5. "children are the messages
we send to the future."
6. For every child with and within us.
Pallavi: Wow. What's the story in your drawing?
Charlie: The butterfly and bubble bee are playing together
in the forest.
Pallavi: So your butterfly has two bumble bee friends?
Charlie: No! The butterfly has only one bubble bee friend.
Pallavi: Then how come you've drawn two of them here?
Charlie: That’s because the bubble bee is flying soooo fast
that you can see two of him!
The Design Brief 12 - 21
Deconstructing the process 18
Analysis: strengths and weaknesses 20
Research 22 - 73
Defining the ecosystem 24
User Mapping 25
The Conscientious Parent 26
The Liberal Parent 40
Visit to educational institutions 50
A day in the life of... 60
Insights and opportunities 72
Ideation 74 - 83
Idea exploration 74
Quick Prototyping 81
Conceptualization 84 - 105
The concept 85
Content Generation 90
Visual and material exploration 98
User Testing 86
Final Prototyping 102
The way forward 104
9. The Design
10. Aim: To design play patterns
that facilitate environmental
education in a creative and
11. The Design Brief Scenario:
This is 6 year old Varun, who comes from an upper middle class family living in
Bangalore. Varun is in the 1st standard, and goes to a CBSE school. He usually leaves
around 7:30 in the morning, and comes back by 2:00. After having lunch, Varun sits to
finish his homework, and then plays till the evening, mostly with his younger 2 year old
Both of his parents are working most of the day, and thus have employed a full time
nanny to take care of the children’s needs. The day goes in watching television, espe-
cially Tom and Jerry cartoons, playing video games, or riding their bicycle around the
basement of their apartment. Varun's toys range from Lego blocks and coloring books
to Mc Donalds, Ben ten and popular merchandise from Cars to Shrek.
A child like Varun faces many problems due to living in an urban space. He has limited
time with his working parents, and spends most of his day at home with his nanny and
brother. His neighborhood offers him no parks or play spaces and he has very little
engagement with natural environments.
1. Children living in urban spaces are limited due to physical space, security is-
sues, and a general inaccessibility or lack of facilities that enable play. This creates a
tendency to depend on technology and virtual media. There is a general need for urban
children to engage in a physically active mode of playing that also stimulates creativity
2. Children in urban spaces, tend to have a lesser engagement with their natural
environments. It is important for children to engage and understand environments in a
manner that they see value in conserving it.
Why Toys and games?
Playing is one of the most natural activities in a child’s life. It helps a child engage
with the self, society and learn the importance of various social roles. Hence, toys and
games are a useful tool for teaching and is significant pedagogically. Given this role,
they are the best tools to inculcate a respect for the environment.
I chose to propose this as a diploma project, as my previous experiences in this area
has inspired ideas in me that I feel have potential that hasn’t been fully explored. I
intend to use my skills as a visual communication designer, to explore toys and play
patterns in an urban Indian context to bring about higher levels of interaction, effec-
tive knowledge sharing and of course, make environmental education a fun activity.
12. Varun showing off
his collection of
books. His favourite
is of the film 'Cars'
13. The Design Brief
• To conduct workshops and spend time with 6-8 year old • Spaces: Educational institutions like Mallya Aditi
children from the urban upper middle class section to bet- International school and neighborhood/colony children
ter understand their knowledge of natural environments • Films and Books
and environmental conservation. • People: Interaction designers, Storytellers, specialists in
• To design toys that educate children about various aspects the fields of teaching, environmental studies, the arts and
of natural environments and build prototypes for it using crafts sector, etc.
appropriate materials. • Studio space and feedback from Anders Sandell &
• To conduct user tests with the target group, to test us- Michelle Cherian
ability and usefulness of the toys. • Organizations like Sutradhar, AS Charitable Trust etc.
Research Questions Learning Outcomes
• What are the influences of a given milieu on children’s • To understand the role of design in improving pedagogy
learning and play patterns, and their knowledge of natural and how it engages with social institutions like education,
environments? economy, politics etc.
• How can children better engage with the natural environ- • To learn ways of effectively using different disciplines to
ment in the process of play? create holistic design solutions.
• How can we create toys that aid discovery and learning,
creativity and imagination? (Pedagogy)
Research and exploration:
Toys and the toy market in urban environments and existing-
material that introduces environmental education to children.
Understanding learning and playing patterns of children hailing
from upper middle class groups in urban spaces.
• User participation through workshops
• Understanding the needs of the user and the related par-
• Facilitate the users in engaging with the process of
• User testing: usability and usefulness
Prototyping and Conceptualization:
Ideating and prototyping toys/games that are affordable, suited
to the needs and involves sensible use of materials.
14. Deconstructing the process
in a nutshell.
course of my
during the toy
ited the design
plan the future
design lab. It is
project, I revis-
and affordance and
its role in the growth
and identity of a
child. The observa-
tions were listed as
a set of insights and
Tinkering with mate-
rial and experiment-
ing with physical and
ties to create toys.
Activities with MAIS
children to bring a
variety of ideas to the
table and kickstart to
the ideation process.
Ideation begun keep-
ing in mind the results
of the workshops.
This idea that i took
forward is a set of
gear that form insects
15. Dirty Prototyping
The idea was quickly
readily available and
The prototypes were
used to test the us-
ability of the toy and
the record reactions
from the children
towards the toys.
Taking cues from
the user testing, the
materials were cho-
sen carefully and the
final prototype was
The helmet base
made from papier
mache comes with
different plush parts,
Velcro. The fabrics
were chosen based on
properties of insects
like colour and
The final prototypes
were presented in an
exhibition to receive
feedback from people
16. Analysis: Strengths and Weaknesses
During this period, I was able to step back to try and understand 3. The ‘Indianess’ of this toy is superficial, and appears only in
areas that have potential to be improvised and taken further: its textiles and colours. Introducing a truly Indian tradition or
ritual like storytelling would strengthen the concept. This would
1. The toy’s intention to introduce natural environments to chil- be more effective in communicating to children the knowl-
dren is there, but hasn’t been reflected to the maximum. edge about natural environments and also make it an engaging
2. The form of the toy has its advantages and disadvantages. Is
it meant to be abstract so as to leave the form to the imagination 4. There is a lack of thought and design of the entire ecosystem
of the child? Or is it meant to be more defined to make the child of the toy. Details on how it could be manufactured and market-
recognize and understand certain facts? ed are missing. It has potential to employ art and craft commu-
nities to do so.
This is a summary of the process I followed during the project.
Project Aim | Design Brief
Interviews Insights and Exploration User testing
Observation Opportunities Prototyping Making Final Product
Market trends | User needs
20. Defining the Ecosystem
The term ecosystem is used here to describe the various areas that play a vital role in influencing
the design of the playing aid. Defining the organisms of the ecosystem gave clarity on research
areas and confirmed my position as a designer, as the maker, translating needs and designs to
suit users, buyers and sellers.
Parents | Teachers Children
Home | Schooling centre Physical/ mental playground
How is it engaging and helpful?
BUYER | PARTICIPANT USER
How is it a good PLAYING AID How can the playing aid
tool for learning? How can the playing be innovative in the use
Is it durable and aid be designed to of craft traditions and
memorable? serve the needs of all material while designing
stakeholders? for user needs?
Retailers/ shopkeepers What value proposition does it have and does it meet our “brand” ? Artist/ designer/ fabricator
Retail spaces Factory/ location of craft practices
Is it cost effective?
21. User Mapping
Focus: Primary user group: Upper middle class, working parents |
Secondary user group: Middle /Upper middle class, one users home parent
The primary target group for the project has been narrowed down tostay at belonging to the upper and upper
middle class section. Interviews with the buyers and users resulted in common patterns on views, habits
and lifestyles of the group. The following slides contain a brief of the interviews done on field.
UPPER & UPPER-MIDDLE CLASS
The Conscientious Parent The Liberal Parent
Lifestyle | Level of affordance
• Conscious of their toy pur- • Slightly indulgent with their toy
chases and what it teaches purchases, no budget on it
the children. • Look for toys that occupy the
• Want value for money child as well as educate them
• Particular about the child’s • Insistent on security for the
lifestyle and discipline child
• Insistent on quality time • Little time with family is earned,
spent with family and friends hence is very cherished.
STAY AT HOME WORKING
Level of involvement
LOWER & LOWER-MIDDLE CLASS
Note: The following categories and quadrant has been drawn from data collected on the field and may need further research for application at a general level.
This quadrant maps out the people that have been interviewed for the project.
22. Buyer/participant: The Conscientious Parent
Family: Nuclear family, but have a huge social network which Toys: A lot of emphasis on out door activities and physical
get together often to spend time and build relationships. Usually exercise. Very little Tv is allowed. Toys are usually a huge variety
particular about bonds with grandparents, cousins and making ranging from traditional Channapatna toys to popular merchan-
friends within the locality. dise and educational toys bought locally and abroad. A close
watch is kept on influences of certain games, toys and cartoons
Work: Is distributed within the house and general neighbor- on the child.
hood activities. Household chores are taken care of, as usually
one of the parent is stay at home. The predominant amount of Views on Childhood: Feel that the current lifestyles are quite
time is spent tending to children's needs like homework, food, suitable for the children to grow up in, but the most needs to be
play and extracurricular activities. made out of the facilities and hence find it important for one par-
ent to be stay at home.
Spaces: Apartments and independent houses are the norm. The
community spaces like the parks, clubhouses and swimming
pools are well used. The children also
Education: Particular about the child receiving attention from
the school authorities, opportunities to cultivate hobbies and
sports. The parents also usually take a proactive role in the
methods and curriculum of education taught and frequently give
feedback to school authorities.
24. “ I find it strange how
children are not so simple and
innocent like the way we used
to be when we were their
age. I feel like I am constantly
dealing with cynical, half
27. Buyer/participant: The Conscientious Parent
Anu | Mother of two : 4 year old Arundhati & 7 year old Sanjana
Anu gave up her job to provide undivided attention to the children and their needs. She
was also insistent that the children spend quality time with their grandparents and
lets the kids prod them with questions about science, mythology and stories.
Anu's children love playing with dolls, jigsaw puzzles, pretend play games and love
reading. They also watch the Hanna Montana shows on TV and love it. The older one
loves Enid Blyton books. Their pretend play games are highly influenced by reality TV
shows, and hence become “who does what best” like talent shows. They also thor-
oughly enjoy art and craft work, and engage with DIY kits very often.
The kids also like gardening, and have their own plants. The older one is very proud of
her tomato plant.
She feels that the kids miss out on being intimate with their nature. She grew up in
an orchard farm in Coorg, and reminisces about plucking fruits and climbing trees.
She says that the maximum bit of nature they encounter in their everyday life is the
manicured grass and the cultivated flowering plants on the lawn of their apartment
block. Anu also tries and instill in them values about conservation and environmental
The old child is scared of insects. Anu feels that because she was the first child, Anu
itself was scared to let her close to anything that could hurt her, and thus instilled
that fear in her. Thus, she has consciously let her younger one explore without stop-
ping her, and allows her to touch and feel things like insects.
28. “ I insist that Saarang learns
that sharing is caring. I can’t
stand it if he is eating or
playing and doesn’t offer his
friend to join him. That is one
rule I ensure to inculcate in
31. Buyer/participant: The Conscientious Parent
Geetha | mother of 5 year old Saarang
Geetha was another working woman, who quit her job to look after her child. Her son
Saarang goes to Sisugruha nursery school. Geetha is insistent that Saarang spends
quality time with family, and hence he visits his grandparents and cousins quite often
over the weekends.
Geetha is also particular that Saarang understands the concept of sharing is caring
very well, and hence ensures he does enough of it.
Initially he was in Poorna Pragna School, but the parents felt that it was too
academically oriented, and there was no all round development and extracurricular
activities. They did not want that much stress on the child at such a young age, and
hence shifted him.
Saarang loves playing with cars and superhero toys. He had a huge collection, but is
slowly growing out of it, and is now reading a lot of books, and watching television and
animated movies. He also enjoys Indian mythological stories thoroughly, and the book
on Lord Ganesha is his favorite.
Saarang loves playing outside, and is quite comfortable staying outdoors in the
grounds for hours together. He goes for karate classes after a considerable amount of
playtime, and comes back to finish his homework.
He is petrified of insects, and can’t stand anything creepy crawly. However, he has a
collection of plastic animal toys and he loves animals, from sharks to alligators.
32. “ I would prefer a toy from
say a Maya Organic or
Sutradhar as compared to
a toy from Sapphire, simply
because those toys seem to
have a little more thought put
into it… they’re not flashier
35. Buyer/participant: The Conscientious Parent
Harini | mother of 9 year old Kriti and 4 year old Kyati
Harini was born and brought up in Vishakhapatnam. After studying engineering, she
worked for a good number of years, travelling between the USA and India. Being a
conscientious mother, she gave up her job after her children were born.
She is very systematic and insists on inculcating discipline in her children. Hence
homework time, eating time, watching TV, playing, surfing the net etc are all done at
particular time periods.
The older daughter studies in NPS, where very little emphasis on extracurricular
activities is given. The younger one studies in Sishugruha Montessori.
The children enjoy a lot of reading, and playing outdoors, especially badminton. They
also love logic based and thinking games. The older girl likes reading a lot. The younger
one is very into dolls. While Kriti is afraid of insects, Kyati has no fear, and even col-
lects dead butterflies because she admires their beautiful wings.
Most of the toys got for Harini’s daughters are picked up when they travel. They
constantly look out for toys that have innovative ideas. Otherwise, the toys are usually
gifted to them or handed down by relatives and friends.
Harini prefers toys that last long and that are highly interactive. She doesn’t mind if
the toys are technology driven, as long as it is teaching them the right things.
36. Buyer/participant: The Liberal Parent
Family: Nuclear family, with very few relatives in the city, oc- Toys: A lot of emphasis on books and reading, so money is spent
cassional visits to their native- usually a small town where time all around the year for it, toys are bought sometimes from all
is spent with cousins and relatives, regular holidays of which around the world, when the parents feel there arent enough of
quite a few are abroad. it, or when they find something interesting. Cost is not really
looked at, a minimum of 400 to 500 Rs is spent, and a maximum
Work: Average time at work is from 9 in the morning to 6 to 7 in of 2000 Rs.
the evening. The child is usually left at a daycare centre or in the
care of a full time employed nanny. The parents get about one Views on Childhood: Overexposure - too much information
hour in the morning and 2 hours in the evening with the children fed: TV and Internet, commercialized education: focus more
during the week and the weekends as well. The time is usually on finishing the curriculum rather than understanding concept,
spent mall hopping or at the cinemas. Sometimes, the parents unhealthy food habits, restricted environments, health and
are forced to carry work back home. security: low immunity of children, too much protection.
Spaces: Usually live in apartments because of security and
playspace facilities and opportunity for the child to make
friends. However, the playspaces are seldom used and friends
are very few.
Education: No particular views on education, schools are
chosen either out of force or because of distance: travel time is
cut down as much as possible, the parents look for a stree free
schooling and all round development.
37. The Liberal
38. “ I grew up in Kashmir where
there was no such thing as a
toy. All I remember doing was
running around trees with
friends and playing sports.
Today, despite so many toys,
the child’s engagement level
is almost zero.”
39. Buyer/participant: The Liberal Parent
Dhiraj | father of 4 year old & 11 month old daughters
Dhiraj has 2 daughters, who are 4 years and 11 months old. Both he and his wife are
working and have a hectic schedule during the week. This gives the both of them a
maximum time of 1 hour in the morning, and two hours in the evening to spend with
their children. Sometimes, both of them have to carry work back home. The children
have the company of their grandparents who spend time with them telling stories,
engaging them in conversations and expressing their needs to them.
The younger child is still too young to have a whole toy collection, but simple rattles
and mobiles occupy her time. The older child loves watching cartoons, playing role
play games with her cooking and barbie sets, and loves coloring.
Dhiraj doesn’t believe in spending more than Rs 700 on a toy. They usually buy toys
when they feel that there isn’t enough of them, or when they see some interesting
ones at stores. Dhiraj and his wife usually lean towards toys they feel would stimulate
the kids in some way. Toys are bought from Shoppers Stop and Farico stores. There is
generally more emphasis placed on Books and the older child likes reading them.
The Older Kid studies at Christ Academy. The school was selected because it was
a half an hour drive from home and had a playground. Dhiraj was clear that his kids
wouldn’t travel in AC buses and be way too pampered.
Both the parents don’t believe in home schooling and feel that regular schooling is
important because kids learn through group interaction. Dhiraj worries that education
has become commercialized and some teachers dump information rather than teach
The children have a limited attention span so toys that are made of natural material
are chosen over plastic ones.
The Father is from Srinagar, Kashmir where there was a lot of physical play. He
believes that now children do not have that kind of stimulation or immunity in the
environment that they are growing up in.
40. “ Sometimes I got frustrated
trying to occupy the children
while I had work to do. I have
been tempted to just switch
on the TV once in a while, put
them in front of it, and say
here, now don’t bother me.”
41. Buyer/participant: The Liberal Parent
Jethin | father of 11 year old daughter and 3 year old son
Jethin has two children - Adithya (8 Years old) Avani (3.5 years old). Both he and his
wife are working. Jethin works at an IT company, while his wife works as a teacher.
Since both of them have very hectic schedules, they have employed a full time nanny
to care for their children. They stay in an apartment very close to Jethin’s office.
The parents have chosen schools and day care centres for their children based on the
distance. While the younger one goes to a day-care centre run in the apartment itself,
the older one goes to school just 1 km away from their house. The apartment has an
ample amount of space, where the kids can ride their cycles and run around. However,
the children don’t use the spaces. They also have very few friends in their apartment.
Family time is usually spent in the mornings and evenings. The children and the par-
ents go mall hopping where they look for newly released books, movies or interesting
The children are generally more attracted to household items rather than toys.
They like playing with vessels, cutlery and other objects. The younger one’s favorite
pastime is to watch television and ride his tricycle, while the older one likes reading a
lot of books and also surfs the internet. The toys that are usually bought are broken
Jethin hails from Waynad, and had a different atmosphere while growing up. When
he and his family visit their hometown, they usually play only outside as it is a farm-
land with lots of trees and animals.
Jethin doesn’t believe in home schooling, but a stress free education. He wants the
children to learn social skills by going to school. He believes that now kids live in a
very protected environment and despite this is exposed to a lot of perversion through
media. Having said this, he admits that he wont let his children play outside, if it
weren’t for a gated community space.
He at one point, took two years off to work from home and take care of the children,
while his wife went to work.
42. “ My child found it so difficult,
and wouldn’t talk properly till
he was 2 1/2 years old, simply
because there were language
barriers and conflicts
between the nanny, me and
my husband. School got him
to be talkative.”
43. Buyer/participant: The Working Couple
Kavitha | mother of 4 year old son
Kavitha has a 4 year old son who studies at the euro kids play home very close to her
apartment. Thought very close, being a highway, he travels by the school bus.
Kavitha earlier had the chance to work from home but then shifted to a flexi plan
option and slowly returned to her work schedule. The child has very little time with
his parents and very little attention is paid to him. It is usually at 7:30 in the morning
while getting ready and 8:00 in the evening where Kavitha makes it a point to sit with
him for a while.
Kavitha and her family live in an apartment and have employed a full time nanny to
take care of her son.
Her son love the “Thomas and his friends” train sets and its merchandise. He owns
atleast 25 different varieties of these kind, where each train set approximately costs
Rs 600. He otherwise gets his toys from his aunts who live in the US or when they pay
a regular visit to Sapphire toy stores. The parents are sure they have no upper limit on
spending on toys. Apart from his train sets, her son likes puzzles, cartoons and also
has a huge car collection.
Kavitha feels that stimulation is required for the child and toys that have innovation
are important like the Transformer toys. She leans towards this rather than board
Right now Kavitha is most worried about not being able to spend time with her child
when he gets to the older classes, and when he will require her to help him with his
homework and activities. She also feels that activities like singing and dancing should
be inculcated. The child should be able to do his own work and be independent.
44. “ As a parent I wouldn’t
say it’s okay if my child is
average. I do want them to do
well in their academics, but I
don’t want them to be running
around from tuition to tuition.
In my days 70 % was brilliant,
but those days are gone.”
45. Buyer/participant: The Liberal Parent
Georgie | father of 3 year old son
Georgie has a son who is 3 years old.
Georgie’s wife is a stay at home mother, who cares for her child. She used to work
earlier, but gave up her job when she was in the delivery stages.
Georgie works Monday to Friday, from 9 to 7. He gets to spend very little time with
his child, usually for 2 hours in the evening and on weekends.
Georgie and his family stay in an apartment very close to his office, and his child goes
to a play home very close by. The child has a couple of friends in the apartment who he
plays with every evening.
The child is still young, and so plays with cars, jeeps and truck toys. He also like
coloring but doesn’t engage in too much television viewing. He is although attracted by
the television and the laptop, and views them more as toys that he can fiddle around
with. He also engages in books and likes reading them often.
Georgie feels that schooling is important, as teachers teach the children through
their authority and constant engagement with the child. He doesn’t believe in home
schooling as an option. He feels that the child at a young age, should be given time to
enjoy as they have a lot of competition to deal with once they get into regular schools.
He worries that children today are getting accustomed to western trends like fast
46. Visits to educational institutions
1. Looking to mainly inculcate discipline and punctuality in the
2. Some teachers feel the need for toys to aid teaching math-
ematics to children. Even value education and life skills are
subjects of considerate amount of attention.
3. Toys that challenges thinking abilities of the child.
4. Constantly on the look out for different methods of teaching
47. Visits to
48. " A lot of children in my class
don’t know what an ant looks
like. They’ve seen tarantula
spiders on TV. They ‘know’
red ants bite and black ants
are nice when they crawl up
your hand. But they haven’t
seen them, like the big ones
that I saw when I was a kid.
So whenever I spot one of
these insects, I gather the
kids around and point: see,
this is an ant."
49. Visits to educational institutions
Mrs. Bhagya | Science and math teacher, class 1, MAIS
"The curriculum is taught based on what we think needs to be introduced to the chil-
dren, and their levels of understanding. There are no prescribed textbooks. They are
taught usually with the aids of presentations, experiments etc, concept mapping etc.
Toys are usually required in a classroom space for mathematics and physical sci-
ences. This will make children understand concepts like cause and effect, geometry
etc better. General and environmental sciences are mostly taught with demonstra-
tions, presentations and experiments.
Elementary school children are usually sponges, and ready to learn about different
things. Their visual perceptions are very high, and generally when subjects are taught
with rich imagery at this level, they tend to stay in the child’s memory longer.
I am personally creeped out by insects. I can still somehow take cockroaches,
because I have dissected lots of them, but I can’t stand any reptile or amphibian like
creature. I hate snakes, lizards, and frogs. If I were to teach about them, I most
probably would avoid it.
In environmental education at standard one, we cover subjects like reduce, reuse,
recycle, waste segregation, energy cycles, matter and its states etc. We also teach
about animals, their offspring, how to care for them and so on. Insects are normally
a subject alternated within sections of a class, and things like the butterfly and its
lifecycle is taught. This is a fairly nice subject to teach them, as we can also take them
on a field trip to the butterfly park in Bangalore and show them the real thing."
50. “The children who especially
spend their entire day in the
day-care centre are quite
detached from their parents.
There have been instances
when the child is picked up
earlier than usual and he or
she questions the parents
saying: it’s not dark yet, why
did you come?”
51. Visits to educational institutions
Kidzee Day-care centre
Kidzee is a day-care centre that caters to children from infants to 6 year old children.
It usually gets all its reading and playing material from their head office in New Delhi.
The teachers don’t have too much say in what is taught in these centres.
There are some children who come from early morning to late evening and spend the
entire day in the day care centre.
The toys are usually split into groups and shared amongst the children. The day care
centre has a small garden outside, where the children can play. Indoors, they usually
engage in art and craft work and watch cartoon videos on TV.
The teachers say that the biggest challenge for them is to feed the children quickly
The teachers usually find that storytelling is a popular hit with the children. They
usually impart value education and answer questions like ‘Who is God? Where does
he come from?’ through stories. They feel that children spend lesser time with their
grandparents nowadays and thus lose out on tapping into a rich knowledge resource.
52. “Because it is time
consuming for one to identify
a suitable way of learning for
a child, it is easier to give a
prescribed method and get
done with it. People feel that
this will make the system
run smoother, but it isn’t
functioning that way."
53. Visits to educational institutions
Oasis Learning Centre
Marianne runs a social organization called the oasis learning centre, which follows
alternative methods of education. She runs this for a group of children, whose parents
have gotten together and chosen the curriculums for the children themselves.
The concept of homeschooling arose from the idea that schools in northern America,
moved slowly away from traditional values, and as it became more secular, there grew
a lack of discipline and violence; sex and drugs became a norm. A lot of the schools
taught a more scientific approach to education rather than faith based learning.
In a traditional school: The content is decided in a way that everyone didn’t agree
with. Home schooling is a way of controlling the input of the child by the parents. This
helps the parents instill everything that they want to about their culture and faiths.
Homeschooling in India and methods of education:
In India, people are looking for alternative to the schooling system. Both, the parent
and the child are not satisfied, as they are not learning in a manner that suits the child.
Homeschooling involves at least one home bound parent who is to be with the child.
This can be done in groups, to make it more supportive. There are diverse ways of
teaching a child in home schooling: one on one, correspondence course, a free thinking
home schooling where the curriculum is decided by the self: the child does what he
wants to, and there is a lot of input and exposure given to the child.
Maria Montessori is an important figure to look up as she believed in self taught
learning, which is a more hand on kinesthetic form of education. Teaching here is done
through play activities, materials, toys etc.
Kinesthetic learning comes from the concept of different Intelligences: Bodily kines-
thetic, linguistics (books), logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, musical, interpersonal,
A home schooling parent would try and find out which form of intelligence their child
is comfortable with and which way of learning best suits their child. If a child is being
forced to do something, they find it difficult to learn, and develop a block against it. The
failure and disappointment of not being able to learn it makes the child turn against it.
It’s not that he/she is bad at learning; it’s just that it has become a bad experience for
him. The teachers can make it a good experience, by making it fun and developing it in a
55. Visits to educational institutions
manner that the children enjoy doing it, will make it a lot easier for the child as well as
stays with the child for a longer time.
Because it is time consuming for one to identify a suitable way of learning for a child,
it is easier to give a prescribed method and get done with it. People feel that this will
make the system run smoother, but it isn’t functioning that way. The system is not
working: but there is no alternative.
The curriculum in India is very thinking based: “Answer exactly what the book says.”
is the way it mostly goes here. So the thinking patterns goes into trying to figure
what people want you to say, and what they think is the right answer. Whereas in an
International curriculum, though it is still heavily book based, they focus on exercising
the individual’s thinking and decision making abilities. “This is the information, how do
you solve it? What do you think is right? “
It is important to try to draw your own conclusion: in adult life that helps to have
more decision making power. More decision making power means higher level of self
confidence and a confidence to express one’s opinion.
In India, I suppose creative thinking with a billion people might be dangerous.
Creative thinking may lead to a lot of different ideas maybe too many. However, cre-
ative thinking, problem solving, self confidence etc are important skills to have. The
former president of India, Abdul Kalam said,”the problem is not unemployment, it is
unemployability” (do Indians have life skills? Can they cook a meal, open a bank ac-
count, and disagree with someone? Book knowledge is one thing, but one needs to have
About Natural environments and urban spaces:
I myself lived on a farm, and it was very beautiful. There was no concept of swim-
ming pools, we swam in the lakes. But I have had to raise my children in the cities. We
made it a point to introduce them to nature from an early age itself. It is important to
take nature walks; it doesn’t have to be too far. Parents should insist on nature based
activities: trekking, walking, etc, anything to enhance your children’s opportunities and
skills. Teaching children to appreciate nature is important. It shows so much about the
world: sciences, mathematics and faith as well. We see god in nature.
56. User: A Day in the life of...
57. A day in the
58. Storytelling sessions at Mallya Aditi Prep School
59. Storytelling sessions at Mallya Aditi Prep School
60. MAIS children at the playground and at drama class
61. MAIS children's various activities during the day: building blocks, reading sessions, drawing and lunch
62. Little Angels Playhome
at the day care
• Myths about
• Group dy-
namics in an
needs of the
• Toys and ac-
63. Nirale Daycare Centre
• Focus and need for
• Philosophy of corporate
firms - working women
• Toys and activities
• Need for expression
• Methods of play at
different age groups
• Imagination and influence
64. MAIS Workshop
The workshop at
the theme of
an insight into
sion skills of 5
year old children
and their knowl-
edge of nature
65. Workshop at BD Apts
The workshop in these
apartments gave good
insight into the creativity and
imagination of children, their
knowledge of nature, as well
their interaction with materials.
The age group was varied and
ranged from 5 year old to 11
year old children.
resulted in some
theme of insects,
were asked to
draw or make an
with a special
out of it. Apart
from the draw-
ing exercise, I
From Top: An insect with flexible arms and infrared vi-
storytelling and sion, a butterfly that can sit in Padmasana, a corporate
concept map- spider-roach, an insect called rocket-sucker that has
ping sessions, powers to suck fluids from a tube, and fly very fast,
and finally, a handmade butterfly puppet.
which helped me
skills of the kids.
67. Some of the drawings made by the children of
Mallya Aditi School
Insights & Opportunities
• How can we bring focus on understanding
concepts in schooling?
• Can education be customized to suit an
individual child’s needs?
• How can education be more engaging?
I analyzed the • Can we use alternative knowledge pools like
researched I had puppetry, grandmother’s storytelling sessions
gathered and etc., to make education fun?
filtered it down • How can we introduce an accessible variety of
to an insight resources for education?
matrix. The op-
rized into five
and are present-
ed in the form of
People & Play
on to be idea
starters for my
• How can we design memorable and shared
• How can play patterns include more collaboration
• Can toys/games teach the values of individual
differences and common interests?
How can design toys/ games to encourage:
Long attention spans
Imagination and storytelling
• Freedom and expression
• Logic and reasoning
How can we design toys/ games that allow for:
• Learning of values Interdependence and self-
sufficiency through nature as an example?
• Learning of Nature and its systems of survival and
• Creating curiosity rather than fear towards nature?
• How can we design toys/games that use and
popularize natural material?
• How can we create toys/ games that have a
local and global appeal?
• How can material and visual style contribute to
an interactive and fun experience, that allow for
durability and tactility?
Insectival is a large sized physically
engaging board game for children that
allows children to explore the various at-
tributes of insects. The goal of the game
is to use these attributes to survive vari-
ous challenges of the forests.
Concept Product Play Process Play Space PlayPartners
Insectival is a game based on the The board game comes in the Role playing Outdoors With friends or
concept of survival of the fittest. One form of cards. The game could Group interaction family.
learns various attributes of the insect be designed to use simple Logic and reasoning
like its defence mechanisms, food objects like towels or ves-
habits, inter-relations etc, that help sels. It could have an addi-
the insect survive the jungles. tional dice and some wearable
Concept Product Play Process Play Space Play Partners
This concept of the toy is to reveal Would come as a set of de- Creative building Home The story is meant to be
various processes of the insect world tachable fridge magnets and Storytelling unfolded day by day along
gradually, encouraging storytelling a set of cards that unfolds Reasoning and with the help of an adult.
and imagination skills. the various stories - probably observation One of the key moments lie
in the form of questions and in the waiting for the next
answers. development of the story.
The other possibility that
the toy allows is for the
child to build his/her own
story and construct it on
My bug journal
The bug journal is meant to be a place
of recording for the child, when a set of
activities are done. These activities are
designed for the child to explore his sur-
roundings and closely observe nature and
probably even insects.
Concept Product Play Process Play Space Play Partners
The intention behind The product would come as a bag of tools, Expression Garden/ Natural Individual activity
this idea is to encourage along with a journal. The tools are meant Reasoning and Environment and can also be
children to observe nature to be used for different activities around observation done with friends
more keenly and give them the garden, like identifying certain insects and family.
the tools to express and and plants, understanding processes like
share their everyday learn- the food web etc. The tools could be a
ings with their friends. mixture of traditional and digital ones.
A set of characters in the form of pup-
pets that come with a set of stories and
traits that teach children about insects
Concept Product Play Process Play Space Play Partners
A set of The puppets are hand operated made from cloth These puppets are meant Home/ School Ideal with an
characters in and other eco friendly material. The puppets come to be played with along adult (parent/
the form of dismantled, and need to be put together by the with an adult . There are teacher/nanny etc)
puppets that child before playing. These puppets come as a set two processes that are for the reading ex-
come with a of toys along with books. meant to occur here: ercises, but can be
set of stories -construction played individually
and traits -storytelling and role and with friends.
that teach playing
76. Skitterville 2
A kit that contains a set of
characters meant to be created
by the child with different mate-
rials. The intention is to teach
the child about insects and also
different kinds of materials and
Concept Product Play Process Play Space Play Partners
A kit that contains a set The products would come as one set per charac- Creative building Home/ School These kits will
of characters meant to be ter. Each set contains different materials from Storytelling need adult super-
created by the child with which the character can be made. The kit also and roleplay- vision and guid-
different materials. The comes with a set of cards, and the materials as ing Material ance to be made.
intention is to teach the well. Exploration
child about insects and also
different kinds of materials Eg: Skitter the springtail has the power of jumping
and their properties. very high.See how skitter would look when he is
made of leaves. How does skitter jump when he
is made of leaves?(instruction guide and flash
cards), the material being palm leaves woven
together to form springtail. The materials could
involve things like paper, cardboard, cloth, ice
cream sticks, beads etc
78. Quick Prototyping
A quick prototype of the refrigerator magnet idea that tells the story of
80 theAnts and Aphids, and the life cycle of a Cicada.
79. Quick Prototyping
A prototype for Skitterville's hand puppets that uses simple objects, movements and
interactions. This is of a Damselfly made with a clothes clip and paper. 81
“Insectival” is an outdoor physical game for 3 to 6 players for an age group of 6 years
& above. This game is based on the world of Insects. The survival of any insect in
the forest is largely dependent on their defense mechanisms, the ability to adapt,
environment resources, interdependence and human interference. The play consists
of adapting oneself as different insects and meeting various challenges on the board
using the dice.
ASPECTS OF PLAY
This game intends to facilitate physical modes of play and group interaction. It is
designed to be flexible and fit easily so as to transform any given area into a play
space. This game also seeks to encourage community level sharing, role play and
most importantly help realize the value and significance of nature and its various
• How can education be more engaging?
• How can we design memorable and shared playing experiences?
• How can play patterns include more collaboration and sharing?
• How can we teach children about Nature and its systems of survival and
The aim of the game is to stay on board without getting eliminated. The last standing
player on the board is the survivor and thus the winner of the game. As the players
play along, they transform into the different insects and thus acquire the insect’s
powers. The hierarchy of powers determines the player’s continuation of the game.
The contents of the game include one large dice, 60 cards and 36 memory bands. The
60 cards include 6 insects belonging to the tropical forest regions. Each of the insect
set includes 1 transformation card and 7 challenge cards. The transformation card,
when landed upon, transforms the player into that insect. The challenge cards are
consist of tasks to be fulfilled and are a based on a given insect’s behavior pattern.
The remaining 12 cards are neutral or blank cards which are interspersed as safe
spots on the game board.
The tiles are designed to be modular, so the layout of the game can be changed every
time it is played. A few guidelines to be followed are:
By rule, the first tile of the board has to be the Katydid transformation card. This is
so because, Katydids are one of the more vulnerable insects of the forest (being the
most sought after prey), thus making every player start at the lowest position.
The game layout has to be laid out to form a loop.
The transformation cards cannot be placed consecutively. They have to be placed
with at least three challenge or neutral cards between them.
While the number of insects used to be played can be chosen, an equal number of
challenge cards are necessary to be assigned for each of the insects.
Finally, the memory bands are provided to remind the player the insect they adapt
into. The respective color band can be strapped around when landing upon a trans-
RULES OF PLAY:
The game begins once any player rolls a six on the dice. The person who rolls six
starts the game by rolling again. The sequence of players is defined by the highest
number got on the dice. The starting position of all players is the first card (Katydid
transformation card) and assumes the power of the Katydid.
The hierarchy of the insect’s powers will determine the predator and the prey.
When two insects land up on the same spot, the stronger one has the power to over-
throw the weaker one, unless the weaker insect has immunity.
85. Immunity is nothing but a chance for an insect to be saved from being attacked. This
immunity is provided as part of the challenge cards itself, and can be assumed only
when the particular insect lands on that challenge card.
The order of hierarchy:
Leaf tailed gecko (most powerful)
Leaf Cutter Ant
Spiny orb weaver spider
Daddy long legs spider
Fig Eater Butterfly
Leaf footed Katydid (least powerful)
Every transformation card of an insect comes with certain specified physical move-
ments. The player is meant to move in that manner, until he transforms to another
insect. Anyone who fails to carry out the required movements is out of the game.
A failure of completing the challenges successfully also penalizes the player, result-
ing in elimination.
The game board can be laid out on different heights or levels to add a fun element.
The use of chairs, tables, staircases etc. is possible. The game is best played out-
doors, but can also be laid out inside the house.
A set for every kind of vegetation:
This set of tiles covers a handful of insects from the tropical rainforests, a predomi-
nant vegetation across the world.
The sets are also available in savannas, deserts, temperate deciduous forests collec-
tions etc. Each will introduce a variety in species of insects.
Expanding the insect world:
One can add to the game by choosing insects of one’s liking, researching a few facts
and creating new tiles! The blank tiles can be used for this purpose.
86. Content Generation
The rules of the game were made using facts about different species and types of
insects. The rules are broadly categorized in seven key aspects of insect behavior,
FOOD: This includes the kind of food that the insects eat. While some insects stick to
fruits, leaves and fungus, most insects prey on smaller insects. This became the basis
of establishing an order of hierarchy in the game.
SUPERPOWERS (DEFENCE MECHANISMS): Every insect has its own manners of
defending itself from danger and these mechanisms range from camouflage, mimicry,
speed to strategies of stealth, confusion and so on.
LIVING CHORES: Living chores include the daily activities that any given insect per-
forms, to protect their bodies as well as their species or colony. For instance, butter-
flies perform an activity called puddling where a number of these insects aggregate
on muddy banks of rivers, mud puddles or dung. They do so to extract sodium out of
the fluids they suck on, as there is a lack of this mineral in the regular plant material
ENVIRONMENTS : Certain aspects of the environment affect the lives of insects, be
it the kind of trees they build their houses in, to the climate the insects adapt to. Trees,
ponds, and other living organisms and insects become important partners of a symbi-
otic relationship to any given insect and alter the evolution and survival of the insect
PREDATORS: This again establishes the power of insects in their environment and the
activities they perform in order to evade attack from their predators.
PHYSICAL MOVEMENTS: Every insect has a certain way of moving in their environ-
ment and they use these movements to perform actions of attacking prey, camouflag-
ing or confusing their predators. For example, some species of the Daddy longlegs
spider get together and entangle their legs to form large vibrating masses, from which
a bird or an attacker is usually unable to extract a single individual.
FEARS OF EXTINCTION: The survival of any species of insect is largely dependant on
their ecosystems and habitats. Human intervention in nature has caused a significant
number of species to go extinct, and factors like deforestation, industrialization deter-
mine which insect can adapt or evolve to withstand and survive these challenges.
88. Spiny orbweaver spider
Daddy longleg spider,
Leaf tailed gecko,
Leaf cutter ant,
Rain forests, as
the name sug-
gests, are those
ized by high
annual rainfall of
to 2000mm. The
tion of equato-
rial rainforest is
closely tied to
the warm, moist
occur near to
the Equator. Rain
forests serve as
a shelter to more
than half of the
mated 10 million
These are some
of the insects
89. Clockwise from
Fig eater butterfly,
Leaf footed katydid,
90. Content Generation
The following is an explained example of how the facts of a particular insect's behaviour has been made into rules for the game.
The Preying Mantid is known to be one of the most powerful insects. The Dirt-free feet are critical for running on smooth, vertical surfaces and
strength and size of its raptorial front legs determine the size of their meal. mantids keep them frequently.
The larger mantids can eat even lizards, hummingbirds and of course, their
91. Since the preying mantid is known to keep a check on other species of Preying mantids have an amazing ability to take on the appearance of
insects, some of the exotic species of mantids are traded and sold as pets. their environments, giving them high chances of catching prey and being
Though mantids are not entirely a threatened species, continued activity of protected fro their predators. This is just one of their superpowers!
trading could minimize their chances to survive.
92. Content Generation
The following six insects were chosen to be a part of the basic game board and the opposite spread contains the six insects which
are additional sets that can be added to the game
94. Visual & Material Exploration
These are a few
examples on the
explored for the
that i looked into
for the making
of the cards. I
kinds of hand
made of jute,
plastic and fab-
i settled for
with an EVA
foam base to en-
sure water and
95. Fusion Fabric with cotton for sturdiness EVA foam glued with cotton fabric Jute or gunny material: an exploration for
inexpensive eco-friendly material.
Woven grass as an exploration for texture. Recycled plastic Woven Cane
96. User Testing
board game was
paper and tested
with children at
The user test
was enjoyed by
doubts about the
rules came up
scope for im-
other user test
with the MAIS
is shown in the
100. Final Prototype
The prototype at its current state, is mostly fabric based.
The dice has been sown together with a foam filling, and the
cards have been printed on fabric, and finished off with a rub-
I personally have been a little disappointed with the mate-
rial outcome, but exploring this area is an ongoing process.
Thinking and experimenting with various materials have
opened up different ways of looking at how Insectival can be
packaged together for different audiences.
102. The Way forward
• The game can have an online component that becomes a
community space for children to share their learnings and
• The game could be translated either in vernacular for be-
ing distributed to government schools and rural areas.
• This game could also be translated into augmented reality,
and with the aid of a camera, could be translated into a
projected three dimensional experience.
This project would not have been possible without the support of some wonderful people I have been fortu-
nate to work and interact with.
A special thanks to my mentor and friend Anders Sandell who (re-)introduced a good bunch of us to the world
of playing and toy design and helped me find and put together everything I love doing in the form of this
I am also indebted to another mentor and friend Julie Fairless, for believing in my capabilities as a designer
and for teaching me sensibility and sensitivity.
Closer to home, my heartfelt gratitude goes to Chetna aunty for her ideas, encouragement and support. I owe
a big thank you to Arjun, a dear friend, colleague and critic who has constantly been of great help and a source
of motivation. I am very grateful to Mom for her resourcefulness and care, Dad for his patience and valuable
suggestions, and Maddy for her confidence in me.
I want to specially mention Nalisha Chouraria for her enthusiasm and creativity, Aditi for her thoughtfulness
and the entire team of Toymakers, and the Interactive toy lab for their inputs and expertise. A special thank
you goes to my tutor Mr Ravindra, Kumkum Nadig, HOD of Visual Communication Design, and Michelle Cherian
for encouragement and feedback.
Jury Panel Members
Geetha Narayanan, Sudipto Dasgupta, Ramesh Kalkur, Anders Sandell
Research and User Testing:
Bharavi Dhrupad Apartments: Harini, Anu, Geetha and the children of Bhairavi Dhrupad
Wipro: Mr Dhiraj, Mrs Kavitha, Mr Jethin, Mr Georgie, Gayatri Aunty
Little Angels Playhome: Ms Ghazala Patel
Nirale Daycare Centre: Mrs Nirmala
Kidzee Day care centre: Mrs Jayashree
Oasis Learning centre: Mrs Marianne
Mallya Aditi International school: Ms Hema Mandanna, Ms Rhoda Rodrigues,
Ms Shiraaz, the children of Prep School and 2nd std.
Prototype and Printing Resources:
106. Eight months ago, working at an Interactive Toy Design
lab, I discovered an idea that had endless possibilities and
involved everything I loved doing as a designer.
Today, that idea has taken the shape of Insectival, a large-
sized board game that encourages a physical and social
mode of play in children.
This book is a glimpse of my journey through the cre-
ation of Insectival and documents the design process that
moulded my project.