{ Designing for Children.  A Process - Oriented Approach } 

Every child born in this world is a gift of god. There is a saying in Tamil, "kuzhandiyum deivamum gunathal ondru" that means children have an attitude similar to god. They have their own imaginary world bereft of hatred, bias and dogmas.

            Hence, designing for children is not something very easy as you cannot thrust upon them your ideologies. They're pretty black and white about what they like and don't like. It is better to leave it to their choice and solicit their opinions on what toys they would prefer to play with. An important aspect for children's use of objects is that they are more interested in the process of using than achieving an end result like adults do.


            A newborn baby enters the world with enormous inherent capabilities! Within four years she will have developed into a person who will run, jump, ask questions all day long, play princesses or superman and twist you round her little finger!
A baby comes into the world with a powerful urge to learn, to explore, to relate, to participate in and contribute to the buzz of activity going on around her. It is incredibly interesting to see how easy and natural it is for them to interact with technology, and at the same time, remember the many challenges we had to face when we started using computers or technology in general. Young children may have little knowledge or experience, but they have truly amazing talents as learners. Their abilities to self-improve are endless!

“One thing about designing for children - You can convince an adult about your design and make them buy it. But a child, if he doesn't like the toy he'll throw it right away!!”

          -Kanaka Ananth, Toy designer, Faculty at D J Academy of design.
            They're pretty black and white about what they like and don't like. One of the ways to increase the shelf life of a toy in the kid’s wardrobe is by making the toy as versatile as possible. A toy that can transform into another toy and involves a certain kind of complexity tends to have a longer time of attention than the toys that do the same monotonous actions or repeat the same lines over and over again.
This is one reason why board games like monopoly, life, snake &ladder etc., are still in great popularity over the dancing doll. Toys like train where the child gets to design its track, add multiple landmarks and construct a whole city, grow with the child. The toy matches itself with the mental maturity of the child’s brain and hence never lets the child get bored of it. The children who played with such toys remember it even when they are adults.


            Children become bored when there's a mismatch between what they have the ability to do and what they are expected or want to do. They enjoy themselves when their skills match the task at hand. If they're challenged beyond their capability, they become anxious and often claim boredom as a defence. If not challenged enough, they're bored. In either case, a bored child will find ways to be challenged by climbing, running or other behaviours that match their abilities.
Children prefer and are most drawn to play with high degrees of challenge, diversity, novelty and complexity. The type, quality and diversity of children's play equipment directly affect the type, quality and diversity of their play. Since children's developmental tasks and skill levels change constantly as they age, the point where boredom sets in is a moving target.

Children's physical (fine and gross motor), intellectual and social skills are constantly advancing. This means that children's environments must offer what is known as “graduated challenges”. This not only helps when a child moves on from a certain competency level but also facilitates adaptation to the same age children with different levels of skills.
The ability children possess to interact with, explore, control and to transform their toys is very important to them. Toys that include loose parts that children can manipulate, move and construct with are immensely more engaging than static equipment.
There's the issue of children's attention spans, which can be much shorter than that of adults. So something that at first interests a child can 10 minutes later become boring. To overcome this challenge, the products must offer a wide variety of options to explore. Too little a variety limits children's play options and leads to increased levels of boredom and aggression.

“Just because you were a child once doesn't give you the eligibility to design for them.”

            -Anita Sen, Children's book illustrator, Graphic Designer at Foley Designs.

            Some people might just have a knack with children and their ways. But to design for them, involves a great deal more than having a knack of being friendly with them. To be able to design for children, one should be able to get into their shoes and look at things from their point of view and at the same time be able to have their thoughts up high to match the needs of their growth pattern at that certain milestone of the child’s life.

“Children's illustration is a different field itself because of the responsibility involved. You just might be designing someone's first ever memory”

            -Shiva Nallaperumal, Student - Graphic design, D J Academy of design.

            Not just children’s illustration but the whole area of children’s design for the matter plays a very sensitive role in design industry. I personally think that children’s design should be included in every design school’s design program alongside Inclusive design and sustainability. It is nothing but another variant of “responsible design”.

Read the Part - 2  and Part - 3.

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