#HerWorldHerStory: This children’s book author upcycles trash into toys

by Hayley Tai & Cheong Wen Xuan  /   June 28, 2020

Sophia Huang shares how she got started and why she continues doing it


#HerWorldHerStory is a collection of 60 women sharing their successes, passions, challenges, inspirations, hopes and dreams. Together, they give a snapshot of what it is to be a woman today.

Every month from March till August, we present 10 women navigating their lives now – and in their own words. This is Sophia Huang’s story…

her world her story sophia huang children's book author upcyle trash toys

When my eldest daughter was two, she would sometimes be more drawn to random items than her own toys. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be better to create my own toys rather than spend on something that she would only be interested in for five minutes?”

It’s a constant daily battle as a parent to three young children in a land of plenty. My kids often receive gifts from friends, families or teachers. But I started to wonder how I could inculcate a sense of gratitude and appreciation in them for the gifts they receive, and the hard work that went into earning the money to purchase them.

My mum used to call me “karung guni girl” when I was young because I saved nearly everything from bits and pieces like scrap material to packaging.

her world her story sophia huang children's book author upcyle trash toys

As a parent, I’ve tried to pinch pennies whenever I can to save costs. I’m also always on the lookout for activities to spark my children’s interest and develop their creativity.

I once stayed up late to make a kitchen toy set out of cardboard boxes and cartons. My daughter was thrilled when I surprised her with the new toy, made with different sized boxes, old CDs, bottle caps, shopping bags and toilet rolls.

The upcycled toy cost about $8 for kitchen paper, metal racks and magnets, but it brought her the same joy as a $200 store-bought one.

I started sharing my upcycle projects on my Facebook page, Craftcycle for Kids, hoping that other parents would do the same. I also teach kids how to make upcycled craft out of plastic bottles and supermarket bags, during storytelling sessions.

One day, I was so heartened when my daughter used takeaway chopsticks, bubble wrap and rough paper, and turned them into a family of puppet rabbits and ducks!

Sure, upcycled products don’t last, and they aren’t meant to. But collecting and transforming trash is how I hope to impart values such as resourcefulness, creativity and environmental consciousness in my kids. And that’s created in them (and myself) a sense of mindfulness about the environment and the waste we generate. What’s more important is the time parents spend with their kids building bonds and exercising creativity.

What’s more important is the time parents spend with their kids building bonds and exercising creativity.

This article was first published in Her World’s June issue.