The Best Toy Maker
May 15, 2011 10:09 PM   Subscribe

Kids know that the best toys are the ones you make from stuff that's lying around. Arvind Gupta's been doing this for three decades. Take a look at his Turbine bottle cap, Helicopter foam cup, Drinking straw flute, The CD hovercraft, Magic Paper Fan, Funny Fountain, Drinking Straw Centrifuge Pump, Climbing Butterfly. Or check out the rest of his 1000 videos(!). Go to his website and discover an armload of books and pamphlets describing more toys (some of them classic) along with science experiments, math activities and stories. A sample: The amazing Touching Slate, a drawing toy for blind children. Hands On - Science Sense, Hands On - Ideas and activities, Toy Joy, Little Science, The Toy Bag, Toy Treasures. Little Toys , Finally you can hear Arvind in person at giving career advice, showing off a dozen toy examples, demonstrating the structure of methane; telling a Large Hadron Collider joke and finishing with the wonderful "Captain's hat" story. posted by storybored (30 comments total) 256 users marked this as a favorite
Dang, I forgot to add: Magnetic Levitation Pencil, surely the only toy made from a discarded flip flop.
posted by storybored at 10:12 PM on May 15, 2011 [15 favorites]

I like his foam-cup helicopter, which reminded me that as an engineering student, I naturally had a keen interest in things that could be dropped down stairwells. Dropping foam cups half-filled with water to watch them blow out on impact ten floors below led swiftly to my own helicopter design, made from a tall paper milkshake cup.

I'd cut about eight vertical slits about an inch and a half long down from the rim, then fold the resulting tabs outward along their diagonals to make little triangular turbine blades, then three-quarters-fill the cup with water, then drop it down the stairwell. By the time one of these had dropped two or three floors it would have enough spin going to spray water all over the occupants of five or six flights; it would be empty by the time it hit bottom and land quite undamaged.

Do that these days and instead of merely getting beaten up you'd probably end up accused of terrorism. Sigh.
posted by flabdablet at 10:29 PM on May 15, 2011 [10 favorites]

This is an amazing post storybored! These links are great. If I had kids, this is the kind of stuff I’d love to work with them on.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 10:36 PM on May 15, 2011

It's refreshing that his videos, unlike so many other instructional videos on youtube, get right to the point and don't dawdle.
posted by orthogonality at 10:52 PM on May 15, 2011 [6 favorites]

excellent DIY vids. ortho's right, straight to the point. another thing i noticed is that there doesn't seem to be any kind of "magic ingredient" in any of them, which seems to be common in many other DIYs. awesome.
posted by readyfreddy at 11:04 PM on May 15, 2011

Incredible! This is going to be so useful on my next trip to see the grandsons! Best post this year! :)
posted by woodblock100 at 11:12 PM on May 15, 2011

The CD hovercraft could also have some pretty cool propulsion with an extra pen and balloon, mounted cross-wise.

Nifty stuff! Thanks!
posted by jiawen at 11:44 PM on May 15, 2011

This is EXACTLY what MetaFilter is for. Favorited, bookmarked, and life improved.

Cheers, storybored!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:48 PM on May 15, 2011 [8 favorites]

This is great. Thanks!
posted by nile_red at 1:34 AM on May 16, 2011

This is so nice. I really liked how it doesn't really matter if he speaks English or not in the videos, it's still very clear what you need to do to build these things. And the painting slate for blind kids was lovely, what a wonderfully creative guy. Thanks for posting this, storybored.
posted by bjrn at 1:42 AM on May 16, 2011

That spinning pencil is brilliant fun. Cheers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:25 AM on May 16, 2011

MetaFilter: Spins, Levitates, Writes
posted by _Lasar at 3:00 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks storybored! So using this with my nieces.
posted by arcticseal at 3:23 AM on May 16, 2011

BitterOldPunk: "This is EXACTLY what MetaFilter is for. Favorited, bookmarked, and life improved."

You said it! Thanks, storybored!
posted by Songdog at 4:09 AM on May 16, 2011

Thanks for this! I like how his videos are so easy to understand and right to the point. I watched them with the sound off and was still able to follow along with what he was doing.

The no magnet motor is awesome. Especially at the end where he uses the magnet to control the speed.
posted by lilkeith07 at 5:58 AM on May 16, 2011

This is a most awesome post, thanks! Also, I could listen to this guy talk for hours.
posted by jquinby at 7:02 AM on May 16, 2011

Thank you for this post! I'm going to show my boys tomorrow and then I'm going to have to start gathering things. I really want to try the cd hovercraft - I just need the rubber disk and some glue. Enjoy hovercraft on floor!
posted by h00py at 7:15 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Holy mackeral, his main website has tons of stuff too.
posted by jquinby at 7:34 AM on May 16, 2011

posted by notsnot at 7:35 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

dad's, my father or maybe yours, was always proud of the "Wind Wheel" all one needed was a large unfolded piece of cardboard. dad would get out a sharp cutting tool, (not sissors), a pencil a three foot piece of string, and a long metal ruler. then, he would announce loudly watch this- placed and held the string end down,in about the center of the cardboard. holding the string still, he let out enough string to draw a circle on the cardboard. next mark a dot in the the center point selected. again let out 3 inches more and draw a second larger circle. using the metal ruler draw a line through the center to the first marked circle, this should cut the circle in half, then draw more lines about an 3 inches measured from the last marked line on the inner circle. repeat this till all lines have used up the inner circle. the hard part is cuting the lines carefully. exactly to the center point.
thus one has a solid outer circle to the inner circle that acts as a solid wheel. after making all cuts.put away all tools and go to ones knees, hold the full round wheel on its edge, then bending each cut spoke one inward, the next one outward. this also with the chore of cutting the lines, takes some time, but thats ok. after bending each spoke, the Wind Wheel is ready to go. take care in transporting the Wheel to the fun place, usually at an nearly empty beach( lots of constant wind) or desert, open spaces, also with blowing wind. before releasing the Wind Wheel,(wind at ones back), again make sure each spoke is fully outward. roll it a bit and the wind will start the wheel rolling way. wearing a good pair of sneakers, we ran after the wheel, never catching up on the dead run, but retrieving the Wheel, when the Wheel stops, being snagged on a bush. we always brought more than one if the first Wheel was lost. walk back and start another again. dad never painted any wheel and said find some more cardboard next week. thanks dad, can you hear me, up in heaven.
posted by taxpayer at 7:36 AM on May 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm the assistant leader for my daughter's Brownie troop and I had just started planning for next year's activities. I know a bunch of seven and eight year old girls who are really going to enjoy making a whole lot of this stuff.
posted by Dojie at 7:48 AM on May 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Wonderful! I thought this sort of stuff became impossible after they stopped making thread spools out of wood.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:12 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Glad y'all like the post! I have two nephews aged 2 and 4, I'm gonna do the bottle cap turbine this weekend with them. I'm picturing some shining eyes. But why should kids have all the fun? I gotta try the foam cup helicopter at home (along with flabdablet's water spraying mod). And anything on wheels that runs around would be mondo fun at the office.
posted by storybored at 8:31 AM on May 16, 2011

For the last several weeks, ever since I put together a really simple Earth Day activity at my son's school where I had the kids make bookmarks out of cardboard cereal and cracker boxes, my son (always the top eco-cop in our household) has been obsessing over the concept of turning trash into fun stuff. He keeps saving plastic bottlecaps and foam cups and other things that are hard to recycle locally, with the notion that we will "turn it into something" while he is home and bored over summer break.

But, being my kid's only just turned seven, and doesn't exactly have a lot of experience in the toy design department, I've been figuring it would pretty much be up to me to do a bunch of research at the library and online to come up with a list of fabulous "somethings" we could turn his growing pile of reclaimed trash into.

This post just made that job MUCH easier. Thanks, storeybored. I owe you one.
posted by BlueJae at 8:50 AM on May 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

(Er, storybored. Sorry to miss the typo.)
posted by BlueJae at 8:51 AM on May 16, 2011

I have just instantly become a better parent. Thank you!
posted by salishsea at 9:27 AM on May 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm very glad I didn't see this post until I got to work on Monday, otherwise, my weekend would have been totally shot. Excellent find!
posted by Foam Pants at 10:02 AM on May 16, 2011

Thanks so much for this post. I know what we'll be doing if the upcoming long weekend is as rainy as the forecast says it is going to be. Suspect the CD hovercraft will be the first thing we try.
posted by valleys at 12:44 PM on May 16, 2011

Update: Here is a better page listing all of Arvind's videos by language.

And now more fave vids:

24-unit ball
Rocket Projectile
Inside Outside cube
Corrugated Furniture
Peace Bomb
Light an LED
Funny Money

Last but not least, he writes about his favorite Teacher.
posted by storybored at 2:11 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by jessamyn at 7:04 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

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