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Creating toys with their own two hands

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What if you had no toys? What do you think you would play with? Most likely, as millions of poor children do around the world, you would end up making your own toys, at least sometimes.

An organization called ChildFund International, which helps children in need around the globe, has put together a collection of toys made by some of the children it has helped. The group has been sending an exhibit of the toys to several cities across the country to show off the creativity of these children, despite living in the poorest or most difficult conditions.

"We think each toy is a testament to the potential each kid has -- even kids who are deprived," said Anne Goddard, who is the president of ChildFund.

Among the toys that have traveled around the United States are soccer balls, dolls, cars and kites made from any kind of material you could imagine, including trash, tree bark, wire, paper and string. Gustavo, a 9-year-old from Mexico, put wheels on an old shoe -- and presto, it's a car! The stitching on the car even looks like racing stripes.

Goddard said building toys is important for kids who can't go buy them from a store -- and not just because it gives them something to play with. Creating a toy from scratch helps kids learn to solve problems and work cooperatively, and builds confidence and self-esteem. Once the organization decided to do an exhibition, ChildFund workers began asking children if they would give up their toys so they could be shown in America. Goddard said the kids felt "really proud that they made something important enough" to be shown in the United States, and some were even inspired to make different and better models of their toys as a result. Ten-year-old Mahindra from India, for example, started working on new go-cart models after he gave the first one he built to ChildFund.

"Even in the most [extreme] situations, kids still need to play," Goddard said. "It makes life normal again, but kids also need to play because it's very important for their development as a kid. We want to encourage that."

-- Margaret Webb Pressler

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