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Turn trash into toys with this maker kit for kids

Toyi uses water bottles and juice boxes as the base for a making your own playthings.

A new kit of parts for children doesn’t come with any instructions. But the kit–with 64 small connectors, wheels, and other parts–is designed to turn water bottles, juice boxes, and other items that might otherwise end up in the trash into toys.

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[Photo: Toyi]
“With Toyi, children are making their own toys by redefining and redesigning everyday objects around them,” says Elif Atmaca, the Turkey-based designer behind the project, which is now running a Kickstarter campaign. “In this way, a water bottle can be transformed into a six-armed robot. Now the water bottle is no longer just trash, but a really precious robot that reflects children’s imagination. With that approach, children adopt an upcycling mindset by developing a sense of producing without consuming at an early age.”

[Photo: Toyi]
Atmaca was inspired by her own experience growing up in disadvantaged parts of Turkey, where children often didn’t have access to toys. “Especially in regions with many disadvantaged children, it is hard to send them the desired toys, so I thought I should make something that allows children to transform the materials around them into toys…Instead of creating a ready-made toy, I wanted to create a tool that children can use to design their own unlimited number of toys,” she says. For each kit sold on Kickstarter, she will donate another through nonprofit partners.

[Photo: Toyi]
For kids that have an overabundance of toys, the kit is designed to help them rethink consumption and their own ability to create and reinvent toys, rather than only buying more. Atmaca deliberately made the kit open-ended to help spur creativity and problem-solving.

[Photo: Toyi]

“The play and toy industry is shaped by grown-ups whose creativity is limited when compared to children,” she says. “Play rules are set by adults. They tell children how to play and what toys to make. Even with toys composed of construction blocks, the end product is shown to children beforehand. Toyi is giving priority to children’s needs and supports child-led play. There are no instructions or rules in Toyi kits. The entire process is left to children’s imagination.”

In initial tests, a 6-year-old girl who wanted to be a pilot made an airplane from water bottles; others made an old box into a singing robot or a bottle into a rocket. “There are no limits to what children can do with their imagination,” Atmaca says.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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