Galimoto Push Toys

I was killing time last month at a conference in North Carolina, strolling through a strip mall of all places, when I stumbled across a store called Ten Thousand Villages. Filled with handicrafts (earrings, pottery, tapestry, etc.) made in developing countries around the world, this nonprofit chain of stores (there’s one in Ann Arbor, too) aims to improve the quality of life for those living in Third World countries. These are the kind of areas where clean water is a luxury, education is a pipe dream and life expectancy isn’t measured in quality and fulfillment like most Americans figure it, but the hard-nosed number of years you eek out. In short, it’s where the economy and prospects are way worse than in Michigan, so it’s pretty brutal.

And yet, here in this store (and on the Ten Thousand Villages website) are oodles of lovely items that are clearly made with an eye toward detail and a heart filled with hope. These are not factory-produced pieces, but real works of art from people who appreciate the chance to earn a fair wage and perhaps make a better life for themselves and their kids.

It’s hard to browse this store, hearing their mission, and not walk away with a few items – something to help the cause.

And perusing through the aisles, I was immediately drawn to one thing that just really resonated with me and brought the mission of improving the lives of some of the world’s most downtrodden people to sharper focus.

It was a simple push toy. But like everything in this purposeful store, it wasn’t so simple, after all. It’s inspired by the toys made by African kids – kids who don’t have a Toys ‘R’ Us or Christmas wish lists to lean on for getting fun stuff to play with. Instead, these kids make their own toys to occupy their time and spark their imagination. And one such toy is the Galimoto, a $9 push toy made of wire and fabric and fashioned in the shape of a colorful pedaling bicyclist.

I happen to have a soft spot for push toys in general. For one, they’re an instant hit with younger kids because they are just so easy to use. Plus, push toys help develop motor skills and balance for toddlers just learning to walk. But, ultimately it’s because of the innate charm of the plain ol’ push toy. No batteries. No fancy tricks. But somehow it seems a little magical the way a little push can make it come to life. And these push toys in particular are magical.

What’s more magical than the innovation and initiative of some African kids to make their own little toy? These little push toys are darling and well-made (see their little legs go!), but, more than that, they’re inspiring and humbling – and maybe even making the world a better place.


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