The stuffed animals story has very far-reaching origins. The first traces date back to the ancient Egyptian and the discovery of puppets made with animal fur for recreational or religious purposes. The success of this toy, however, confer to a German lady who, at the end of the 1800s, began to pack teddy-shaped pillows, triggering a great interest among the toy companies. Since then, it is difficult to find someone who has not had at least one plush among his childhood games, as it is rare to find a re-design. That’s why it seems interesting to introduce you to Animoodles: stuffed animals to develop emotions and relations.
Innovation in toy design proceeds with giant steps; it is no coincidence that we use this expression because in this new article we present the Explore & More Follow-Bee Crawl Toy, a toy to help children in crawling.
Teaching coding to new generations is one of the trend topics nowadays. There are so many toys developed over the last few years that explore this topic, and are more or less effective in presenting educational solutions appropriate for various age groups. In this buzz stand out LEGO Boost, a kit to teach coding to future adults.
We live in an era of big changes and is clear how technology is evolving taking big steps and ‘software’ is becoming central in everyday life. From applications to services, ‘intelligent objects’ to toys, the intangible component that animate things is increasingly there. This is not a criticism, but an analysis of the actual transformation that emphasizes the importance of teaching children this skill of the future. And not because in few years all the jobs will require to know how to code. The discipline of coding, among other things, educates children to computational thinking, a mix of math and logic to look at the world with a different perspective and address complex problems by ‘dismantling’ them in sequences of smaller problems.
Starting from these assumptions, the Danish toy giant recently launched a kit to teach coding to future adults. As in the 1950’s, the colored bricks had a huge success, becoming the passion of so many generations of children and adults, LEGO Boost was welcomed by critics and market as one of the best toys between analog and digital. The toy wins the ToyAward of the Spielwarenmesse 2017 in the SchoolKids category, even before the official launch on the market.
LEGO Boost consists of 847 bricks, the LEGO Move Hub (an interactive engine) and a distance and colors sensor that allow you to build 5 different models: Vernie the Robot, Frankie the Cat, the 4000 Guitar, the Rover 4 Multifunctional Machine (MTR4) and a kind of 3D printer. The age range is 7 to 12 years old and the kit also includes a tablet application. This is the heart of this kit, both educationally and functionally: at first it serves as instructions for the construction of the 5 different robots and then guides the programming and animation of the toy.
The application interface is one of the successful components of this toy. It’s designed in a simple and intuitive way, without any text and using only icons easily understandable by children. It begins with the choice of the robot to continue, step by step, with the instructions for construction, and then with the programming of actions with growing difficulty. This process helps the child gradually learn by giving him a tangible recognition each time for his work.
We’ve already talked about how important it is to design a toy with the right balance between analog and digital and LEGO Boost combines the traditional charm of LEGO building bricks with intuitive programming. This aspect makes the toy stimulating for children (even for nostalgic parents), who see their construction animate, interact and respond to their commands.
Surely the Danish company was not among the first to cover the path of educational and coding toy, actually it comes almost late than the other. LEGO Boost, however, demonstrates that while designing a kit to teach coding to future adults there are many factors to consider, including a well-structured research and a 360-degree design of gaming experience. Every detail in the user experience is cared in detail, from application to assembly, from disassembly to build a new character. This kit also demonstrates how a toy company with a cumbersome and well-defined identity can reinvent itself according to market trends by presenting a well-designed and cost-effective product (that aspect does not hurt especially by analyzing competitors in the industry).
In the age of 2.0 moms, those of social and virtual sharing, born Toucanbox, a bi-weekly kit that demonstrate how to engage consumers can be crucial for the success of a toy.
Candylab is the story of a toy designer really passionate about vintage cars and with the desire to relaunch the glamour atmosphere of american modernism through contemporary wooden toys with vintage look. It’s a story that demonstrate how good communication and trend watching can make the success of a toy.
Innovation moves fast in educational design and, moreoften than not, winks to cultural and technological trends. It has been understood by Fisher Price, the toys and kid’s products company with a 85-years history behind, which few months ago launched a ‘communication challenge’ with the video ‘The future of parenting’, or rather the future of toy design in six key points.
Who has never used playdough to create strange three-headed monsters or a dream car? It has been a masterpiece of the toy world since the beginning of 1990 and remained almost unchanged till nowadays. Colored or fluo, homemade or industrial, this magical substance has always fascinated children and adults up to be used by sculptors for their first plastic models or even win two Oscars in the animation with Wallace & Gromit shorts. A toy company has brought to an even higher level this material, by designing a kit for teaching electronics through playdough.
“Beauty will save the world” is one of the most renowned quote by Fedor Dostoevskij. Frequently abused, this phrase was taking seriously by the founders of Baby Caring, a kindergarten to educate to beauty in Milan.
Baby Caring is a bilingual nursery born in a historically important building for the city of Milan: the Mantegazza Foundation, San Calcero 16 street. Here, Laura Solera Mantegazza opened the first kindergarten in 1850 with the purpose of helping female workers not to leave their children. A place that has been destined to host great and beautiful things since its birth has reopened its doors in March 2017.
The core philosophy of this Children Innovation Lab is “Who sows ideas, collects certainties”. The promise, on the other hand, is to educate to beauty, in all its artistic and conceptual nuances, children from 1 to 12 y.o. through a playful and artistic experience. The traditional formative programs are rewrote by the centrality of the child who becomes the active protagonist in modifying, consciously or unconsciously, his training path based on his tendencies and interests.
Education takes place primarily through the daily participation in works of art exhibited like a gallery inside the structure: interiors, as well as furnitures, are signed by big names of art and design; here we find ‘numeric’ paintings by Paolo De Cuarto and fairy wooden sculptures by Duilio Forte. Atelier Forte designed also ‘Ursus’, a big wooden bear that can be climbed and explored by pupils in total safety, demonstrating that in a kindergarten to educate to beauty no details can be omitted and that all contributes harmoniously to the play and educational experience. The workshops are important part of the program too and are designed by renowned artists; an example is Micro-Memory, curated by Armenian artist Liana Ghukasyan, where children are stimulated to create themed images on a paper created in laboratory, in order to make small books.
The educational proposal is based on the theory of multiple intelligences by H.Gardner, a contemporary american psychologist who theorizes the existence of multiple level development in the person, from linguistic to musical or video-spatial. This approach to knowledge allows to stimulate kids under different topics and underline their big potentialities, cultivating beauty and design values. Innovative teaching, in which new technologies and learning blend and promote, also through media and robotics, playful experiences to draw, compose music, design images and create stories.
At Baby Caring Mantegazza innovation touches organizational aspect too: the kindergarten is open all year round, 7 days a week and the tratitional annual frequency formula is flanked by the ‘time’ one that follow the parents working times. In this way school support the work-life balance of the family, so hard to find already in the XIX century at the time of foundation of the building, let alone in today’s society.
Baby Caring Mantegazza is a positive news not only in the world of education. In a historic moment where neglect or badness often prevails, a kindergarten to educate to beauty is what it takes to turn a quote into real hope.
To talk about Design for All means approaching design for human diversity, social inclusion and equality. Skoog promises inclusion through music and embodies totally these values: apparently just a soft cube with five semi-spheres on the 5 visible faces, actually an innovative and performing musical interface that hides unexpected applications.
How to fight the surplus of technology during kids days? How to avoid all the time they spent in front of a tablet? How to make the moment of play both active and educational? These could be three of many questions that the designers at frog asked themselves in developing Yibu, a wooden toy set to approach technology.