An I-spy toy is a jar or pillow that allows a child to hunt for special objects like tigers, bunnies, and blocks, inside a peek-a-boo window. It keeps the child’s interest for a while, at quiet play, giving Mom a chance to rest, work, or read. It can be played with in bed, or taken in the car. Make it small enough for baby to pick up on her own. These directions are for a 6 inch I-spy pillow but you can make them smaller to keep in the diaper bag for change-times, or in the get-home-bag for those times you are stuck with a toddler in traffic. For a smaller I-spy pillow simply adjust the size of the fabric pieces and the window and use less rainbow rice.
The I-Spy pillow makes a great birthday gift for kidlets 5 and under, and a fun shower gift, in the travel size – like 4 inches — for the Mom-to-be. Add a jar of homemade sugar scrub for the mom-to-be, and you’ll be a hero. And it won’t break the bank!
An I-Spy pillow uses materials you probably already have on hand, and only requires a quick trip to the dollar store or the thrift shop to find a few special treasures to hide inside. The pillow can be random or themed to a special interest. Pick treasures that fit the interests of your recipient.
I made this I-spy pillow for my granddaughter when she was 2. It included several tiny toys that she would ordinarily be too young to play with. She was delighted with it. You’ll need a tightly felted wool sweater for this handmade gift, so don’t throw out that worn out wool sweater. Chuck it in the washing machine on the hot cycle and felt it down well. Before you begin, mend any holes in wool sweater or measure your pieces so that you can avoid those spots.
1 evening to make the rainbow rice, and 1 evening to sew the I-Spy pillow – total time about 4 hours.
(Beginner sewing skills required.)
To make it I used:
- A tightly felted vintage wool sweater, mended
- A sturdy clear plastic, zippered bag, the kind that blankets and sheets are sold in
- Embroidery thread or coloured yarn(optional)
- Rainbow Rice (See directions for Rainbow Rice)
- 12 to 15 small toys such as a super ball, ½ inch alphabet blocks, small dolls, trucks, buttons, dinosaurs, magnetic numbers – especially the child’s age number, wooden beads, fridge magnets, farm animals, wild animals, lego blocks, lego people, weeble dolls, play mobile dolls, etc. (Choose your treasures according to the age and interests of your recipient)
Step by Step Directions – no pattern necessary:
Step 1: Cut your fabric pieces
Cut a 7 inch square out of two pieces of the felted sweater, be sure to avoid any holes in the sweater or repair them.
Cut one 7 inch square out of the piece of plastic bag. Put the piece of plastic with its right side facing the wrong side of the wool. Sew these together, using a long running stitch on your sewing machine. This is just to tack the plastic in place.
Step 2: Creating the window
Now draw a 4 inch heart shape in the centre of the plastic using a washable marker. This will be the peek hole for your I-spy toy – so make it as big as you want, leaving at least 2 inches all the way around the fabric for decorating.
Using your sewing machine and a straight stitch, stitch the piece of plastic to the wool sweater piece along the heart shaped line. Come out about ½ inch from this stitch line and stitch an outline stitch parallel to this first heart outline, all the way around. This is decorative and also reinforces the seam in the window.
Pull out your tacking stitches from the edge seam. Now take a pair of sharp scissors and cut only the plastic, not the wool fabric, on the wrong side of the wool fabric, close to the second row of stitching, around the heart.
Turn this piece over so that the right side is facing you. Cut your wool fabric close to the heart-shaped stitching to reveal the plastic window – being careful not to cut the plastic. Your felted sweater won’t unravel so the cut line will be secure. Your window is made.
Use this heart shaped window as your foundation and embroider around the window in an outline stitch using free-form embroidery. Add some lazy daisy stitches and the child’s name or initials in the corner of the bag. The embroidery is optional.
Step 3: Stitch front and back together
Stitch the embroidered piece to the plain wool back, wrong sides together, leaving a 4 inch opening for stuffing the pillow with rice and toys. Press the seams of the pillow flat. Don’t melt the plastic when you iron the top. Using the straight running stitch on your sewing machine, stitch an outline stitch around the pillow, within ¼ inch of the fabric edge, for stability and durability. Leave the stuffing opening out of this outline stitching.
Did you know that you can get Sewing Supplies delivered right to your house?
Step 4: Colour the rice for rainbow rice.
For this step you’ll need:
- 2 kg. (4 lbs) of white rice – the cheapest rice you can find – no one is going to eat this.
- 1 pkg. of 4 liquid food colouring
- ¼ cup of white vinegar
Make 1 ½ cups of coloured rice in each of 6 colours – according to the directions for making rainbow rice. You’ll use 8 to 10 drops of food colouring for each cup of rice plus ½ tsp of vinegar for each colour.
Total 9 cups or 4lbs.
See the directions to make rainbow rice on my blog.
Step 5: The fun part – filling your I-spy pillow!
Using a funnel for the rice, fill the pillow so that it is half full. You want the pillow to lie flat on the child’s lap so don’t fill it too full. Put in the 12 to 15 toys and make a list of them as you place them in the pillow. You can add this list to a sticker or label on the outside of the bag, so that it stays with the bag. I attached a luggage tag with the child’s name and the list of toys to the bag that I made.
Finish filling the bag with rice so that it is only loosely filled. You don’t want any bare spots but you don’t want it over full, either. If it’s over full it will be too heavy for a toddler to play with.
Fold over the opening of the bag and stitch closed with a tightly spaced whip stitch.
Using a blanket stitch and wool yarn, embroider around the outside edge of the pillow for stability and for decoration. Attach your label or tag with the list of toys to spy out.
It’s ready to gift or play with.
How to play the I-Spy game
And when you play with this pillow for the first time, play the age-old game – “I spy with my little eye a _______.” Then pick an object off the list and help the child find it. You’ll have hours of fun with your toddler. And once they figure out the game they’ll be playing it by themselves, too. Or just leave baby to play by themselves and let them enjoy the secrets hidden in the pillow.
Variations for a themed I-Spy pillow:
Fill with plastic bugs, farm animals, fence posts, farmer dolls, tiny buckets, a piece of dried corn, numbers, plastic chickens, plastic eggs, interesting buttons or beads.
Fill with Plastic dinosaurs, rocks, fossils, little shovels, plastic trees
What theme do you want to make in an I-Spy pillow? What would you add to the pillow for your favorite theme?
Chris from Joybilee Farm lives on 140 acres in Southern BC, Canada. Chris Dalziel is a veteran homeschool Mom with 3 graduates, a published writer, with 30 years of homesteading under her nails. Living in a log house, in the mountains and surrounded by pines, and pasture, Chris was a city mouse who migrated to the country, as a young mom. Chris is also an award winning fiber-artist who raises her own medium from her organic garden, and from her own sheep, goats, llamas, and angora bunnies. Chris is passionate about ethical, holistic husbandry — her sheep have garlic breath. Her passion is to revive the skills and knowledge of the “Lost Arts” of homesteading and present this plainly, so that others can master them and live joyfully and courageously in these perilous times.