Zen and the Art of Fixing Toys


I marvel at the sheer volume of detritus that makes its way into our home on a weekly basis. Where do all these hair bands, pinecones, coloring sheets, and small plastic toys come from? I collect handfuls and armloads of clutter and hide it under the top layer in the garbage can, and am usually right in assuming that no one will notice it has disappeared. Out of sight, out of mind, out of my life. As a member of the inaugural recycle generation, I always wince a little bit when tossing all this junk, but the clutter really does need to be managed.


However, there is a corollary to this phenomenon. Perhaps you have noticed that kids break things. More often than not it is either a treasured possession or something I wish my kids would treasure a little more. Either way, certain items pass an unspoken test, are granted value, and need to be fixed when they break.

Enter the workbench in the basement. Anything that breaks is taken downstairs to await examination, diagnosis and if possible, repair. Most often, a little bit of glue and some time and pressure will do the trick, but occasionally some hardware needs to be replaced. My tools and skills are limited, but I’m surprised how much can be done with a few basic supplies and a small collection of spare parts.

I have a running joke with a friend that unless you modify something you’ve bought, “the corporation still owns it,” a holdover from youthful zeal of years past. But there is something in that sentiment that rings true as we glue together a broken train track or stitch up the arm of a stuffed animal. In the process of repair, we pay closer to attention to a simple item, and add a little bit of ourselves to it in the process. The object becomes part of our family story in a deeper way, and memories are embedded in the mend where there was once a break.

A partial list of materials and tools used for repair:

  • PVA (bookbinding) glue
  • Screws, nuts and bolts (sorted into rough categories)
  • Needle and thread
  • Hot glue gun
  • Spring clamps of various sizes
  • Bench vise
  • Super glue
  • Screw posts
  • Antique iron (a heavy weight)