I loved Wallace and Grommet for all the creative inventions Wallace developed. Turns out artist Dominic Wilcox creates similar odd inventions in real life, and businesses are willing to donate space to display them.
This time it’s the turn of celebrated British department store Selfridges to let Wilcox’s creative wings spread and take over their prestigious windows on behalf of the store’s Festival of Imagination. For the project, Wilcox created the “Variations On Normal” where his eccentric yet logical inventions give physical form to figments of his imagination. Some of his specially made pieces include an umbrella with built-in flower pots and a suitcase with robotic legs that follows its owner.
I came across an interesting commentary from the Telegraph in the UK anecdotally supporting a new study that claims it only costs 6 pounds (about $10) to keep kids entertained.
A study by child development experts has concluded that the average family forks out £10,000 on toys and gadgets before their offspring turns 18. That’s a potential £20,000 on my two girls – cue a Munchian scream of Lebensangst.
Psychologists say that despite this casual largesse, youngsters are better off with colouring pencils and embroidery threads than computer consoles. While it might be hard to convince a surly 13 year-old that modelling clay and beads are more fun than a Wii, I couldn’t agree more. Are beads as thrilling as shooting baddies or crashing aeroplanes? Hardly, but it’s all about the social interaction, stupid.
It’s a rare and lovely feeling to be vindicated as a parent, so forgive me if I bask. You see, I am usually regarded (especially by my husband) as a bit of a skinflint who is too tight to buy the big one a Nintendo DS and the wee one, well, pretty much anything.
If my youngest asks for an ice lolly, we make them with apple juice. If they’re bored, I give them each a tray and send them outdoors to make a garden.
To the casual observer, this makes me a sickeningly virtuous hands-on mother. But it is merely the happy by-product of the fact that I am mean-fisted when it comes to frivolous expenditure. It goes against my grain to throw money at the children just to keep them amused and out of my hair. It feels wrong, and, worse, it feels lazy.
The truth that all parents know, deep down, is that what kids really crave is attention, not stuff. Stuff is a pretty good, if pricey opiate, but it never quite satiates, hence the ongoing clamour for more of it, except faster and louder to excite pleasure centres inured by computer-generated over-stimulation.
Lots of parents have the old joke that at Christmas their kids spend more time playing with the box a toy came in than the toy itself. Now research is finding this to be more true than we realized.
It’s nice to hear that even in an age when children of younger generations appear to use advanced devices and technology as if it were second nature, nothing beats some old fashioned string and beads, or sticks and mud, for a good time. It can take a little bit more creativity on the parent’s end, but that can be a good thing, AND it also encourages more creativity and problem-solving in the child.
My personal favorites were pieces of wood and nails, and just hammering them together into odd art shapes, or just nailing them onto a tree. What were your favorite tools and environments for play when you were a kid? Let me know in the comments below.
I loved playing with Legos and building blocks as a kid (and actually still do); all the possibilities of what to build, and the ability to tear it all down and start over. Well here are two different ideas from Inhabitat about using that same concept of moveable, removable, and piece-meal design (in a good way):
A green initiative called Softwalks has come up with a way to use existing scaffolding as support stations for fun and lively modular public spaces using their awesome little DIY kits that contain easy-to-build pieces such as a chair, a counter, and a green trellis. The components latch onto the metal beams to create simple impromptu hang-outs and rest stops for busy city dwellers, making the possibilities for sidewalk beautification endless.
The project’s greatest aspect is that anyone can get involved. The kit pieces are modular and lightweight, making them easy to install, take down, and reuse in new areas. The kits also create a public art activity, involving the community to brighten up their construction-heavy areas.
Walrus Toys’s Chimeras is a new line of plush toys that allows your little creative genius to build his [or her] own wacky stuffed animal critters with different interchangeable snap-in ears, arms, legs and wings each day as the mood strikes.
What if a bat really wants to have giant elephant ears to match its wings? You’ll end up with a Batephant! What if a bunny wanted to swing on tree branches, but needed the monkey’s long arms? You’ll have a Bunkey.
These are really adorable, and definitely a step up from Mr. Potato Head. I love how kids’ toys are moving away from the electronic “can only do one thing and LOUDLY” mentality and moving back to more creative play. Robotics toys and robotic dance competitions seemed to be a huge thing a couple of years ago, which is also very modular.
What other creative, modular ideas have you seen pop up lately, either as urban architecture, toys, or other arenas? Leave a note about it in the comments below. If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to make this a new series in the blog!
This time of year we often think of playing in boats and recreation on the water. But sometimes one kind of play can inspire an entirely different kind. I came across this great blog post from Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA, about how recycled objects like boat bumpers make great toys, especially for larger critters:
Our elephants have a number of toys, or, in zoo-speak, Environmental Enrichment Devices (EED) that are designed to bring out their instinctual behaviors, along with all the naturally enriching elements in their exhibit like trees, logs, leaf piles, water and different ground coverings. The elephants have quite an array of EEDs, and one of their favorites is a boomer ball, which we often fill with treats. But constantly purchasing more boomer balls (since the elephants can be a bit destructive with them) can be a little costly. So, what’s a zookeeper to do? We think outside the box, er, ball.
With a background working with marine mammals, I thought back to my days of playing with dolphins. We would throw boat bumpers and buoys in with the 800-pound critters, and play endless games with them. So, how would an 8,000-pound animal react to one?
To get my answer I ventured to West Marine to see if we could acquire a couple of boat bumpers to test out on these playful pachyderms. Lo and behold, I discovered that not only did the manager have a couple to spare, but that in the summertime, they often receive dozens each week. Finding a new and revitalized way to keep them out of the landfill was refreshing to him, and getting free toys for the animals at the zoo was exhilarating for me!
We hung a boat bumper up in the barn, and put another in an EED container to protect it from getting squished too soon. It didn’t take Bamboo long to figure out where the hole was located so she could get the treats out. It took a little encouragement from us for Bamboo to notice the hanging bumper, but once she realized it, too, held treats, it was game on, and she batted it non-stop until she was certain every morsel was out.
To see how the other elephants reacted, read the rest of the blog post.
Congrats to Woodland Park Zoo and West Marine for keeping stuff out of the landfill and making some elephants very happy!
Artist Florentin Hofman’s giant yellow duckie puts a smile on the faces of passers-by as it floats from city to city along the Loire river in France. The hilarious and striking sight has already traveled the world before through cities such as Osaka and Sao Paulo.
The 25 meters tall and 25 meters wide friendly creature’s mission is to provide a joyful interruption to people’s daily routines. People from all over the world connect the rubber duck with their childhood memories and are brought up with positive sensations.
Famous for his humoristic pieces, the Dutch artist Florentin Hofman used rubber coated PVC to built the duck on a pontoon with a generator. Hofman believes that the soft giant can relieve global tensions through delighting people coming from different countries and backgrounds. Hofman has generated smiles many times before. In 2011, the Kobe Frog, an enormous frog wearing a party hat, was sitting on the edge of Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art in Kobe, Japan.
The duck itself is a durable vessel, made from inflatable rubber-coated PVC, a pontoon boat, and generator to help propel it forward downstream.
Happy Friday! I hope you get a chance to go out and play this weekend. Speaking of play, here is another great find from Milan’s Design week (remember the edible mini furniture from earlier this week?). This exhibit of design focused specifically on children’s spaces, with a focus that was very playful, creative, and also a great idea for grown-ups to incorporate into their own environments.
Students from the HDK master program Child Culture Design created an exhibit to explore new ways of bringing play into everyday objects to help foster imagination and creativity. Dubbed “Play In Progress“, the exhibit was one of our favorites at the Salone Mobile.
Check out more great designs at Inhabitat (I love the block table, for example!)
In recent years, child development experts, parents, and scientists have been sounding an increasingly urgent alarm about the decreasing amount of time that children – and adults, for that matter – spend playing. A combination of social forces, from a No Child Left Behind focus on test scores to the push for children to get ahead with programmed extracurricular activities, leaves less time for the roughhousing, fantasizing, and pretend worlds advocates say are crucial for development.
Meanwhile, technology and a wide-scale change in toys have shifted what happens when children do engage in leisure activity, in a way many experts say undermines long-term emotional and intellectual abilities. An 8-year-old today, for instance, is more likely to be playing with a toy that has a computer chip, or attending a tightly supervised soccer practice, than making up an imaginary game with friends in the backyard or street.
But play is making a comeback. Bolstered by a growing body of scientific research detailing the cognitive benefits of different types of play, parents such as Taylor are pressuring school administrations to bring back recess and are fighting against a trend to move standardized testing and increased academic instruction to kindergarten.