For Xmas this year I think I'm going to make my DD & DS a join gift of alphabet bean bags. My plan currently is to make square bean bags and use iron on tranfer paper to put the letters on them.
You can sew or knit play fruit or other foods.
With a little more effort you can make great toys out of old water bottles. Just fill the bottle with anything that's interesting...plain water, some food dye, glitter, things that would otherwise be choking hazards like beads, stones, shells, etc. Then put a bit of white glue around the threads on the lid and close it, let it sit until dry, and voila, instant toy. Of course you want to use bottles that are fairly sturdy and won't crack under pressure...I find the Fruit2O bottles exceptionally good for this.
Babies are always after water bottles anyway...I figured may as well let her have some. Now my kid can safely check out little rocks and glass blobs, plus rattle them as much as her heart desires.
After her birthday party, I let her tear down and systematically destroy the crepe paper streamers. Sure, it made a mess...but we sat together throwing the bits in the air with joy and then I cleaned it up, no biggie.
There are plenty of readily available things like this that let your toddler explore and learn without having to actually take a trip to the toy store. Just be sensible and safe, and when in doubt, sit and watch to make sure something's safe.
http://findinggaia.com - a novel about romance, shifting gender politics, and environmentalism
The blanket and tiny knot doll for her baby doll was a hit but it was quite a while before she was interested in the clothes.
I made shakers from empty film containers covered with felt which are popular, I plan to make some more this year for a wider range of sounds. I'd also like to make wrist bells, someone around here suggested sewing bells onto hair scrunchies.
Felt fruits and vegetables, She played with them from the start just putting them in a taking them out, now at 2 she goes shopping and cooks them. She loves her cloth shopping bag too, I'd like to make her a backpack this year.
I didn't make them but she fell in love with a set of teddy ears on a headband similar to these http://sewing.about.com/library/weekly/aa092100e.htm
Jill, mama to three fiery girlies and a sweet baby boy: Grace, 11.30.2005, Ayla, 3.22.2008, Norah 9.5.09, Reed 8.19.11 & dfs Gage 2.29.12 x4
For her birthday I made her some refrigerator magnets - just simple wood shapes that you can buy in any craft store that I painted in different plain colors and added sticky magnetic strips to the back of htem. She loves to take them off and on the fridge and they are also great for teaching colours/shapes.
Also I got some brightly coloured fleece and made her dress up clothing since she kept taking a pair of underwear and puttting them over her head. So just simple cape with a big hole for the head, a little hat or purse type thing - you can get creative with fringing/knotting edges etc. Plus made big fleece bracelets etc. She has a blast with those and 2 little play silks.
She also likes her wood farm animals so for Christmas I'm going to make her a wood barn (could be humorous as I've never made anythign like that b4) and felt board playmat w fields, stream, roads, pond etc and am getting her a little wood tractor.
She loves play food too so will make her some felt food and already have put away some little metal/wood cooking stuff. Also found a great little $29 solid wood stove/sink set - sort of a tabletop version. I don't want a big one due to price, and space. Plus she likes to stand on something and help in the real kitchen. That's actually one of her fave play things - touch all the veggies and taste them, smell them, put them in the pot etc