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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Quick contraptions

What can you make from four items? Craft some quick contraptions for use around the campsite in this creative challenge.

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You’ll need

  • Craft materials (for example, tissue paper, pipe cleaners, stickers)
  • Scissors
  • Scrap paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Clean items of recycling
  • Rope
  • String
  • Sticks
  • Torch, as needed
  • Tarpaulin, as needed
  • Cooking oil, as needed

Before you begin

  • This activity is best run at the start of a camp, so that everyone can make best use of the gadgets they’ve created. You could also run this activity in the run-up to your camp at the meeting place as a regular session, with everyone bringing along some clean recycled goods to use. They don’t necessarily need to know what they’ll be doing with them.

A top tip. Saving up the fluffy lint that accumulates in the washer or dryer is very smart, as it makes great tinder for DIY campfires.

  • If you’re not camping near woodland, it’s not likely there’ll be many sticks around. Collect some from elsewhere or bring along staves to use instead. Indeed, not being able to use sticks may be ideal for this activity, as it’ll mean that the campers have to be even more resourceful!

Run the activity

  1. Split into pairs or small groups. The number of groups you have will depend on the resources you have available.
  2. Explain that each group will have 15 minutes to build as many simple camp gadgets from the recycled goods, and use only four items or less on each gadget. They may use tools as well. The person leading the activity should demonstrate making a simple camp gadget by driving two sticks into the ground and hanging some boots on them to dry.

For instance, one group may use three sticks and one length of string for a gadget, while another may use two tin cans and two sheets of cardboard. In terms of tools, groups may use scissors and pocket knives, though gadget ideas that require more advanced tools should be saved for later.

  1. After 15 minutes have passed, everyone should gather together to share ideas. They might sound something like the ideas below.
  2. See if anyone would like to try to make one of the gadgets created by another group. Encourage everyone to share the skills they used to create their gadgets.
  3. Ask if there were any ideas that couldn’t be brought to life due to a lack of more advanced tools. Leaders and helpers should demonstrate how these could be completed safely if the tools are available, and oversee if anyone would like to give it a go.
  4. Leaders and helpers should make any suggestions for camp gadgets that they’ve come up with, and share any listed above that haven’t already been attempted. They could search for new ideas on Pinterest or a similar site.
  5. Remind everyone that when they’re finished with their gadgets at the end of camp, they should be dismantled so that the materials used to build them can be recycled or reused accordingly.
  • A DIY fire starter: firstly, stuff lint or cotton balls inside a kitchen or toilet roll, then wrap this in newspaper and tuck in the ends.
  • A DIY washing machine: You’ll need a bucket, a (new) toilet plunger, pens and laundry detergent.
  • Milk bottle lamp: For a softer light that’s good for inside your tent, try strapping a headlamp to an empty plastic milk bottle so that it faces inside. The cloudy plastic of the bottle reduces glare from the torch. You could also hang a handheld torch so that it dangles inside the bottle.
  • String clothesline: you can use two tall posts, two trees or other tall structures to hang a simple clothesline. If a double length of string is used, doubled back on itself and twisted, then it can help keep items secure without the need for pegs.
  • Tree hanger: if you have a forked stick, then you can wrap it around a tree and secure it with string to create a simple coat hook.
  • Milk bottle trowel: the handle on a large plastic milk bottle can be used as the handle of a trowel, so cut this part off so that it’s intact and continue to cut down in a triangle-shape around the bottle to make your trowel. It should look like a small dustpan or shovel. This can be used for sweeping up chippings.
  • Buddy burner: fill a shallow tin, like a tuna can or sweets tin, with corrugated cardboard or similar. Roll it tightly inside so it’s completely jam-packed and then cover with cooking oil or butter. This will burn nicely and can be used for heat or cooking over.
  • Reflectors: small strips of foil or old CDs (if you can find some!) can be used to dangle from string or guy lines to make them more visible at night. A safe campsite should have some kind of perimeter around its area for safe tool use and wood chopping. This could be an area that would benefit from reflectors.
  • Tripod sticks: if you’re able to make a tripod using three sticks and string, then this can be used for a washbasin stand, a bin bag holder or a support for hanging a pot over a campfire. Follow the link for a demonstration of how to tie three sticks together using a ‘tripod lashing’.
  • Hanging pot stand: if you’re lucky enough to have two strong forked sticks, then these can be sunk into either side of your fire with a horizontal stick laid on top for hanging a cooking pot.


The group made simple camp gadgets from some everyday items. See if anyone made something that they’ve never had on camp before, which might make a big difference to their camp experience. Were they aware that something so useful could be made with those items? How will they use this newfound resourcefulness on future trips?

This activity emphasises how useful everyday items can be. In the second part of the activity, leaders should encourage everyone to discuss the benefits of thinking more carefully about the ways we use everyday items and natural materials around us. Where might this resourceful way of thinking come in useful? How important might resourcefulness be in survival situations? How might reusing materials help reduce wasteful consumption and help the planet?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.


Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Sharp objects

Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Rubbish and recycling

All items should be clean and suitable for this activity.

Flammable items

Always take care when using flammable items, especially if you’re near fire. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines.

Online safety

Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe. Take a look at our online safety or bullying guidance. The NSPCC offers more advice and guidance, too. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection CommandAs always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare, including their online experiences, follow the Yellow Card to make a report.

Poles and long objects

Be careful when moving poles or long items. Take care if the ends are sharp. Have appropriate supervision for this activity.

The challenge can be made easier by telling everyone about the task a couple of weeks beforehand. This could allow people to bring along specific items they might need that you might not otherwise have access to.

  • Working under time limits can be stressful for some people. If you think this could add any unnecessary pressure to the group then lift the time trial and simply provide a loose timescale to work to.
  • Make sure everyone has everything they need to complete the tasks in this activity. Pair up or have helpers lend a hand with the tricky bits, like using sharp tools.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

If everyone has enjoyed this chance to get creative and test their resourcefulness, then why don’t they have a think about other ways to be resourceful on a night away? How about when meal planning? How can you help make sure you produce as little waste as possible when cooking at camp? Take a look at Camp cuisine for a place to start.

By creating gadgets for use throughout the camp, young people are shaping what their nights away experience is going to look like.