Homemade Toy: Pushing Puff Balls

I’m pretty sure I got this idea from Children’s Learning Activities (though I can’t find the exact post). 

ETA: Manda just referred to this activity that I couldn’t find earlier on her blog.  Here’s the link for the original idea.

It was really easy to make, just cut small holes in the lid of an old butter container.  J’s goal is to stuff the puff balls inside the container via the holes.  The holes are just smaller than puff balls, requiring J to work a little harder to get all the balls inside.  It’s a fine motor activity that I pull out once every couple weeks and J is always very intrigued. 

Age attempted:  I think I first made this when he was 18 or 19 months old.  He’s now 24 months and still enjoys this (although it’s much easier for him now; I should probably add a color matching step to it too)

24 months

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43 responses to “Homemade Toy: Pushing Puff Balls

  1. Hi, I really liked this play activity for my 14 month old daughter. Could you please suggest any ideas where to get puff balls. Thanks.

    • You can find them at craft stores. I think they’re actually called pompom balls.
      I hopr you’re little girl enjoys the activity!

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  3. I don’t want to sound like a worrier, but are the hole edges sharp? could they cut themselves? its just that if there is a good chance, my kid would manage to do it.

    • Good question. I imagine it depends on what type of lid you’re using. The plastic butter container/yogurt containers worked well. We never had a problem with the edges. He used this toy all the time. You could always try cutting a hole in the lid of the next container you’re about to toss out. Don’t use it if you question safety.
      I wouldn’t use a cardboard box because of the risk of paper cuts, but the pliable plastic worked fine.
      I have found random containers with holes already in them that would work (often the containers that hold bath toys have holes in them).
      Good luck!

      • Maybe you could put .some electrical or duct tape around the edges of the holes if they are to sharp.

    • I was worried, too, and dreading actually cutting the holes when I had an idea! Use a drill bit! I used a drill bit to drill holes in a plastic garbage bin for compost and the holes were relatively smooth. I’m thinking I could do the same to a butter or sour cream dish and the edges wouldn’t be so sharp.

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  5. If you’re worried about the rough edges, you can just heat the plastic a little inside the holes and it will soften and smooth the edges (melting it a little).

  6. that is a great idea, thanks!

  7. Being a church Nursery Director, I am always looking for new, inexpensive ideas to try for our itty bitty ones. My first thought was wondering if they would put the small items/balls in their mouth? Is this not an issue with you all that have tried this?

    • My son was rarely one to put things in his mouth. We really worked on that. Even still, this was never a toy that I would give him without supervision. The pompom balls are a choking hazard. I would be very careful with trying this activity in a group setting and only do it if the kids could rotate through, taking turns and being 100% supervised by an adult. Our Sunday school classrooms will often spit large classes into small groups. The kids then rotate through the activities in those small groups, with an adult overseeing each activity. That could make this activity possible.
      You could use also use soda lids instead of the pompom balls. Just cut the holes in your container a little larger. Or check out the pipe cleaner in a bottle activity since the concept is similar; using straws instead of pipe cleaners would make it even safer.
      You might find some other ideas under the label “homemade toys.”
      God bless you in your ministry!

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  12. How did you make your circles so perfect for the lid

    • They are actually far from perfect circles :) J never seemed to mind though. I used kitchen scissors to cut the circles and then an X-acto knife to finish the edges so it was safe.

  13. This is such a wonderful idea!! I was led here by Pinterest, made this last night and this morning it was a great success. I wrote about it in my blog today. Thank you for sharing this!

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  15. Hey there! I love your site! Really, you’re so awesome! I used this idea today for my son and he loved it… here he is, pushin pompoms! http://keithplusjenna.blogspot.com/2011/10/poof-push.html
    You’re an inspiration:)

  16. Great low cost idea!

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  19. I made this today. Kept my kids entertained for a long time. I made slits instead of holes for the pom poms to go through. In addition to this activity, they also put markers in the slits to pretend they were candles & made me a “cake.” They also enjoyed sorting the pom poms by color and then having a place to store them afterwards. Thanks for the idea to try this!

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  23. I did something similar for my son when he was much younger. I used baby food jar caps & a formula can. I cut a slot to deposit the caps. Same principle but perhaps a younger version to remove any concern for a choking hazard. The caps made a nice sound as well. I will try this idea – thank you!

  24. Hi All. Just found this post on Pintrest. I do something similar to this in my Church Nursery class. We use small water bottles and the children push the pom poms thru the top. We have about 6 – 8 children with 2 adults. We do not have a problem with the children putting the poms in their mouths. Should one get into the mouth, it is removed and tossed in the garbage so we don’t spread germs as readily. This is a great activity for the children and they will play with them for about 20 minutes before they get tired of it.

  25. me and my group leader did this activity at our childcare centre with our nursery bubs..6wks-1.5 yrs, but instead of containers we used cotton balls and old paper towl tubes and we just taped one end of the tube so the balls wouldnt go straight through.. we had no trouble with choking hazards.and the children loved them! its a great idea. :)

  26. I did this for my 18 month old. It actually kept him busy for over 20 minutes! I used my old formula container, used scissors to cut the imperfect holes, and he went to town! He did try to put the smaller pom poms in his mouth but I just redirected him. My son is always putting things in his mouth..guess that’s his way of exploring :0)

    • I’m so glad this worked so well for your son! This is a favorite for both my boys and always one of my first recommendations to other moms with pretoddlers and toddlers.

  27. Maybe you use round cereal, instead of puff balls, in case they try to eat them.

  28. Bet they would love a see thru container, so they could see the Pom poms inside!

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