Toy-making is a widely practised craft and different materials are used in their production. Shell toys, are cheap and easy to make, consist of large individual shells or small ones stuck together to form an animal or a person.
A popular variety of homemade toys is made of leaves, fruit skin like pomegranate skin and twigs. Some toys are made of paper, twigs and wire, crafted only at festival-times. Vahanas or vehicles made of wood on wheels are usually pull-along toys for the child. Madurai specialises in metal-creations mainly brass insects which are remarkably life-like because of careful attention to detail.
In areas around Kumbakonam, toys are also made of pith, which is the hard core of a water reed found in the tanks, swamps and lakes. The ivory-coloured reed is soft, smooth, extremely pliable and is fashioned into playthings. In Mannapadu toy animals are made out of palm leaves, which are dipped into colour and interwoven into creative forms.
Toys made of wood are lathe-turned and lacquered, especially cooking vessels and walkers known as kadasal. These are brightly coloured, inexpensive and very popular. Carved wooden toys like dolls and elephants which exhibit the range of skills of the artisans are also made.
Intricate and mind-boggling puzzles, scaled down copies of cycles, rickshaws, and motorcycles, decorative items, and several other products are made with wire. Wire work is a hereditary craft which uses simple tools to create wire toys and puzzles that are sold in local fairs. Wire craftspersons can be found in many parts of India. The toys and puzzles made by them fascinate children and adults alike. The puzzles are normally made with a single wire that is looped and twisted in a complex manner to make a puzzle that is difficult to solve.