Outdoor Play: Narrowing it down
Of Outdoor Play there are several sub-categories.
Sports/Active - skipping ropes, balls, frizbees, swings, rocking horses, wagons, toy cars
Electronic Toys: remote control cars, sail boats, planes
Small Interactive objects:
light balls, bubbles, chalks, marbles, slinkeys, bouncy balls
things to be ridden: bicycles, scooters, skate boards, heeleys,
Building: bucket+shovel, stick lets
Community: playgrounds, duck-duck goose, stuck in the mud, climbing frames,
Weather dependent: kites, picnic sets, tents, wellington boots,
Observing: objects representing nature, farm animals, sea creatures, books, binoculars, telescope, mini-camera, stethoscope, bug boxes, nets, fishing rods.
I'm interested in creating something that encourages children to be more observant of the outside world. This could be through educational books or through collectible objects that represent the outdoors.
More and more children nowadays are exposed to technology which often deprives them of physical experience of their environment. Absorbed in the inner world of a computer game, television program, or phone app could make them lack awareness of their town, city, and surroundings.
I wish to create a product that encourages children to explore their surroundings more, be it their back garden, the park, the woods, their town or city. I need to think about tools or objects that could either aid children when they are outdoors to observe their surroundings or toys and games to play when at home so that when they do go outdoors, their curiosity would be heightened to observe more things.
Children I find are generally naturally inquisitive. In order to awaken and maximise this inquisition however, they often need games or toys. Children, due to their physique, also have physical limitations when it comes to handling objects and interacting with the world. They also become hooked in certain activities or games, but once they grow out of them, those things they enjoyed most can be neglected. Thus, my design should consider a specific age group, their physical and mental abilities depending on that age, and characteristics that will be easily recognisable and appealing at such an age.
The Outdoors when growing up in an urban area
I explored the idea of designing a set of cards like the Pokemon cards but such that reflects the true organisms of our planet, its habitats and characteristics. However, whilst travelling on public transport in London and observing children in public places, the thought came to me that just because my topic is the outdoors, I don't necessarily have to connect it with the natural environment. Yes, we do have parks and woods in the cities, but if you are a child growing up in the city you are most likely to be surrounded by concrete and busy crowds when you are outdoors. Thus I decided to explore something that could teach children about the city they live in in a fun way so that they can be more aware and engaged when outdoors. Basing it on London, I looked at the main boroughs and sites of London. I explored ways of designing this as a toy - a 3D puzzle, a card game, a board game, etc.
Looking back at my own experience
Growing up, I was always in large cities: Seoul, Atlanta and London.
Various forms of wheeled products helped me explore the town: rollerblades, heeleys, scooters, bicycles, skateboards. Different textures of surfaces around the city made certain places more appealing for riding. Laminated floors in car parks were particularly enjoyable to rollerblade on.
Playgrounds were a meeting place where you could enjoy company and experience community whilst engaging in climbing, sliding, and playing all sorts of made up games with others you meet.
Architecture or parts of structures - mainly fences, signs, concrete walls, poles motorways could all be used in play, whether it is to act as a 'home base' playing catch, to jump over, climb, jump off, run across without getting killed etc.
So how could I gather these experiences and utilise it in my design for the context of a very wet and dark city of London? I feel as though there are not enough playgrounds or 'safe' areas where children can freely play in central London.
Having the experience of being in charge of two dozens of foreign children in London as their sole guardian, I remembered the GLA area by tower bridge to be a particularly nice spot for children to play in. Analysing this location and my experience with children, I made two conclusions:
1. Children do not need a lot in terms of specific design or instruction in order to enjoy and learn through play. They are creative enough themselves.
2. Children love large open spaces.