Introduction: Retro Wooden Baby Toy

About: Everything I make is done with love and imperfection.

This is a truly satisfying baby toy as it can be chewed, it squishes, and it jingles.

The parts are so simple. The assembly is a little less simple, but with a bit of fiddling it it worth the effort.

I figured out how to re-create this toy using only photographs of the one we had as kids as my reference. I think my instructions make it clear what it took me a few hours to figure out. I'll happily try to answer any questions you might have about it!

Step 1: Materials and Tools


  • 1 cm diameter dowel
  • 1 metre (plus or minus) of shock cord or thick fabric elastic
  • Sandpaper
  • Baby-safe stain and sealant (see my instructable about this)
  • Strong glue (super glue or wood glue)
  • Large wooden beads
  • Bells


  • Saw - as I had the tool available and it made life slightly easier, I used a bandsaw for the vertical cuts. You could do this without power tools with minimal more effort.
  • Paintbrush

Step 2: The Pieces

  • Cut six pieces from the dowel - 12 cm in length. (Photo 1)
  • Draw a line across the ends of each dowel in the same plane.
    • I accomplished this by holding the dowel fast using a piece of wood as thick as half a dowel to be my marker. This was the easiest way to ensure that the line would be in the same plane and the cuts would line up. (Photos 2 and 3)
  • After marking 1 cm in from each end, make a 1 cm slit in each dowel end using a bandsaw (or saw). (Photo 4)
  • Give the pieces a good sanding paying special attention to rounding the edges of the dowel. (Photo 5)
  • Stain and protect each dowel a different colour using a baby-safe method - I used food colouring and shellac (photo 6).

Step 3: Arrangement

The wooden parts are arranged in three parallel pairs on each axis of a three dimensional xyz space.So if you look at the schematic (photo 1), the purple and yellow cylinders are in one plane, the Y axis. The blue and orange cylinders are on the horizontal X axis and then the green and red cylinders are on the Z axis (sticking straight out of the page).

  1. Arrange your dowels in roughly the three planes and secure them tightly together with as many elastics as you need.
  2. Push, pull, and arrange the dowels until they are in perfect alignment. This takes some configuration and playing, but you will get it.
  3. Twist the dowels so that the end cuts are as per the black lines in the schematic.
  4. With painters tape, label the ends of each dowel with the numbers indicated in the schematic. This is important as it tells you how to thread in the next step.

Step 4: Threading

Each of the 12 ends is passed through twice by the cord, and so is connected to four other ends.

As you are threading, place bells and beads randomly on each section of the cord. I did one bead per section using 3 bells instead of beads.

Start at 1 on the schematic, shown again here for ease, and simply follow the numbers (passing through 2 then 3, etc). I showed myself threading in the video - as you can see... thing get misaligned as you are working. bu Don't worry about it as you have the opportunity to fix it later.

Keep the shock cord as tight as you can on this step. It just makes things easier.

Once you get to the end (24), knot the end of the cord to the beginning of the cord at (1). You might need to readjust so I recommend not tying too tightly right now, and leaving a bit of cord to play with.

Take the time now to adjust the shock cord so that all of the dowels are in alignment.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

Make sure that the shock cord is tight everywhere and then cut the elastics holding the dowels together loose. This will spring the toy into place (see photo 1 - gif).

It won't be perfect, but if you did the previous step well it shouldn't be far off. Now is the time for more fiddling to get the proper arrangement. You'll also want to retie the knot so that it is beside the dowel slit at (1) or (24) - glue it into place here. Once you have the shock cord configured so that all of the dowels are in alignment glue it into place in the dowel slits. I used super glue - you really don't want these to move (photo 2).

Remove the labeling tape, allow to cure... and you are done!