Death of handmade toys holds back our innovation


Boys playing with their home-made toys at Kambi Samaki area near Lake Baringo on July 21, 2020. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

While making jokes about the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) and scarecrows, we should also mourn the death of making toys and the creativity that went with it.

Men of my generation or older made toys, we never bought them. From cars to planes, we used the available materials. Girls rarely made toys beyond dolls. I still find boys playing with toys in the countryside and in slums.

From oil cans to fencing wire and bottles, we had enough raw materials. We were pioneers in recycling. Bottle tops made good car wheels. But innovation frustrated us; oils started being packed in plastic containers.

While the plastics were good for keeping water or milk, they were not handy for toys. Metal cans have lots of flexibility.

We made our footballs from discarded socks or polythene, we had no money to buy balls. We even made toy spectacles from wire. We made toy carts too, my neighbour even tried making a bicycle. Our childhood had no TV, radio or internet. But we were never idle.

I am glad to see some young men selling handmade toys on the streets, but I want to see children making them themselves. It’s lots of fun and improves their creativity.

I suspect it’s from making toys that we developed our love for science and technology. This probably explains why men are still obsessed with cars irrespective of their age.

Today we have toy shops, all you need is money. While children are excited by the toys, it would be a lot more exciting making them. Other toys are available on cartoon shows on TV.

Nothing can compete with reality. Beyond toys, we made useful tools like bird traps, scarecrows, snares for antelopes (that was fun, not poaching), plane propellers and cooking sticks (mwikos), among others. I was surprised that lots of mwikos owned by Kenyans in the USA are imported from Kenya!

Maybe I am being too nostalgic, it is unlikely that age will return when we went skiing on mud. CBC may try reviving that golden age, but I guess simulations on computers will take over.

We may have had no shoes or power in our houses but we enjoyed our childhood to the fullest. Did you make any toys? Share your experience.


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