Indian Ingenuity — Arvind Gupta's Toys from Trash

An abacus made from a sneaker sole and some pencils; a meccano set using matchsticks and bike valve tubes; a train made from batteries, buttons and drawing pins. These are just some of the fantastic toys Arvind Gupta has made from trash. He makes magical material transformations using what we would normally chuck in the recycling bin. The best thing is that they are very simple and the clear photos on his website allow everyone to have a go. They are especially good for kids, combining lessons on the importance of materials along with the fun of making. He also has a section of simple science experiments. Arvind Gupta has been making Toys from Trash for 20 years with the aim of finding "hands-on attractive means for the kids to learn fundamentals of science". He himself is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, but was disillusioned by the way children are taught science in school. He says "Children learn by doing. In their free moments they are always tinkering, pottering, playing and messing around with whatever they can lay their hands on. It is during play that children learn a lot of important things about science."

Another motive for making toys from trash is that it is inexpensive and this is key in a country like India, where many children do not have access to education, or even toys, due to poverty. But the main reason is because Gupta is an enthusiast and he loves to enthuse — especially children. Showing children what they can do just using things they find on the streets is exciting. "I work with children. Whatever I see that children can do, whatever I see that brings a gleam into the child's eye, that's the work I do." We'd like to quote Gupta at length here because he brilliantly expresses the problems of over packaging and why he is choosing to give some of it a second life as a toy. This is the introduction to his book Little Toys.

"It is an irony of modern consumerism that junk products are packed in tough cartons. While the frail human body consumes and digests the junk, it is the environment that has to grapple and reckon with the tough, non-biodegradable waste. And, in the process, humans become sick and the environment decays. Today we can see city parks littered and garbage dumps overflowing with tetra packs-- empty cartons of Frooti, Tree Top, Jumping Jack or Dhara. These packets are made with layers of different materials --plastic, aluminum and paper -- all fused into one multi-walled laminate. We know that aluminum does not rust and plastics do not rot. These materials are energy-intensive and take a heavy tall of the environment, which helplessly chokes under the debris. Film-roll cases can be transformed into a high-efficiency pump, Frooti tetra packs into measuring cylinders or butterflies, packets of cigarette into merry-go-rounds. These new raw materials offer innumerable possibilities for use in low-cost science experiments and in making dynamic toys." Via the o2 group ::Arvind Gupta's Toys & Books Gallery
[Leonora & Petz]

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