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One man's junk is another kid's treasure!

Kids all over the world in low income countries are forced to be creative when it comes to playtime. With limited toys, children often use materials they find to create new, interesting and educational activities to pass the time. I propose that we continue this trend, but enhance the experience. The process is simple: Phase 1: Research the "junk" that can be found in low income countries Phase 2: Create innovative ideas around how the junk can be assembled to create fun, interactive, educational toys Phase 3: Create instructional kits (think LEGO instructions) on what materials are needed, how to assemble them, and how to play games with the new toy Children will enjoy new toys and have fun throughout the building process.

Photo of Stefanie Bassler
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The instructional kits will be laid out like a scavenger hunt. Kids should have fun in the process of finding the materials as well as when they play with the finished toy. 

I think this idea could succeed because it is low cost, and it utilizes exixting recourses to encourge creativity and play in countries that need it most. 

If you have any ideas on "junk toys", please share!! 

Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

My initial thoughts were to design for children in Uganda. These children sometimes live in very harsh conditions; working as domestic servants, in child labor, or being recruited by the Resistance Army. They need an outlet and creativity and play could serve as just that. The games could be designed to encourage children to collaborate with others, to build trust and patience, and even work ethic.

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

I would test the idea on children within the United States. We can formulate the same concept: Find materials that are considered "junk" in the US, create new, fun, innovative ideas for toys that can be made out of these products, and then create a simple version of instructions on how to assemble the new toy and what games can be played with it. This is a low-fidelity, limited design project. Graphics can be mocked up my hand and instructions can be photocopied to use across different groups of kids.

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

I am going to need the help of a graphic designer, as well as someone who has been or currently resides in a low-income country. This person should have experience in working with children in said country.

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • Yes. I am looking for partners that might be interested in taking this idea forward in their communities.


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Photo of An Old Friend

Dear Stefanie,

It is really fascinating and innovative idea. The main concern of mine regarding your idea is how you are planning to reach children in these countries and how you are going to pay for the designers in order to involve them in the process?

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