children · creativity · design · environment · learning · Nature · play

Can This Industrial Designer Get Children Back Outside? | Natural Start

Nice to see toys being introduced that work with already existing toys (sticks!), and encourages kids to go find their own sticks and go play in nature.

As an inductee to the National Toy Hall of Fame, the stick doesn’t need much improving as a classic toy. For as long as there have been children and sticks, sticks have served as a versatile toy in outdoor play. But connecting sticks takes a bit of ingenuity.

Enter Christina Kazakia, a design student with a mission. As she explains, “I designed these flexible silicone connectors as part of my graduate thesis in Industrial Design at the Rhode Island School of Design. My goal was to create prompts to engage children with their surrounding natural environment.” Called Stick-lets™, these connectors help small children build big structures like forts, teepees, lean-tos, or other creations.

Find out more about the toy and her kickstarter via Can This Industrial Designer Get Children Back Outside? | Natural Start.

behavior · children · cognition · creativity · happiness · health · learning · play

Play is cheap!

toys
Kids don’t need a mountain of toys to stay entertained; in fact fewer turns out to be better (Photo credit: red5standingby)

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.

Read the whole article at the Telegraph.

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.

architecture · children · creativity · design · education · play

Modular play and building sets for all ages

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):

First, a build-your-own park or patio area:

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!
architecture · Social · technology · writing

Booklust of the week

I am a little worried it was supposed to be released more than a year ago and I can’t find any updates, but…

Play All Day documents a collection of the most vibrant, stimulating and engaging design products and concepts for children. This book sets a new standard of design for children with fascinating examples of innovative and well-designed toys, playgrounds and play environments, room decorations, wall coverings, furniture and kindergarten architecture. In addition to these products, it also presents illustration and photography as well as new and original ideas offering playful solutions that talented designers and creative parents are designing for and with their kids. It is an inspiring reference for design-savvy parents and other professionals.

more at the Play All Day publisher’s website.