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Toys from reclaimed materials

Production and use

Children in Ghana usually use metal from tin-cans to make toy vehicles. They start by cutting off the tops and bottoms of the cans using a long blade or knife, which they hit with a rock or piece of wood. This can be a bit awkward, so the children hold the can between their heels or ask a friend to hold it steady. With the ends removed, the children cut along the length of the can and flatten the metal to a sheet. If there are lumps and bumps, they beat the sheet material with a piece of wood to flatten it.

The children scratch the shapes they want onto the surface of the metal and cut them out using the blade and a piece of wood. Then they bend the pieces into three dimensions, using the edge of desks or steps to make straight lines, and pencils or sticks to make tubes for the axles to fit in. They hold the different pieces against each other and adjust them so that they fit together neatly. The pieces slot together, so there is no need for glue or welding.

The children use pencils, sticks or even long thorns from trees in the playground as axles. They find circular objects to use as wheels, or cut them from waste materials (old flip-flops are a popular choice). The children pierce holes through the wheels with nails, so that the axles can be attached. If they need a large hole in the metal, they either cut it out using the blade and piece of wood, or they make lots of small holes side by side with a piercing tool until the unwanted piece falls out.

Finally, the children attach a string to their vehicle, test it, and sometimes add decorations.

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Practical Action - Technology challenging povertyEuropean Commission - Department for International Development

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