At the ‘Toy from Trash’ workshop, children infused life into toys with their thoughts, touch and stories
The otherwise tranquil Gandhi Museum campus is reverberating with kiddy banter. The diminutive figure of a man stands in the middle, holding on to a piece of paper and enthusiastic kids surround him in awe. He folds the paper multiple times as the children observe keenly. He passes on the paper amidst the participants and asks them to open it and the paper takes the shape of a bird. The crowd responds with joy and laughter. Some ask if the bird can fly and some instantly name the bird and call it their pet. The ability of children to see a real bird in a piece of paper is amazing, observes Subid K.S. of Ahimsa Toys which along with Thumbi organised ‘Toys from Trash’ workshop for parents and children recently in the city. “When the space is given, kids can come up with wonderful ideas. Our idea is to give them that room and allow them to get into a world beyond just text books.”
“Unfortunately, we kill the ability to learn in our present-day education system. We only teach and never let children learn. This is an attempt to give confidence to children that they can do something better by themselves,” says Subid, who is a graduate in product design from IIT. Inspired by the scientific toy-making techniques and designs of Arvind Gupta, Subid ventured into the world of toys. (More about Arvind and his eco-friendly and innovative toys can be found at www.arvindguptatoys.com). “I wanted to learn from children. In all of my workshops, I may not be sure if I am imparting any ideas to the kids, but I always gain something new from them,” says Subid.
Apart from giving a vent to children’s creative abilities, the workshop redefined the connection between toys and kids. “A piece of toy means something more than the material value for kids. And the emotion and thought they invest in toys are much higher when they make the toys. There’s a sense of touch, attachment and an element of joy in creating a toy from discarded waste,” says Siva Raj of Cuckoo Kuzhanthaigal Veli, based in Thiruvannamalai that brings out a monthly magazine for children called Thumbi. Observing how the modern toy market is highly resource-intensive, he reiterates the need to turn to sustainability. “In our culture, we probably never had the ‘Use and throw’ concept. Toys were passed on through generations and they were always made from locally available natural materials. Every region had certain materials of which toys were made from,” he says, taking the example of a nongu-vandi or a bambaram.
Thyaga Sekar who has been working with children in Cuddalore, teaching them the art of Origami, rues that today’s kids are deprived of a carefree and lively childhood. “To play in the mud was once ‘fun’, but now it’s ‘unhealthy’. Childhood is the time to observe, learn, unlearn and connect with nature and surroundings. We need to educate children the journey of a single paper so that they are able to see more than just a paper.” He remembers how a small girl ran up to him after the workshop and asked if the sunflower she made would bloom the next morning. “She didn’t see it as a paper but as real sunflower which was very touching.”
The need is to keep the child in us alive even after we grow up, says Purushothaman of Vrksa LifeSpace, a place for sustainability projects. “Uncontrolled consumerism is what we see today and parents spend lots of money on just toys. Instead, this kind of a workshop boosts the creativity of kids and gives them the simple happiness of creating something out of a waste material.”
Krishnan N Subramanian of TheYellowBag says that the workshop is a starting point of a journey in search of stories from kids. “We plan to travel through the various landscapes of Tamil Nadu and collect stories from children over the next 15 days. We are also planning to make toys using the materials available in all these places.”
First published by The Hindu