IT’S ALIVE!! Not sure what inspired this idea to begin with, but this is a program I wanted to do for awhile. This one can be a little daunting though, since there is the possibility of someone getting injured. But as long as everyone’s following the rules, all of your kiddos will leave with an amazing experience and all their fingers intact.
Here’s how we did it:
Step 1.) Get toys.
I started out by putting up a big sign asking for donations from the community for the program. People will ask what you’re looking for, so it’s important to keep that in mind. I asked for basically anything–stuffed animals, Happy Meal toys, anything! If you are going to ask for donations, make sure to give plenty of notice and reminders so that people are waiting to the last minute.
From there, I hit up every Goodwill and Dollar Store I could find. I would recommend getting at least one doll/action figure for each kid that you’re expecting. From there kids will get creative, and if you don’t have enough heads or whatever, they’ll figure it. BUT every kid will need a base to build off of.
When picking out toys, try to figure out how easy it’s going to be cut off/pry off/saw off different body parts. If it’s too much hassle, it probably isn’t worth it. Also, give yourself plenty of time to scavenge for toys–some Goodwills will be better stocked than others. And make sure to get a good variety of different toys. That’s truly what makes it fun.
Step 2.) Get materials and tools.
We spent a lot on toys, so to save money, we asked our Department of Public Works to loan us safety goggles, work gloves, and tools. They were more than happy to give us enough of each, so check with your DPW before buying anything.
DON’T GIVE OUT HAMMERS! This is probably the best advice I got from Miss Abby, who runs a “Wreck-It” program at her library. Hammers will break your toys, break your tables, and break your fingers! Instead give out screwdrivers and pliers and have kids patiently take apart their toys. Make sure you plan enough time so no one is in a rush and makes a mistake.
I did have two small saws and a box cutter on hand, BUT only I or an adult were allowed to use them. If an adult used them, I asked them to give it back as soon as they were done.
And glue guns are a MUST, as many as you can get. We only had two on-hand, so Miss Gloria had got a BUNCH from other libraries and it really helped out. Waiting for a glue gun would really have slowed down our event. She also prepped a bunch of sewing needles for stuffed animal surgery, which was also a really smart idea. Having someone on-hand that actually knows how to sew made it all the easier.
Step 3.) Go over safety rules.
When I advertised this program, a lot of parents kept saying, “Oh just like Sid from ‘Toy Story!'” That got me the idea for how I was going to go over rules to make it more fun but also get the point across that we had to take this seriously.
So I printed out these signs as big as I could, and before we touched anything we all went over the rules:
Rule No. 1–Share Your Materials!
This meant we had to share not only toys but also tools. Extra toy parts went into a separate box and tools not being used should go back onto the work table.
Rule No. 2–Use Safety Gear!
It’s important that your kids understand that they’ll be using tools and toys in a way that they were NOT normally meant to be used. And whenever that happens, it can be a recipe for disaster. So safety goggles were REQUIRED whenever tools were being used, no matter what was happening, and work gloves were STRONGLY ENCOURAGED at all times.
Rule No. 3–Use the Tools Properly!
This just meant that we using the tools for their intended purpose and not for anything else. I then did a quick demonstration of all of our tools. Pliers were only used for popping off limbs and other parts, and not for cutting. Scissors were used for cutting off loose limbs, but not to be used as pliers. Screwdrivers were meant for unscrewing parts and carefully popping up seams, not as knives.
Maybe give a mini-demonstration about how each tool could be used on a toy. Not only will it provide instruction, but it will demonstrate what the event actually is. I had a few gasps from kids when I started pulling off limbs with pliers, so I feel it’s good to get some of that shock out of the way so kids can feel free to have fun.
Rule No. 4–Think before Doing!
I stole this from a “Mythbusters” episode. I told my kids before they did anything, they should think hard about if it would put themselves or someone else in danger. Then, I showed them an example of what I meant: I took a Barbie and put it right by face and tried to pry off a leg with some pliers. I then asked my kids what some of the bad things that might happen.
Rule No. 5–Ask for Help!
Another pretty easy one to understand. If you’re not 100% sure what you’re doing, please ask first before you do it. We had almost all younger tweens for this, so all the parents stayed with their kids and were a HUGE help. I would HIGHLY recommend putting something in you event about how parents must stay with young ones for assistance.
Step 4.) Do the event!
It went amazing. I toyed with the idea (haha “toyed” man, I’m hilarious) of cutting off all limbs of stuff first. But I didn’t and that turned out to be the right call. If you do all the prep, it goes from being a STEM project, to just being a craft project, which is as rewarding of an experience. And it also limits the creativity, so trust in your kids and let them wreck-it themselves.
All the kids followed the rules and were extremely careful, asking some great questions and asking for help when needed. And all the parents stayed and were great at helping out their kiddos.
An amazing event that I HIGHLY recommend that everyone tries!