Home Made Toys

How the imagination works, and a few decent alteratives to popular toys
May 17, 2010
When I was a child, I had a very colorful imagination. I would literally look at anything, and somehow turn it into something else. A stick became a sword, a big cardboard box became a fort of some sorts, a snow bank became a hideout, etc. in fact, I feel that all of my friends were the same way, and after reading a number of articles on this site, as well as all of the comments that have been posted, Ive come to the conclusion that it was certainly a generational gift.

Thats right, I called it a gift. You ask why? Because quite honestly, the imagination has become a wasted medium nowadays. With technology advancing and kids spending more time on the computer, there leaves very little time for them to go outside and find something new to play with. Not to mention the fact that the toys have certainly become more advanced. Why the hell would a kid swing a stick when they can play with virtual swords on the Wii? Or perhaps play with the newest Light Saber toy? If a kid was seen playing with a stick today as opposed to toys, he would be in some office, coloring with Crayons answering a bunch of questions he doesnt understand.

Thats part of the problem as well. I feel that todays society doesnt give children the chance to be children. They are forcing kids to grow up too fast, and in my opinion, stealing someones childhood is maybe the biggest crime of all. And I couldnt help but think about it the other day; about how when we were kids, we were always out making something out of something. I started to recollect about some of my most memorable creations.

When I was a kid, we had a lot of toys, dont get me wrong. But for the most part, we got toys for holidays and birthdays. Every now and then our parents would surprise us, or maybe take us to Toys R Us after a good report card, but it wasnt very frequent that we got them for the sake of getting them. As you read in my previous article, Wrestlemania 10- I Was There, you get the idea that we did a lot as a family. We went to a lot of Yankees games, a lot of Islanders games, and a lot of concerts. We also went to a campsite upstate every weekend during the summer, so we were treated well. Maybe thats why we didnt ask for a lot during the year; my brother and I always appreciated what we had. Thats when we would get the imaginations rolling; we knew that if we werent getting the real thing for a while, we would just make it ourselves.

Unfortunately, we never took pictures of any of these toys, but I did provide pictures of the materials involved. (forgive me, Im new to providing photos with HTML)

Home Made Light Saber:

When I was 8 years old, my father showed me Star Wars for the first time. Like any 8 year old that saw Star Wars for the first time, I rewound the tape and watched it for the second time. I was obsessed with it. I couldnt get enough of it. At this point, the franchise was beginning to make a comeback. It was the mid 90s and all other parents had the same idea mine had, and they shared this gem with their children. Now you couldnt go anywhere without seeing Star Wars toys.

I wanted a light saber, but my birthday wasnt for a few months and waiting until Christmas was simply out of the question. So I decided to make one myself. I headed out into the yard and began the search for the perfect stick. It had to be straight and durable, so that I could actually make it look like a legitimate light saber. After about 10 minutes, I found one that was perfect. It was the right height and was straight as an arrow. Even better, it didnt have any jagged edges. It looked like it could be a light saber. So I spread out some paper grocery bags from Edwards (which in my town was a Finest, then became a Stop And Shop after Edwards closed), out on the lawn, grabbed two containers of paint and a paintbrush and went to work.

I would say this stick was about 2.5 feet long, which was perfect because I was about 4.5 feet tall. I painted the first 8 inches or so grey to give it the look of a handle. The rest of it I painted red. I let it sit overnight, and woke up the next morning to a brand new light saber. It was something I was really proud of. Actually, I liked the fact that it was mine because in my opinion, I had worked very hard on it and the thing looked pretty damn good for what it was. I had that thing for a little while, and then finally got the real toy.

Home Made Batcave(s):

I was 6 years old when Batman Returns hit the big screen. I loved the first movie and REALLY liked the second as well, and I had all of the Batman toys. I had a ton of action figures, we well as the Batmobile and Batman Utility Belt. But what good was all of this without having a Batcave to go to? This certainly wouldnt do, so I hit the drawing board, literally. My father had just bought a new barbeque and was throwing the box away. I asked him to retrieve it from the curb and bring it into our playroom. He did and I went to work.

Armed with markers galore, I began to draw. I drew fake TV monitors with bad guys on them, fake computers, fake rocks, rake bats, then finished it off by coloring the inside of the box black. I also cut a hole in the box so I could see the outside world from within the cave. You know, just incase a REAL bad guy happened to be in the house. I kept all of my Batman armor at the far end of the box, which really was tremendous, especially to a child. I would flip the other end shut, turn on a flash light and boom, instant Batcave. To this day, I think this was my best work. I put hours upon hours of work into this, and it really did look great. It was one of my favorite places to be.

Then one day, I got off of the school bus and found this outside by the trash. In a rage, I ran to my mother and asked why she was throwing it away. The answer- The cat pissed in it. All of a sudden, I didnt want to play in it anymore, but at the same time, I did not want to lose the Batcave. Can you imagine Batman without a cave? Neither can I. That meant getting back to work.

This next cave wasnt nearly as detailed or as fun as the other. I got a bunch of construction paper, drew new monitors/ computers, and taped them to the inside of my closet. Yeah, that became the new cave. It sucked, but I tried passionately to convince myself that it didnt. But how serious could a Batcave be if your mother and your grandmother are constantly opening it to put shirts away? Not very serious at all. This cave didnt hold my interest for very long, but thankfully the Power Rangers came along and I was more concerned with a Megazord than I was with a Batcave.

Home Made Proton Pack:

I distinctly remember this one from a very young age. I would routinely do this at the age of 3. I had already seen both Ghostbuster movies and was in love with the TV show. Christmas was coming and I had asked Santa Claus for a Proton Pack toy. In the essence of wanting to play with it before Christmas, I made my own. I would take a little backpack I had and put it on my back. I would then take a large flashlight that my father had which came with a strap attached to it. I would tuck the trap into backpack, zip it shut and whamo- instant Proton Pack. Anytime I wanted to zap a ghost, I would turn the flashlight on. I would pretend that the light was a particle stream. The best would be if the lights were out and you could actually see the light beam. It made for a great effect. I would also use a tissue box as a trap.

Home Made Ghost Nabber:

This was another toy from the awesome Kenner line that came out while The Real Ghostbusters was airing on television. This was one of the few Ghostbuster toys that I wanted but never actually got. This home made toy saw a few different forms but never really lasted long enough to do a lot with. Unlike some of the other home made toys listed in this article, this was one that I was never really happy with and never really played with after a few minutes. But it does fit the theme, so I tossed it in.

One form of this toy saw the same backpack from the Proton Pack toy, as well as some twine and a stick. That was basically it. Not much method to this one. I also formed one with a fanny pack and a ruler. I think the final design of this one involved a manila folder which I drew the Ghostbusters logo on, some duck tape and another stuck. I would go around my house collecting whatever villain toys I had laying around, and I would trap them and put them in whatever carrying case I had with them. Lets just say a lot of Ghostbuster, ninja turtle, and wrestling villains found their way into this piece of crap. I think that part of the reason why I never used it much, aside from the lack luster design, was that I never really remembered this from the movie or TV show. The closest thing I can think of is the piece of equipment that Venkman used in GB1 while sniffing around the apartment of Dana Barrett.

Home Made Ghost Sniffer:

Now this was one that I did use a few times and really seemed to enjoy. Like I said before, the ghost sniffer was used very briefly with little explanation during the first movie. At this point, I had the Proton Pack, the trap, and the Ecto Charger pack from the second movie. I wanted to have as much equipment as I could in order to be a fully fledged Ghostbuster. This was another one that involved an empty tissue box, some twine and a turkey baster. It was a simple design but really did follow the same function as the one in the movie.

I painted the box black, taped some twine on it so that I could toss it over my shoulder, took another piece of twin and connected the baster to the box and done; the Ghost Sniffer was mine. I would walk around the mouth sniffing for ghosts and if I found one, it was off with the sniffer and on with the Proton Pack. Sometimes if the ghost was too big, I would have to switch out to the Ecto Charger pack and weaken it with positively charged slime. Once that was done it was back to the Proton pack and into the trap. I always had fun pretending to be a Ghostbuster.

Home Made Nun chucks:

Man, I loved being a turtle. Just as much as being a Ghostbuster in fact. I had every TMNT toy known to man. I had things that most of you probably dont remember or even knew existed. These were awesome toys from the people at Playmates, and have really remained timeless. I had a Raphael play set which I loved. Many of you had these sets: it came with a bandana to tie around your eyes which was attached to a green rubber nose. Whichever color you bandana was would determine which turtle you were, which meant you got the weapons that belonged to each character.

I was a Mikey guy, as most of us were. How could you not love him right? This home made toy saw two different forms: one saw two sticks tied together with twine. This didnt last all that long because there was always the chance of me or my brother getting impaled with these things. So I eventually switched it up to two paper towel tubes. I tied them together with twine and wrapped tape around them to make it look like handles. These were tough to make; maybe the most difficult of all of my examples. The reason being that I would have to wait until I had four empty towel tubes, so that I could make two sets of nun chucks.

I could go on for pages and pages about the things that I made as a kid. Like I said before, I had a very colorful imagination. I was also stubborn and when I wanted something, I wanted it immediately. I look back upon these and it makes me smile. The innocence and fun that come with being a child and having a great imagination is something that we will always carry with us. Thanks for sticking with me through this lengthy article (although all of mine seem lengthy). I hope that this helped you remember some of the things that you made as a child, or maybe some of the games you created. I look forward to reading about them in the comments section.

Until next time, later fellow Retro Junkies!

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