadget. The crafts in Made to Play! Are accessible to parents, grandparents, and any adults that might want to create something special for the children in their lives. I am greatly looking forward to getting my hands on a physical copy of this book, rather than the digital galley from NetGalley, so that I can copy the templates and make use of them.

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