31 January 2006

On buying fewer toys

A very smart team of people in India have posted a bunch of make-yourself playthings called Toys From Trash. [via Boing Boing and Make:]

Half of my family is from India, and I was lucky enough to visit a while back. Although ingenuity isn't a uniquely Indian trait, I must say that in India, I've seen some of the most creative reuse anywhere. Four- and five-year old kids could make working toys from bits of wire. A bicycle tire, when rolled along the street with a stick, entertained for hours. Then there's cricket, played with all manner of homemade equipment.

I didn't have children at the time, but even then, I was amazed by kids' (and adults') manual dexterity and creativity. "Necessity is the mother of invention" sprang to mind. And I came home with the odd realization that abundance carries its own handicap. What motivates a kid to make something (or a parent to fix something) when it can be so readily bought?

My time in India directly influenced my unwillingness to fill our house with toys. We have our share, but we also have lots of raw material: rubber bands, string, tape, wire, etc. We're no DIY wizards, but even so, we'll often come downstairs to find that our son has spun a "magical spider web" across the stairwell, or our daughter will be holding two paper clips, one of which is the Mommy, the other the baby.

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I saw this too and was intrigued. However I'd be too worried about small parts and little kids. For example, the train made out of old batteries doesn't seem too kid-friendly. Others had small buttons and other parts. Good ideas but only for/with 100% adult supervision.

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