Sometimes things don’t go as planned. But if there is one thing to be said for many Filipinos we do what we can to make it through each day even if life isn't cooperating. Bulacan-based mom Iralyn Cabral was in this position when her marriage collapsed. She was now thrust into the sole responsibility of raising two small children on her own.
“It took me time to heal,” Iralyn told Smart Parenting. Aside from a supportive family especially her mom, what also helped her through that difficult period in her life was preoccupying herself with making toys for her daughters. “At night, instead of dwelling on all the negative things that happened to my marriage, I just prayed and did arts and crafts. Making my kids happy with handmade toys became my therapy,” she shared.
Iralyn soon realized she had a knack for the hobby and tried her hand at all sorts of wooden and fabric toys. “I was fascinated with the Montessori approach to raising a child. I wanted them to have toys made of wood and natural materials, but sadly, Montessori toys don't fit my budget. So I decided to make them myself,” said Iralyn.
One of her projects that daughters Chiara, 7, and Lois, 2, love the most was a wooden play kitchen Iralyn designed. “Chiara loves to imitate me cooking -- another passion of mine. So on her birthday, I surprised her with her own play kitchen!” she said. “Ngayon nakikita ko sila lagi in their mini-kitchen ‘cooking’ and ‘baking’ as well. The fun part is that they even make their own sounds while playing.”
Iralyn took inspiration from toys by Mother Garden and Kidkraft, toy companies who make quality wooden play sets. Iralyn would start by sketching her project on paper. “I buy the materials needed for the project. Then my ninong, who is the most patient carpenter in the world, does the woodwork. When it’s done, I do the painting, decorating, and final touches. Each project takes about one to two weeks to finish,” she said.
So far, the inaanak and ninong pair have finished several DIY projects together for Chiara and Lois. They’re all made from Iralyn’s designs. “I don't have an art background, but I just love creating things,” she said. “There are hurts and pains that come from a ‘broken home,’ but I want to fill my kids' childhood with the best possible memories. Just seeing the girls excited when I surprise them with a new creation give me double the happiness.”
Aside from being a landlady, Iralyn also co-runs a photography business, Click n' Play Studio. “Gusto ko din talaga may pictures kami. So when they grow older they can look back at their childhood,” said Iralyn. Here are just a few of her DIY toys taken with her kids.
“On ordinary days, it's just an organizer. But at playtime, it's a bakeshop, grocery store, shoe store or pharmacy. I also use it as a dessert station during occasions. Like on Chiara's 4th birthday, we held a baking party, and it contained all the cupcakes and desserts.”
Fabric play food
Can you believe the mom made all these adorable cloth food by herself? “A kitchen and a bakeshop must have play food. I wanted wooden ones for my kids, but they were so expensive! So I learned how to create them myself using fabric. I use hard felt cloth for material. Then I became addicted to making them, from all her favorite food to cakes, bread, etc.”
“Who didn't dream of having one as a kid, right? I was itching to make this one (and secretly play with it also). The furniture was made mostly from cardboard boxes and used fabrics.” Fabric playhouse
“I initially wanted a wooden playhouse, but since we had limited space, I opted to create a handy one made of fabric that I could just pack away. Every stitch of this was made with love!”
Aside from fostering imaginative play, Iralyn's DIY toys have made her daughters appreciative and grateful. Iralyn shared, “It's a joy and pride that my kids don't have tantrums at the toy store. Instead of saying, ‘Mama, buy me that toy’ Chiara says, ‘Mama, make me a toy like that.’”
Iralyn reflects, “The toys become a part of lifelong memories. They’re unique, and one of a kind and each detail is a choice made by me, their mom. I’m not sure if my kids will treasure these toys forever, but they will have happy stories to tell their own kids about their childhood.”