Introduction: Renew Old Children's Toys

I'm amazed at what some people will throw away. This past week my wife were driving by a house that must have been doing some fall cleaning. On the top of a huge pile stuff destined for the landfill were three gems that we couldn't pass up - a Little Tikes dumptruck and ride-on car, and a children's rocking horse. Aside from a little dirt and some peeling labels, they were still in fine shape.

This Instructable will show you how to save a little cash on kid's toys by refreshing and renewing what others consider garbage. After all, kids don't care if a toy came brand new from a store - all they care about is the fact that a new toy has appeared!

Step 1: Finding Old Toys

Old toys are everywhere. Sure, you can go to a garage sale and score a few things for a few bucks each. But, you can do one better and keep your eyes peeled on garbage day - and find stuff for free!

Often you'll find that people throw out toys that are still perfectly serviceable, they're just dirty or faded. Those are problems that are easily fixed. However, when you're out looking for gems don't bring anything home that is dangerous or that you cannot repair so that it is safe. Some toys are being thrown out for a reason!

Here are some tips:

- Look in rich neighbourhoods. For some reason rich people go through stuff faster than normal people, and throw things out before it's necessary. Be discrete, though! They also don't like people rooting through their trash.

- Sometimes toys come in multiple parts. Try to find all the parts - if you're lucky, they are being thrown out at the same time.

- Look for obvious signs of damage. If the damage can't be repaired for less than what it would cost to buy the toy new, then leave it be.

- Don't get too overzealous. You can't save the planet all on your own, so don't try to bring home everything that you find. Be picky, and take only the choice cuts.

Step 2: Washing

The toys you find will probably be dirty. Some will be worse than others, but all will need a thorough washing. Dirt is bad enough, but who knows what else has touched those toys!

If the toys are really dirty, spray them off with a hose. This works well for larger items like ride-ons, outdoor toys, plastic furniture and the like. Once the worst of the dirt has been washed off, leave the toys in the sun to dry.

For smaller plastic toys, and for really tough stuck-on dirt, you'll need to scrub by hand. You can wash smaller toys in a laundry basin filled with hot soapy water, and for larger toys just grab a bucket with the same hot soapy water. Use a sponge to clean out every nook and cranny.

With a razor blade, scrape off any decals and labels that are faded or peeling.

In the case of the dump truck I found, a good scrubbing was all it needed. It's currently in use, being used to transport Little People across the rec room floor.

Step 3: Prepping for Fresh Paint

The other two toys I found, the rocking horse and the car, were both green. In fact, they were the exact same colour of green. While I could have left them like that, I wanted to spruce them up a bit for my daughter. The answer? Krylon spray paint!

I decided that the car should be red, with a brown seat and "chrome" grilles. The horse would be brown, with a black mane and red saddle and reins. I already had a can of black spray paint, so all I needed was red and brown. They cost $10 at the hardware store. Perhaps you will be better stocked and won't have to buy a thing!

After carefully washing and drying the toys, and removing all the old decals, I set about deciding the order in which the colours would be applied. For the horse, the brown would go on first, followed by the red, then black. The car would have the brown seat and black accents applied first, then the rest would be painted red.

I started by masking off the handles and the base of the rocking horse, because I wanted it to remain green. It's a good idea not to paint any surfaces that will rub on the ground, in case the paint is rubbed off. I masked off the steering wheel on the car.

Step 4: Painting

In a well ventilated room or outside, apply the first layer of colour to the toy. As with most spray paints, apply the Krylon Fusion paint in thin layers and build up the colour gradually. If you apply too thick of a coat, you'll end up with drips and runs. Thankfully, Krylon paint dries very quickly, so by the time you've made it all the way around the toy, the starting point may already be dry.

Be careful when painting all the corners and crevasses on these toys. Inspect your work from all angles with the help of a flashlight to see if you've missed anything. You may also want to paint the toy in two or three stages so that you have a better angle - for viewing, and for the spray can! Spray paint won't work upside down, so the work may have to be moved instead.

Once you are satisfied with the first layer of paint, set it aside to dry. Drying time will depend on the paint - be sure to read the label to find out for sure. Within an hour, Krylon Fusion paint dries enough that you can handle the toy, and in 24 hours it is completely set.

Step 5: Mask and Paint the Next Colour

If you're using more than one colour, you will need to do some additional masking. Once the first colour is totally dry, mask it off with more tape, leaving bare only what you want painted in the second colour. Make sure that you press down the tape firmly, otherwise the second colour may bleed under the tape. It's not a big deal, but you will have to fix it later.

With the second layer of masking tape applied, go ahead and apply the second colour. Be aware that lighter colours applied to dark surfaces will (of course) need many more layers. Alternatively, you can use a light coloured primer first.

With the second colour applied, set the toy aside again to dry. Repeat the masking and painting steps as necessary, until all the colours you want to use have been applied to the toy. But remember: we're trying to save money here, so don't go out and pay more for the paint than you would for the toy! Keep it to three colours at most, if you can.

Step 6: Remove the Masking Tape & Touchup

When all the paint is dry, it's time to remove the masking tape! If everything went smoothly, you'll have a great, new-looking toy ready for your child to play with. Chances are though, that you will have some colour bleeding to fix.

In a small container, spray enough spray paint that it won't dry right away. With a small paint brush, touch up any places where one colour has bled onto another, or anyplace where you missed a spot. You may also have to use this method to paint smaller sections that you couldn't mask off properly.

Step 7: Finishing Up

The hard part is over! Feel free to add embellishments as you see fit. In the case of the Little Tikes car, I added "chrome" to the front grille using aluminum duct tape. I used the same tape to simulate the windshield. Your child may want to plaster the toy with stickers at this point, and I totally encourage it. ;)

You could even go wild and add LED lights or other electronics, but remember - we're trying to save money here! Only use what you've got lying around.

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