How one Toronto woman is turning unwanted toy debris into new learning experiences

From marker lids to lone lego pieces — Rebecca Saha has made it her mission to re-purpose old toys and give them a second life as learning tools.

Rebecca Saha aims to launch Tiny Toy Co. in March

What do a nun, an umbrella and a duck have in common? They're words that teach the "U" sound. (Talia Ricci/CBC News)

Rebecca Saha has a pretty unique way of looking at a box of misfit toys.

The teacher and librarian has taken things like lone lego pieces and marker lids, and turned them into educational experiences through her new company Tiny Toy Co.

"These are teaching techniques that I'm going to be sharing, that I've been using in my teaching practise for 18 years," Saha said.

The Etobicoke woman plans to use these unwanted toys to teach everything from letter sounds, language development and math games to school-aged kids.

Rebecca Saha says the inspiration for Tiny Toy Co. came from 18 years as a teacher and librarian. (Talia Ricci/CBC News)

Currently she has a space in her home where toys are organized in various categories. One bin, for example, contains a toy bride, driver and brush — items that may seem miscellaneous. All three things, however, represent words that begin with digraphs, two letters that combine to make a single sound. 

Meanwhile, a box of mixed lego aims to bring full sets back together so it can be assembled again.

"I think of it as a 'reverse Bulk Barn,'" Saha said. "The biggest thing about re-use is that everything has been dispersed, and by bringing it back together it gets a second life." 

In this example, Rebecca Saha uses dried out marker lids and industrial trays to create a game about multiplication tables and colours. (Talia Ricci/CBC News)

Keeping the environment in mind

In addition to teaching math and literacy, Saha says she's also hoping to reduce the waste that toys can create by diverting them from the landfills.

"Everything I'm creating for kids is not only educational but upcycled," Saha said.

Upcycling refers to reusing existing objects in new ways. It's a big part of what she's doing, and it's gained a lot of attention online. Saha says she was overwhelmed by responses on social media when she put a call out for toy debris.

"The primary job I've stepped up to do is collecting it, corraling it and curating it."

As a teacher and mom of three, she's been surrounded by what she calls "toy debris" for years, and figured it was time to do something about it.

Saha has a play room full of various bins of toys. Many of them are organized by theme, colour or used for a literacy game. (Talia Ricci/CBC News)

Her company has caught the interest of teachers, speech pathologists and environmental clubs. As Saha builds her business, she's challenging people in the GTA to reach into their couch cushions and see what they find. 

"Get the toy debris off their playroom floor and contribute it for upcycling into eco games," she said. 

Currently Saha has five bins set up across the city to collect toy pieces. You can find the full list of locations here

The games and activies are set to launch in March.