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.