One Dollar Baby Toys: Grasping/Teething Toy

While we haven't felt any bumps of teeth trying to make their way through yet, Silas is showing all the other signs of teething; the excessive drool, a bit of a low grade fever, waking up more frequently at night. But, for the most part he remains in good spirits. He puts everything he comes across in his mouth, naturally, and I was looking for something new to offer him. I wanted something all natural, wooden, and ideally organic, but such toys go for $15 and up. So, I came up with a grasping/teething toy made from a wooden kitchen spoon that I bought at Goodwill for 88 cents. All the rest of the materials I had around my house and I finished this project in one afternoon.

For this project you will need:
wooden kitchen spoon
sandpaper in various grits (at least one coarse and one fine)

For the dye bath you will need:
2 C. water
1 TBS. salt
1 TBS. white vinegar
1 1/2 TBS. turmeric (or whatever natural material you need to achieve the color you want) 

To seal the toy you will need:
walnut oil

To enjoy the toy you will need:
a teething baby

Step 1: Using a hacksaw (or whatever cutting implement you have handy) cut off the handle of the spoon. Yes, of course you can just give the spoon to baby as is, but where's the fun in that?  

Step 2: Starting with the coarse grit sandpaper, sand the cut edge smooth and round the corners. Also sand the entire surface of the toy. Working your way up to the fine grit sandpaper, keep sanding until it is satiny smooth. I thought this would take forever, but it really was only about 5 minutes of sanding to get the smoothness I wanted.

Step 3: To make the dye bath, bring the water, salt, vinegar, and turmeric to a simmer. Allow to cool slightly. They say you should pass the dye through a cheesecloth to strain out the dye material, but I really don't have the patience for that, so I just plopped the toy right in. All was well. Keep in mind that this mix will dye anything that it comes in contact with, including plastic spoons. I used all metal in this preparation.

Allow to soak for as long as you like. I left mine in for half an hour to achieve a really bright yellow. When you have the color that you like (remembering that it willing lighten a bit as it dries) remove the toy, rinse under cold water, and allow to dry completely. In a room with a fan, this took about 5 hours. It should feel dry to the touch and be uniform in color.

Step 4: To make the sealer, put beeswax and walnut oil in a double boiler, melt, and stir. Experiment with the ratio of wax to oil. Start with equal parts; you can remelt and add more of either if necessary. What you want when it's cool is a semi-solid that is easily spreadable with a rag. 

Steve helped me come up with this improvised double boiler. I didn't want to get wax in our actual double boiler, plus I wanted a small container so that I could actually mix the two together instead of it just coating the bottom of a larger pan.We put a small pyrex dish in a mesh strainer over a pan of water and it worked like a charm.

I chose walnut oil because I wanted to use an organic food oil that I already had on hand and that wouldn't go rancid. Walnut oil it the most shelf-stable of the food oils and all the resources that I found online told me that it shouldn't go rancid. I used beeswax that has been sitting unused in my sewing box since I was 12 (!). 

When the wax is melted and to the consistency that you like, pour into a small glass container with a lid. It will keep for a year or two and you can use it to seal future wooden toy projects.

Step 5: Using a cotton rag, scoop up about a pea-sized bit of the wax and work it into the surface of the toy. Cover the entire surface with a thin coat, adding more wax if necessary, and buff to a rich lustre.

Before giving to baby it would be wise to do a quick color-fastness test on a piece of cloth that you don't care about. If you have any bleeding of color, add another coat of wax/oil.

And that's it. You now have an all natural, wooden, organic (made with love, even) teething/grasping toy for your little one to enjoy.  


  1. This is great! Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Beautiful! Well done :-)There's nothing better than the love that goes into homemade toys!

  3. That's great! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I love this idea! I had never thought of dying wood before--didn't know you could! What a lovely yellow. And thanks for the tip about the improvised double boiler. I'll use it the next time I do a beeswax project.

  5. wow! so creative! what a great idea! we used mostly frozen washcloths. neither of my babes seemed to suffer and get cranky like i have heard others have done. i guess we lucked out on the front!


  6. this is amazing! i will pass it on!

  7. Awesome idea! I have a little one that it almost at the teething stage. If I did not want to dye it do I still need to use the beeswax and seal it?

  8. @Kimberly: Nope! You can skip the dye and sealing stages if you'd like!

  9. This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information...
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