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Science Writer Cy Tymony Reveals 12 "Sneaky Re-uses" For Common Toys

After Christmas tons of damaged toys and packaging materials inevitably find their way into our already overflowing waste dumps. It's tempting to discard seemingly useless items but if you do, you'll miss out on some great adaptation opportunities, as well as a chance to help the environment. How? Convert them into other useful items in a "sneaky" way.

Science writer Cy Tymony, author of the new book Sneakier Uses for Everyday Things (Andrews McMeel Publishing), explains how to recycle old toys and household items into practical devices. "With a little knowledge, simple and high-tech toys - even damaged ones - can be used for amazing and educational purposes," Tymony says. "It costs next to nothing to do, so it's almost a crime to send reusable items to landfills."

Tymony gives his 12 sneaky reuses for common toys and household items in keeping with the "end-of-year list" season (project links at end):

  • Boomerangs fashioned from gift boxes
  • Turning a screw in an AM/FM radio to receive aircraft signals
  • Making racing cars, a PA system and a sneaky listening device all from tape recorders
  • CDs or plastic plates and party balloons are turned into a hovercraft toy
  • Radio Control car parts adapted to control other household devices.
  • Micro-RC cars remade into wireless airplanes
  • Verifying counterfeit currency and activating devices using toy magnets
  • Motorized toy cars turned into robots and door openers
  • Toy car motors become robots, door openers, a personal fan or a speaker
  • A radio and calculator (or handheld video game) acts as a metal detector
  • Walkie-talkies become secret listening devices or an intercom
  • A radio and paperclips remade as a room-entry or flood alarm

Tymony's website, has a free expanded "Sneaky Toy Reuses" article with details on additional toy adaptations. He suggests readers not overlook reusing other holiday staples around the house. "Milk can be turned into plastic or glue, a penny can be turned into a radio, coins and fruits can become batteries and walkie-talkies and other devices can be placed in clothing to make a 'gadget jacket.' Even gift-wrapping paper can substitute for air for 'inflating' a flat bicycle tire in a pinch," Tymony says.

A Minneapolis school has recently developed resourcefulness courses based on Cy's first book "Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things." "There are lots of items in a home that can be used to teach youngsters how things work and resourcefulness, " the author explains.

Tymony continues to research real-life stories of resourcefulness which he then posts at his website. There one can read about the boats made from milk cartons, about the window washer who used his squeegee to save himself and five other men from World Trade Center Tower One on September 11, 2001, as well as the story of the Colditz glider, an 18-foot airplane built out of materials from beds and sleeping bags by prisoners in a German war camp. Additional information is available at the author's web site:

About the author:  Cy Tymony has been creating useful high-and low-tech inventions all his life. By reading comic books as a kid and studying scientific techniques, he bridged science and fiction to amaze his friends. He's authored four books and more than a dozen articles on science and computer science. Cy has been interviewed on over 100 radio shows and his technical wizardry has landed him on CNN Headline News, CBS's Morning News Chicago, KTLA Morning News Los Angeles, FOX 5 Las Vegas and featured in U.S. News & World Report. He lives in Los Angeles.

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