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People are inspired to volunteer and work with Second Chance Toys for a variety of reasons. Today we hear from one of our Board Members, Leslie Leventman, on what makes working with children in need so important to her:

As the holidays approach, with all the beautiful imagery and sounds of the season, I reach back to my childhood memories.  I have indelible memories of the lessons that my mother taught me. She always said that “giving is its own reward.” 
 
My mother was such a kind and caring individual. She was a product of the Great Depression and a member of the World War II Generation, who used ration coupons for food. My mother often spoke to me about those very difficult years and what it was like living in poverty. It was a painful reflection for her -- even in her early 90's. Fortunately, she had a very loving and close knit family, and together they weathered those extremely difficult years.
 
Despite her family hardships, my mother always knew how fortunate she was to have a doll and a pair of roller-skates as a child, and to experience the joy that these toys brought to her life. These two toys gave her childhood meaning, expression, creativity and room to dream. In fact, she might have missed out on all of those joyful times without them. However, she never forgot the meaning of those toys her entire life. This, I believe, ultimately led her to pursue a career in social service. As an adult, my mother became a social worker helping people in need. During the holidays my mother and her co-workers made baskets for the less fortunate, and delivered them to the neediest families. The focus of our holidays, as a family, was always to help those in need, and to “give back” to the best of your ability.   
 
This is why the mission of Second Chance Toys resonates so deeply with me, and why I am a member of its Board. The mission of Second Chance Toys is to help a child in need feel important and cared for, by providing toys that will allow them to be children. To dream, to play, and be in the moment of learning and wonder! Toys are so critical to a child's development. By giving a toy to a child, you are providing that child unbridled joy, a learning tool, and sweet memories-- all in one. And this is a blessing which will surely last a lifetime. 
 
My mother, Gladys Leventman, passed away this past March, at the age of 92. I will always honor and cherish her memory by remembering the needs of children who are less fortunate, by putting a smile on their faces with a joyful holiday toy.
 
Best wishes to all for a wonderful holiday season!

This holiday season, Uber, in conjunction with Kidville and 1-800- GOT-JUNK?, will make it easier than ever to donate gently-used plastic toys in the 5 boroughs of NYC and in Hudson and Union Counties in NJ. On Saturday, December 10th, from 10am-4pm, with the tap of a button, a driver will pick up your gently-used plastic toys and deliver them FREE to one of the 6 Kidville locations throughout Manhattan. There, the toys will be cleaned and prepared for pickup by 1-800- GOT-JUNK? who will transport the toys to local organizations that serve children in need.

In the NY Metropolitan area alone, Second Chance Toys has requests for over 40,000 toys. "We are happy to provide this free service that will not only make it simple for parents to donate their toys, but it will encourage many more toys to be donated for all the deserving children this holiday,” stated Raquel Rosenberg, Marketing Manager at Uber. Toys will be inspected for parts and cleaned by families and volunteers on Sunday, December 11th at 6 Kidville locations around Manhattan. Rammy Harwood, President of Kidville, stated, “We are thrilled to offer this opportunity to our parents and children so they can experience firsthand the life lessons of community service and giving back."

On Monday, December 12th, a mere 48 hours later, the toys will be picked up by 1-800- GOT-JUNK? and transported to multiple organizations throughout the city. “I can’t think of a better way to give back during the holidays than by delivering thousands of toys and putting smiles on the faces of as many children,” added Cameron Robinson, General Manager, 1-800- GOT-JUNK?. 

They say it takes a village, and Operation Toy Drive NYC, powered by Uber, will be demonstrating just that this December! Start gathering your toys!!

In our last Toy Tales story we hear again from Elva Guevara, the Executive Director of United Yes We Can- Unidos Si Se Puede.

This Toy Tale is about a young girl named Luz, a special needs child, who received a musical princess table from Second Chance Toys. Upon receiving the toy, Luz had tears running down her face and said that it was the “biggest and prettiest gift” she ever received. This was a very special moment for her that day, and the table continues to have special meaning. Several weeks later, her mother, Onesima, expressed her own joy to me personally. When Luz has an anxiety attack, her mom discovered that her daughter starts to calm down when seated at her princess table and she begins to play. This toy has truly been a blessing for them both.

Toys are more important than meets the eye. We are so grateful for Second Chance Toys and look forward to their generosity this holiday season as well.

 

In the last two Toy Tales stories we hear directly from Elva Guevara, the Executive Director of United Yes We Can- Unidos Si Se Puede. Guevara's organization offers basic services and education to low income families in East Harlem, NY. Each recipient organization that Second Chance Toys works with uses donated toys in a variety of ways, including keeping them on-site or sending toys home with the children. Below is a heart-warming story of one child who was so taken with a toy, there was no choice but to send it home with her-- she literally would not let it go!

The plastic carriage that Amy is clinging to in this photo meant so much to her. In fact, she would not let go of it during the entire party in which we gave out all of the hundreds of toys donated by Second Chance Toys. She wanted this more than anything and was not quite sure it could still be hers if she let go. Many of our families in East Harlem, NY struggle to pay for the basics. A single toy can be very special to those that do not have any of their own. Finally, when it was time for Amy to leave, her mom could not get her to take her hands off the carriage to put on her coat. Everyone had a good laugh watching her mom pick her up as she clung tightly to the carriage, then wrapped her coat around her, in order to get her home!! -Elva Guevara, the Executive Director of United Yes We Can- Unidos Si Se Puede

Part two in a new series from Second Chance Toys on the impact that donated toys have on the children who recieve them

Welcome our series of articles and shared stories that follow what happens to your toys after you drop them off. In each story, we'll share how a toy donation has directly and positively impacted the life of a child. We share these just as our holiday toy donations begin, with the hope that these stories provide some inspiration for giving and also a greater appreciation for the importance of toys.

As Jinnea turned the key and pushed the door open, she could still smell the new paint on the wall. It made her smile and remember just how far she had come. Her new apartment was in the same neighborhood she grew up in, yet it was worlds apart from the poverty she had once lived in. It was also a five minute walk from the Head Start Homeless Shelter she and her two sons once called home. 

Like her two boys, Zyon and Amari, Jinnea had grown up in a broken home herself. But she was lucky enough to have two very loving grandparents who helped her get off the welfare system and find a job. She started in a low paying entry level position and was quickly promoted to administrative assistant working with adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.  Jinnea is now working towards a degree in human services with a concentration in counseling – and she plans to graduate in May. She is so proud to have pulled herself up by her bootstraps to raise her boys in a better environment.

Gateway Community Head Start nurtured Jinnea’s kids while she was getting her feet on the ground. Zyon and Amari, went through the education and enrichment programs for preschoolers – and Jinnea is certain it gave the boys the positive start they needed -especially for her youngest, who is developmentally delayed. Jinnea can remember one particular breakthrough day for Armari. It was the day Second Chance Toys delivered gently used plastic toys to the children at Head Start; Amari received a plastic train from SCT. And through various play exercises with his new train, Amari’s teacher was able to pull him out of his shell and help him advance his speech and socialization. Jinnea and his educators still marvel at the fact that a plastic train held the key to unlock her son’s development. Helping kids and the environment… one toy at a time.

Part one in a new series from Second Chance Toys on the impact that donated toys have on the children who recieve them

Welcome to a new series of articles and shared stories that follow what happens to your toys after you drop them off. In each story, we'll share how a toy donation has directly and positively impacted the life of a child. We share these just as our holiday toy donations begin, with the hope that these stories provide some inspiration for giving and also a greater appreciation for the importance of toys.

Anthony and his family had a holiday season they will never forget. It had been a year of great lows. First the family was forced to relocate to a more affordable apartment. Then after a serious health threat landed Anthony’s father in the hospital, things became desperate. The family – which includes Anthony, his parents and his eight siblings -- were forced to move into a transitional living center located in Newark, NJ. The New Community Harmony House, a shelter that provides families like Anthony’s with the support they need, became their new home.

The New Harmony House offered new hope for the family – and also great support in the areas of job and education assistance, and food and clothing. But for Anthony, one of the most cherished gifts this transitional housing facility gave him was hope for the future – through the eyes of a plastic dinosaur.

It happened one afternoon when Second Chance Toys paid Anthony and the other kids at Harmony a visit several days before Christmas. Anthony and his brothers and sisters expected nothing for the holidays. They knew their parents’ situation. But that afternoon, they were pleasantly surprised to receive good-as-new plastic toys, with small tags bearing a note from the previous owner wishing them well. Anthony was given a dinosaur, a yellow helicopter, and two big trucks, but it’s the toy dinosaur that impacted him most. It made him curious about the study of dinosaurs, which blossomed into a general interest in the sciences, which made Anthony decide that he himself wanted to be a scientist when he grew up. And once he became famous for his discoveries, he was going to buy his family a new house they could all live in together. His mother believes the toy not only had a special meaning for her son but it helped him in his social and educational development. For Anthony that dinosaur has given him inspiration and hope. 

Recycled love and a second chance. It’s magic.

Hooray for Halloween! The holiday of sweet treats, spooky tricks, and costumes sparked by the imagination—no wonder it’s a favorite for all ages to enjoy! As you and your children prepare for the festivities, use this holiday for more than just collecting candy. Halloween is a great opportunity to discuss the importance of recycling, and then put it into action with these fun craft projects that transform old objects and materials (like, all those candy wrappers) into new creative treasures. Ahead, we share four recycling-based art projects that celebrate the Halloween spirit, promote skill building, and celebrate upcycling.

1.) Black & Orange Recycled-Materials Collage

 

This project is an effective, simple way to introduce your child to recycling. Start by encouraging your little one to save odds and ends that are typically discarded, including bottle caps, paper towel rolls, juice boxes, candy wrappers, and so much more. These open-ended materials are ideal for imaginative play, as they can be transformed and defined by the child’s imagination.

Once your child has a plentiful collection of recycled materials, invite him or her to make a collage by gluing them to a piece of cardboard or canvas. As they create from the unknown, this form of “process art” helps children develop a range of important skills, such as innovation, planning, problem solving, and fine motor development.

When their sculptural collage is complete, let it dry for at least 24 hours. Once the glue has set, your child can paint over the top of their 3-d collage using orange and black paint to create a festive, monochrome collage with a Halloween twist.

Materials needed: recycled materials, canvas or cardboard, paint, paintbrushes

2.) Toilet Paper Roll Characters and Literacy Adventures

Never throw out your toilet paper rolls again! Believe it or not, toilet paper rolls are the perfect recycled material for countless craft projects, and this one promotes storytelling and literacy skills! This Halloween, turn your old cardboard rolls into fun characters or animals, then start narrating new adventures with your little one.

Get started by reading a Halloween-themed book with your children. Ask them about the character details that they notice. Create a list of those features together. When the story is complete, encourage kiddo to decorate their cardboard tubes to bring their own characters to life. Whether you reenact the story you just read or create a new plot from scratch, your child’s cardboard characters pave the way for practicing their reading, writing, and narrative skills.

Materials needed: toilet paper rolls, recycled materials, markers, paint, confetti (optional), googly eyes (optional) 

3). Candy Wrapper Origami:

If your home looks anything like mine after Halloween night, your floor is covered in candy wrappers! Instead of tossing them, use all those colorful wrappers to practice origami, the art of paper folding! This engaging, focused activity helps children hone their fine motor ability and practice perseverance. Check out this list of fun shapes and figures that your child can create using nothing more than their hands and upcycled wrappers. Happy folding!

Materials needed: candy wrappers (or found papers) in various patterns and colors.  

4.) Cardboard haunted house

Cardboard boxes are one of my favorite open-ended materials for imaginative play. They allow children to create their own space in which they can enact their pretend worlds. Maybe a cardboard box is a space shuttle flying to the moon, a castle with a dragon inside, or a corner café with the best milkshakes in town.

This Halloween, invite your child to make their own haunted house! First, collect a large cardboard box (ideally large enough for your child to climb inside). Then set up a station of open-ended materials to inspire their imagination: markers, paints, stickers, recycled odds and ends (caps, plastic bottles, aluminum foil), pipe-cleaners, buttons—go for it! Assist your youngster (or help guide an older child) to cut out a door and windows using a box cutter. As they work, support their imaginative process by offering open-ended questions. These prompts invite more than “yes” and “no” responses. Try these: “What do you think you might see if you went inside a haunted house,” or “Imagine what it might feel like to live in a haunted house.” Open-ended comments help children create a narrative for their play experience. They also allow them to maintain control over their own creative process, which supports intrinsic motivation and independence.

Materials needed: cardboard box, cardboard scraps (for roof/details), box cutter, variety of open-ended materials for decorating.

Thanks to Rose & Rex Founder, Allison Klein, for writing this article and for her creative ideas. Her online toy boutique and play resource is a partner with Second Chance Toys. They are full of great ideas!!

School is back!! It’s never too soon to start thinking about involving the students in a lesson on doing good and giving back. One way to get students to think about others and give of themselves is to hold a gently-used plastic toy collection just before the holidays. Parents are looking to clean out the old toys that their children have outgrown before they bring in the new ones!!  What better way to help children in need during the holidays than to hold a collection of gently used plastic toys at your school. The best part is, no one has to go out and buy anything. And the students get to experience the joy of giving something up of their own and are made aware that that there are those less fortunate.

It is a win-win for the school, students, children in need, and the environment!!

     

     

Here are some of our favorite tips provided by the PTA members we've worked with in the past on how to start your collection:

  1. Get your PTA involved. They have the manpower to help out.
  2. Get a date on the school calendar approved by the principal.
  3. Once you have a date approved, sign up on the SCT website as a collector.
  4. You will be matched with an organization that needs your toys for deserving children.
  5. Our website has many resource materials found here to help you with #6-10.
  6. Have the PTA e-blast parents several times with collection info and to start saving toys.
  7. Place an article in the school newspaper.
  8. Place fliers with retailers around town.
  9. Have morning announcements running in school 3 days before the collection.
  10. Teachers can use our holiday activity booklet as a springboard for class conversations about doing good and the importance of giving.
  11. Put information on the sign outside your school.
  12. Ask for toys that are plastic ONLY, no small or missing parts and batteries working.
  13. Your collection can be as simple as the first hour or two of school.
    1. Collect on the front lawn as the children walk in.
    2. Take toys from cars dropping off children.
    3. Between 8-10 older students can be selected to help wipe down the toys.
    4. Students can also help tag the toys with messages and bag the toys.
  14. Assign parents to deliver the toys to the organization or arrange to have the organization pick them up.
  15. Let SCT know how many toys you collected and we will post your info with photos.

For Booz Allen Hamilton's second Earth Day plastic toy collection, the firm employed some new tactics that resulted in a very successful drive. The combination of a highly visible and attractive picket-fenced toy collection area in their headquarters lobby and getting everyone involved, including the on-site daycare center, pushed their gently used plastic toy total to nearly 1,000 this past April. They also included promotional materials on their elevator and lobby electronic displays which served as daily reminders to employees.

On Earth Day, the Sustainability Team and the firmwide Green Office Teams were joined by over 25 employee volunteers who pitched in to clean and prepare the toys for donation.

“It was so gratifying to work together to benefit those less fortunate and it was great to see all the plastic we were able to keep out of our landfills,” said Elizabeth Wayt, manager of Booz Allen’s Sustainability Program Management Office.  Even the daycare center got the children involved in the donation and cleaning processes. “It was heartwarming to see the kids’ excitement as they helped with the toys. The life lessons of helping others in need and recycling can never be started too young,” added Kathleen Medici, Sustainability Specialist at Booz Allen Hamilton.   

Booz Allen topped off the firm's successful collection with a generous grant to Second Chance Toys which will go towards outreach to help grow our impact. Thank you Booz Allen Hamilton!!

 
New Jersey's River Edge Green Team has proven to be an incredible collection partner with Second Chance Toys. Both this year and last, they collected over 1,000 toys within four hours during each of their events at Cherry Hill School in River Edge.
 
Since they seem to have a formula for a successful collection, we asked River Edge Green Team leader Bonnie Stewart for some tips on how to make the most of a toy drive.
 
Here's what she and her team did:
 
 They publicized the event in the town newspaper for several months.
 
 They reached out to WCBS-FM, a popular local radio station, for support from their street team. The station had prizes for attendees and played music, keeping things fun and lively.
 
 They sent out e-mail blasts to all of the local schools and day care centers.
 
 They printed colorful flyers about their event and put them at local businesses and municipal buildings.
 
 They collaborated with Atlantic Coast Fibers to arrange for same day/location shredding of personal papers, giving local people another reason to come down.
 
 They timed the event to coincide with Earth Day, when there is more “green” awareness for recycling toys and for spring cleaning.
 
 They will collections about the same time and in the same location each year so people can save toys throughout the year know they will have a collection in their community.
 
 
Special thanks to all those involved for their efforts in making their collection a huge success and for making a difference in the lives of thousands of families in need!

       

Twenty hardworking Viacom employees gathered at Fairlawn Recycling Center in New Jersey to clean and pack up an entire 1-800-GOT-JUNK? truck worth of perfectly usable and fun toys for children in need. This year's donation came in at 1,500 toys! The collection was done as a part of Viacommunity Day, a day of service for Viacom employees worldwide.

 

"It was three hours of fun, cleaning, and bonding for us. The best thing is that kids will get to play with these toys again," commented Patrick O'Sullivan, the Viacom Team Captian for the event. This year, toys collected were delivered to Greater Bergen Head Start, The Vince Lombardi Center for Hope in Newark, and the Apostolic Church in Newark. Excellent work, Viacom!

The 300 toys donated to the children at Vince Lombardi Centers of Hope this Earth Day marked the 10th straight year of toy donations to children in the City of Newark, NJ. In honor of that occasion, Mayor Ras J. Baraka presented us with a Certificate of Appreciation from the city. We'd like to pass that appreciation on to our wonderful collectors and partners who have made the past 10 years of donations possible. Thank you!

 

For their Earth Day collection this year, Booz Allen Hamilton found a way to collect over 800 toys for organizations in Northern Virginia and Baltimore/DC. We wanted to share some of their strategies, in case your organization might be able to follow their lead for future collections!

1. Set up a visible collection spot. Booz Allen Hamilton holds a winter new toy collection, and already had the fencing seen here. Employees were already familiar with the fencing and idea of a toy collection, so it was easy to make the transition to collecting used toys instead of brand-new.

 

2. Open up the collection to everyone. Getting the on-site childcare center involved in both collecting and preparing toys equated to more awareness and fun for everyone. 

 

3. Use Earth Day as a day to gather everyone and work together. Earth Day fell on a Friday this year, so the employees at Booz Allen Hamilton's headquarters, the teachers and children from the on-site childcare center, and employees from nearby locations all participated in cleaning up the toys on that day. Using Earth Day as a culmination of the drive helps drive home the message of the collection-- to reuse and recycle! 

 

We would like to congratulate Booz Allen Hamilton on a successful Earth Day collection. We'd also like to thank their local moving vendor Office Movers, who donated their time and equipment in delivering toys to three local organizations: Jill's House, Northern Virginia Family Services, and The National Center for Children and Families.

 
Second Chance Toys is blessed to have partners and volunteers from all walks of life. One of SCT’s newer collaborators is Phil Schlesinger, a high school student from Long Island. Phil began a toy collection drive tied to his Eagle Scout Project with Boy Scout Troop 106. The collection launched at Middle Village’s Trinity Lutheran Church on April 16 and ended on April 27. He collected 500 toys!
 
Phil answered some questions for the SCT blog about his Toy Drive and plenty more. This is far from Phil’s first volunteer work. For more information on Phil’s project, click on over to www.facebook.com/philseaglescoutproject.
 
When did you start as a scout?
 
Philip Schlesinger: I started as a Cub Scout in the first grade when I was six years old. My Cub Scout pack had advertised in my school and I decided to go and check it out. I started with Boy Scouts at age 11 when I crossed over from the Cub Scout pack.
 
How did you first find out about Second Chance Toys?
 
Phil: I saw the segment on Good Morning America and I thought, "Wow, this is a really good idea for a charity, keeping the plastic out of landfills and helping kids at the same time." And that's when I had the idea to do this for my Eagle Scout Project. I started working with Second Chance Toys when I signed up online about a month ago. 
 
Tell me more about your recent work with Second Chance Toys. Who are the toys collected going to?
 
Phil: The toys are going to local children in need at the International Children's School in Flushing, Queens.
 
Is the first time you have done charity work?
 
Phil: No, this is not the first time that I have done charity work. I have always participated in this type of work as part of my troop, but this is the first time I will be organizing and managing an entire project myself. Our troop tries to participate in community service on a regular basis -- coat drives, food for soup kitchens and food banks, etc. We donated several truckloads of supplies to the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy. One of the things I was most proud of was raising over $500 going door-to-door one afternoon, which was used for school supplies after Hurricane Sandy to benefit the affected communities. 
 
What inspires you most to do good for your opportunity?
 
Phil: Smiles on people's faces, little kids saying thank you, the response back from the community, and knowing that I'm just doing my part. 
 
Did you have a favorite toy when you were younger?
 
Phil: My favorite toy was a LeapPad and other educational toys.
 
When you're not busy with school or the scouts, how do you like to spend your free time?
 
Phil: I usually spend my free time either hanging out with my friends or playing guitar.
 
Darren Paltrowitz is a New York based writer. He can be followed on Twitter under the handle @Paltrowitz and contacted through his website, www.paltrowitz.com.
“I’m superhero of the trash!” my prekindergarten student joyfully exclaimed as he placed a cardboard crown adorned with bottle caps and corks on the top of his head. 
 
He had assembled his royal creation using recycled materials that we regularly collected in our classroom. As a teacher that promotes the importance of imaginary play, working with recycled materials was a valuable part of classroom life. Through our arts program, we introduced children to the concept of recycling by connecting it to inspiring creative activities.
 
Here are five simple projects and conversation-starters that help young children explore the infinite possibilities of up-cycling. 
 
#1: Recycled Materials Collage
 
First step, save your finds! Encourage your child or children to save their recycling for a full week: bottle caps, toilet paper rolls, juice boxes, scraps of paper, water bottles and more. Creating separate bins for their items makes it easy -- and fun! -- to see what has accumulated. This experience helps children begin to develop their perspective on how much trash and recycling they produce, and also delivers a range of open-ended material to create with. 
 
Once your child has a substantial collection, invite them to make a collage on a thick card-stock or cardboard piece—they can arrange a scene, make it abstract or create a three-dimensional sculpture. 
 
Materials needed:
- a substantial amount of recycled materials
- thick piece of cardboard or card-stock
- glue, tape or any other type of adhesive
 
#2: Painting with Recyclables
 
Place a long sheet of white paper on the floor, and secure the corners using painter’s tape. Surround the paper with trays of tempera paint and a variety of recycled materials like paper towel rolls, corks and plastic bottles — no brushes needed today! 
 
Invite children to collaborate as a group to bring their mural to life using only the recycled materials as their “brushes”. As children work together to cover the canvas, they develop a range of fundamental skills, from fine and gross motor movements to their communication and social abilities. Make sure to share concrete observations about their process as they work, such as “you are using your whole arm to move the bottle in a circle” or “you are using the bottom of the cork to make prints.” It’s a great way to encourage a child to value their process over their results. 
 
Materials needed:
- a long sheet of white paper
- tempera paint in assorted colors
- a small collection of recycled materials.
 
#3: A Recycled Marble Run
 
Save your paper towel and toilet paper rolls for a few days. You’ll also need a marble and a roll of painter’s tape; any width will do. Choose an empty portion of any wall. With the rolls you have collected and the painter’s tape, devise a large-scale marble run to tape to your wall that will allow the marble to run all the way through. Connect the tubes, create tunnels and experiment with hidden passageways! 
 
As children work to create a marble run structure that works, they explore important math concepts and scientific principles like gravity, geometry, and engineering. What I love most is that this project organically encourages trial and error, which helps children develop problem-solving skills and perseverance. This STEM activity has offered hours of engaged play and fun for my students.
 
Materials needed:
- a small collection of cardboard tubes from toilet paper and paper towels
- a marble and a roll of painter’s tape
 
 
#4: Toilet Paper Roll Stained Glass
 
To begin this project, sit with your child and show them pictures of stained glass. Discuss the art form and let them know that they are going to have the opportunity to create a painted version of stained glass. Lay out a large sheet of tracing paper on the table. Invite your child to dip the top of their toilet paper tube into the black paint and stamp it onto the paper to create a black circle. Have them repeat the process and cover their paper with black circles in a design of their choice. When they are happy with their design, let the paint dry. Once dry, invite them to paint the inside of each circle with watercolors to create the illusion of stained glass. Hang the creation in the window and watch as light reflects through the watercolors. Who knew that a toilet paper roll could allow your child to create a masterpiece?
 
Materials needed:
- one toilet paper roll
- black tempera paint
- tracing paper (non-wax)
- brush
- watercolors
- pictures of stained glass.
 
#5: D.I.Y. Recycled Drum:
 
To create a drum, save a large tin can. Cover the edges with masking tape so the sharp edges do not hurt your child. Once complete, help them to cut the upper half of a balloon off (right where the top bulb begins). Stretch the balloon over the top of the can and ta-da: you have created the top of your drum. Decorate the base using whatever materials you choose. 
 
For the drumsticks, popsicle sticks, leftover chopsticks, your hands or twigs will all work. Use recycled materials to create D.I.Y. instruments that will keep your child singing and dancing.
 
Materials needed:
- tin can
- balloon
- masking tape
- decorations (washi tape, sharpie, collage materials)
 
Thanks to Rose & Rex Founder, Allison Klein, for writing this article and for her creative ideas. Her online toy boutique and play resource has recently partnered with Second Chance Toys. We look forward to more great ideas from them in the future!

 

Most of us have had an interesting Spring so far! But it seems like the warmer Spring weather might be here to stay. I don't know about you, but as soon as the weather turns I start to get the itch to clean out the house and get rid of toys and other things we no longer use. That's why Earth Day (April 22) and the weeks around it are such a great time for toy collections. Many people are already clearing things out. 

If you come across toys to donate, visit our Drop Off Locations page to see if there's a collection near you. Some collections start as early as this weekend!

Gina Shimojo LCSW, manager of clinical services for a charter school in Brooklyn, recently spoke with Second Chance Toys about the importance of toys and play as they relate to a child’s long-term developmental health. Here’s what this social worker and new mom had to say: 
 
1) How did you first find out about Second Chance Toys?
 
I first learned of the SCT Mission through friends that work at Second Chance Toys. It sparked my interest since they provide toys that are invaluable in my line of work.
 
2) How did your collaboration with Second Chance Toys start?
 
As a school social worker, I am constantly on the look out for charitable organizations that may assist the students and families that I service with resources they may not otherwise be capable of accessing. Luxuries like toys are often difficult for the families that I work with to afford. Additionally, schools often do not have the funding to purchase toys for recess and play time, which is why Second Chance Toys is such a needed organization.
 
3) What made you decide to work in the education field?
 
As a social worker, I wanted to be able to assist, support and facilitate change amongst youth that are demonstrating behaviors that greatly impact their social, emotional and behavioral functioning. Working in the school system allows me to do this, while also providing me with a setting where I can progress monitor the effects of my therapeutic interventions. Children spend anywhere from 30-45 hours a week in school. During this time, they are learning how to sustain in the classrooms, attend to classwork, manage social and academic challenges, cultivate relationships with their peers, etc. As a school social worker, I am privy to the way in which the children I service behave, emote, socialize as well as cope, which further informs my level of support and the necessary forms of intervention needed to best assist those with whom I work.
 
4) How does a charter school compare to a regular public school?
 
Charter schools provide an alternative education option to children in the community. While Charter schools, like public schools, are government funded and are subject to the educational standards and regulations determined by the government, they are independently run, giving them more freedom and flexibility in their operations. Per the school's "charter," which is a performance contract that details the school's mission, population served, teaching methods performance goals and methods of assessment, a Charter School can emphasize a common goal or specific focus of education, utilizing specialized curriculum or alternative learning philosophies. They are held accountable for academic results, as outlined in their charters, and must demonstrate academic achievement in order to remain open. 
 
5) How does play factor into a child's development?
 
Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, behavioral and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. It allows children to explore the world, practice adult roles, and gain confidence as well as improves their social skills by helping them to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills.
 
6) What are some toys that you think work best for a child's development?
 
In addition to being safe, the best toys are those that match children's stages of development and emerging abilities. Toys, games, books, software (etc) that are best for children are those that have multiple benefits and can be a valuable tool in learning. Toys that provoke imagination (doll houses, dress up clothes, play kitchen/food, cars and trucks), encourage physical or muscle development (wagons, bikes and skateboards), influence sensory development (water toys, bubbles, sand box and play dough) offer varying levels of activity (computer games or educational toys that evolve with stages of development such as art supplies), invoke problem solving skills (puzzles, blocks and books) are durable and attractive (bright colors and plastic non-toxic toys) and can be used to facilitate independent, parallel and shared play are preferred.
 
7) What would be the best way that one of our readers could help your school?
 
The best way for your readers to help schools, such as the one that I work for, is to reach out to the school's clinicians (social workers, psychologists, counselors) to see what resources they are lacking and how best they can support the efforts of the charter. 
 
Darren Paltrowitz is a New York based writer. He can be followed on Twitter under the handle @Paltrowitz and contacted through his website, www.paltrowitz.com.

It's Read Across America Day! We thought today would be a great day to share Second Chance Books with you. Though we're unaffiliated, we certainly share a lot more than our similar names. Second Chance Books works much like Second Chance Toys, only with donated used children's books. Consider checking them out and donating books your children no longer need! 

Founded by Nancy Dean, a retired librarian, Second Chance Books is a children's book donation group. In other words, the non-profit collects gently-used books and recycles them to communities in need. Ultimately, Second Chance Books is an on-going collaboration between parents, students and teachers.

"Recycling is important to me for the sheer fact of cutting down on landfill waste," said Karrie Dean, the organization's co-founder and daughter of Nancy Dean. She added: "So many items, like books and toys, can be 'upcycled' to kids in need. It's a win-win." When recycling like that happens, books are kept out of landfills while also getting a "second chance" to reach new readers. As 47% of fourth graders from low-income families read below the basic level -- while 26% of materials entering landfills is paper-based -- book-recycling expands access to books and spreads the joy of reading to more young minds.

Second Chance Books encourages groups to have book drives, and is able to pick up books in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York; books can otherwise be shipped to their headquarters for distribution. For more information on Second Chance Books and how you may get involved, click on over to www.secondchancebooks.org.

 

We posted earlier about the successful toy drive that Chobani had at its Idaho facility, but they were also massively successful at the company's New York headquarters! The employees in New Berlin and Norwich, NY collected enough toys to completely fill up a truck, inside and out. The toys were delivered to the non-profit Roots & Wings, which provides household goods, food, and clothing to 225 families going through emergencies or hard times.

 

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