Kids in Malawi Make Their Own Toys Out Of Junk!

Avik Maitra, Lilongwe Malawi, Kids Making Toys out of scrap material, recycled material toys, old scrap toys, junk toys, Malawi kids toystoy car made from an old milk carton

Sometimes we need a little reminder of how fortunate we all are. If you are reading this post and have enough money to buy your kids new toys this Christmas, now is a good time to consider your good fortune and count your blessings. In Lilongwe, Malawi, children have no toys to play with, so the crafty little buggers make their own toys from old milk cartoons, cigarette containers, cornhusks, and whatever other trash they can find lying around.

It just goes to show how naturally creative all kids are, and how important play is to children. All kids need  toys, and even the most impoverished kids will find things to play with from whatever they can find. Our friend Avik Maitra is working in Lilongwe, Malawi right now with these kids, and was inspired by their creativity to try to come up with some equally creative and eco-friendly ways of making toys for poor kids in this area. If you want to help him help find toys for more poor Malawi kids, read on!

Avik Maitra, junk toys, Kids Making Toys out of scrap material, Lilongwe Malawi, Malawi kids toys, old scrap toys, recycled material toysSoccer ball made from plastic bags and rubber bands

Avik Maitra, Lilongwe Malawi, Kids Making Toys out of scrap material, recycled material toys, old scrap toys, junk toys, Malawi kids toys

Calling all junk! We want yours this holiday season!

Industrial leftovers, factory byproducts, misprints and waste — your trash can be a poor kid’s treasure. If you’ve got the privilege to be reading Inhabitat and to even consider your ecological impact, you’ve got plenty to be thankful for. Many kids in Malawi this year can also be thankful for Avik Maitra, but they need your junk to make new toys. Avik, a recent Masters in Architecture graduate from Colombia University recently begun an 8-month research fellowship in the small town of Lilongwe, Malawi. Spending time in orphanages, Avik has started a project to make toys for these kids from recycled materials.

Avik has been spending time in local orphanages, researching their design and functionality, addressing architectural needs, developing a girls academy, and designing new toys for the orphanage. He’s calling on businesses and factories in Malawi or other nearby areas to donate leftover or waste material for architectural projects as well as for the development of toys.

Avik Maitra, Lilongwe Malawi, Kids Making Toys out of scrap material, recycled material toys, old scrap toys, junk toys, Malawi kids toys

A working list of Avik’s requirements for the toys he develops includes those that are cool, cute, forward-looking, fun, engaging, imaginative, free to village children, and made from local and natural resources by the children. Avik has been visiting local factories in search of materials with little luck so far. Despite getting a brand new orphanage in 2006, the building has nearly no furniture or toys, and those they do have are dilapidated, dirty or dangerous.


Avik has been given this opportunity to help the orphans of Malawi thanks to a generous endowment from UC Berkeley Professor Ray Lifchez and Columbia’s Percival and Naomi Goodman Fellowship. As the holiday season approaches it’s a time to be grateful for what you’ve been given, but also take time to make someone else grateful. Donate your industrial leftovers to Avik and the children of Malawi, support a life changing fellowship, plant a tree, bake a pie for your trash collector, or knit some booties for a baby in need. Whatever you do this Holiday season be creative, be grateful, and be giving.

+ Avik Maitra & Radecology

All photos by Avik Maitra

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8 Responses to “Kids in Malawi Make Their Own Toys Out Of Junk!”

  1. Attax says:

    This is great! i was born in Zimbabwe and for the longest time we had toys made from wires and plastic bags that we bought from kids on the street, one in particular was a wire man riding a wire bike (the legs and wheels both moved) that you pushed with a stick. They were really neat, and this was in the late 80s, a very heartwarming post.

  2. nya_m says:

    Heartwarming post, indeed.
    I have seen my little Malawian friends create and invent stuff from whatever they have lying around. Bouncy footballs appeared at circa 1997; children even weave fishnets that actually catch their snack from lake. So I am with you in admiration of the childrens’ ingenuity.

    However, due to Malawi’s inefficiency in processing non-degradable junk, permanent garbage dumps are appearing in all corners of the country. How many nations in Africa are suffering already as the industrialized nations’ illegal dump?

    Instead of widening the “sending-junk-and feeling good and lucky” channel, why not let the kids teach kids in the industrialized nations the fun of creating toys for themselves, perhaps even capitalize the skill? That way we both feel lucky and even reduce carbon emission by cutting garbage production and shipping, and be nice to everybody’s self-esteem and wallet. Good cause, though.

  3. acacia says:

    i like aviks idea, toys are probably not high on the priority list for orphan\’s needs but probably do improve their quality of life significantly.

  4. Cajean says:

    What a sweet reminder of Malawian kids’ innovative minds. I was there six years ago and saw them playing with their wire toy cars and steering sticks, and the hard-as-rocks plastic bag balls! I also know that, unlike many American kids, they REALLY appreciate real(well made) toys, balls and yes…even water balloons! They don’t complain that they didn’t get something else more expensive either. In light of the current economic situation, maybe our kids will relearn creativity and use their imaginations again. I agree with the writer above, it would be more cost effective to pay the Malawian children to teach ours!

  5. Kelli says:

    I’ve been to Malawi and worked with children very similar to these; their creativity is unbelievable!

  6. mytwocents99 says:

    anyone that knows how i can send handmade dolls over seas please e-mail me. my e-mail is
    thank you so much i would love to make a child smile, wish i could make them all smile.

  7. fiona day says:

    I went to malawi last year and the poverty really made me sad and sick. so i came back to England and I have collected and bought clothes which im now trying to send to malawi but im uneble to do that because the containers are too expensive to ship things to malawi can anyone help please.
    my house is full of staff for charity to malawi.
    if you can please help help help

  8. O. Theresa Madedor says:

    African Missions for Christ a not for profit Organization will be going to Malawi in December 2011 to give 20,000 Malawi Children in the village a Christmas of their life time. The plan is to show the love of Jesus Christ and tell them all about Christmas. We shall be feeding the Children and we plan to give each Child a toy. A generous man has donated 20,000 school bags for the Children, we are currently praying that people will donate the toys. and the school supplies to put in the bags. We would appreciate toy cars for boys and dolls for girls. If God has laid it on your heart to patner with us on this project, please visit us at Thanks a million

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