Young Children Learn to Create Something New From Something Old

by Dawn W. Dubbs

Galimotos made by children in Rwanda.

This child used a stick and some plant fiber to make a toy.

This child used a stick and some plant fiber to make a toy.

Children took advantage of materials at a construction site to invent their own swing.

Children took advantage of materials at a construction site to invent their own swing.

Children often use sticks to carefully guide old tires along the street. It takes really good balance, coordination, and timing to keep the tire rolling!

Children often use sticks to carefully guide old tires along the street. It takes really good balance, coordination, and timing to keep the tire rolling!

Children create playthings with found objects such as sticks, tires, and wire.

Children create playthings with found objects such as sticks, tires, and wire.

This galimoto was made with a stick, wire, and wood.

This galimoto was made with a stick, wire, and wood.

Wire, wood, a shoelace, and circles of foam were used to make a wheel toy.

Wire, wood, a shoelace, and circles of foam were used to make a wheel toy.

What a feat of engineering! This truck must have taken hours of painstaking work, from finding all of the materials to designing the vehicle, complete with “windshield” and a radio antenna!

What a feat of engineering! This truck must have taken hours of painstaking work, from finding all of the materials to designing the vehicle, complete with “windshield” and a radio antenna!

Learning Materials

  • Beads
  • Cardboard
  • Clay
  • Colored construction paper
  • Fabric pieces
  • Markers, crayons, colored pencils
  • Recycled items (clean, safe) such as empty boxes, plastic containers
  • Rocks
  • Sticks
  • Watercolors
  • White paper
  • Yarn, string, raffia, ribbon

Books to Read With Children

  • Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams
  • Roxaboxen by Barbara Cooney
  • Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman

Arts Experiences Perform a fingerplay. Hands are important when creating objects out of recycled items. Chant and act out a fingerplay about hands.

Open Them, Shut Them Open, shut them; open shut them Give a little clap. Open, shut them; open shut them Lay them in your lap. Creep them, creep them, Slowly upward, Right up to your chin. Open up your little mouth, But do not let them in. Open, shut them; open shut them Give a little clap. Open, shut them; open shut them Lay them in your lap.

Use ordinal numbers to count. Count how many places Kondi visited to get enough wire for his Galimoto. Discuss the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth place he went to gather his wire.

Seriate sticks. Kondi gathered all types of wire, from thin to thick. Children gather sticks and arrange them from the thinnest to the thickest.

Observe crafters. Invite makers of galimotos or similar original objects to demonstrate how they create the toys, baskets, and other objects from wire. Ask questions about how they started up as wire artists and what they do with the objects after they are made. If parents are willing, invite them to share the story of any galimotos they may have at home. Follow up with a group thank-you letter to the visitors.

Classify and sort. Children collect natural materials—indoors and outdoors—to and add them to recycled items. Sort items by size. shape, weight, and color.

Brainstorm. Pass a simple item such as a stick or box around a circle. Children hold the item and describe how it could be used for pretend or real. For example, a stick could be a fishing pole, bat, horn, or cane.

Plan. Children examine the natural and recycled items that were collected. They draw pictures in their journals of something they could make by combining some of the materials provided.

Invent something new out of something old. Children use their collections to make new items. Use markers, beads, ribbon, yarn, string, raffia, and fabric pieces to make their creations personal.

Exhibit inventions. Display children’s inventions and plans. Label them with cards telling about the artist and the invention. Invite parents and other adults to come and view.

Enjoy books! Read Galimoto to find out how Kondi worked to gather and save enough wire to make a wheeled toy. Listen carefully to learn about all the places he visited in order to gather the wire for his toy. Discuss how important it is to not give up, even when things get difficult.

Read Roxaboxen to learn how a group of children create a town, out of boxes, in the middle of the desert. Discuss how their imaginations helped their ideas magically come true.

Read Something From Nothing and learn how a little boy and his grandfather use a special blanket to create a series of new items out of old ones. Search carefully at the bottom of each page to find out how a mouse family living under the floorboards also benefits from the blanket scraps. Discuss items at home that are used and reused by family members.

What Children Learn

  • Literacy. Children hear stories, do fingerplays, share ideas for creating new toys, learn new vocabulary, write plans, and write a group thank you letter.
  • Math. Children count, practice ordinal numbers (first through fifth), seriate, classify, and sort using multiple criteria.
  • Social studies. Children meet local toy and recycled material artists and learn the history of galimotos.
  • Science. Children explore outdoors to find sticks, rocks, pebbles, and leaves for toy making.
  • Social skills. Children plan together to create an exhibit of their work.

Curriculum Connections

  • Construction & Creativity (math, social studies, free play, art/traditional crafts, Rwandan culture, journals)
  • Investigation Outdoors (science/environment, active play, nature)
  • Literacy & Imagination (storytelling, books, poems, journals, write, pretend play, experience stories)