By Dana Boutin, Communications Coordinator
When I was a little girl, my mother convinced me to turn our sandbox into an herb garden. I had enjoyed digging and building in the sand for many years but was growing out of this type of play. The idea of planting and tending to my own little garden appealed to my budding sense of independence, and I was excited to reap the rewards at dinnertime.
This memory got me thinking of more possibilities for repurposing discarded objects and old toys. An herb garden worked well for us because herbs thrive in sandy soil, but I’ve seen many innovative ideas for repurposed planters – everything from old typewriters to rain boots that no longer fit.
There are many opportunities to build on or scaffold the learning involved in projects that children become immersed in and enjoy. Once our herbs had grown, my mother helped me to catalog the plants by drawing them and describing their uses. In retrospect, during the span of this project I transitioned from the sensory stages of exploring the textures of sand and soil and the smell of different plants to learning about symbols and beginning to represent the world with images and words. As children grow, they may be more intrigued by the culinary and agricultural science behind plants or develop an interest in community gardens.
When kids become less interested in their toys, repurposing them is a great way to spark creativity while saving money. Coming up with new ideas is half the fun, and hands-on, inquisitive learning is important for students all the way up through high school. Inventing new functions and designs stimulates thinking and is ripe with opportunities for interdisciplinary learning. A child who is curious about mythology, for example, might enjoy refashioning old dolls into Greek gods and goddesses (or their own pantheon!) and writing stories about their creations. Or you might tap into your children’s passion for dinosaurs and teach them about electricity while making a lamp base out of triceratopses and velociraptors together. For more ideas on getting started, check out this architecture and design blog, which brings together 30 inspiring ideas for transforming toys into household objects and home decor.
I’d love to see what you create and hear your ideas for repurposing toys!