The Toy Project

Kids love their toys, playing with a new toy is interesting and exciting for both kids and adults. We find dolls, tractors, action figures, robots, blocks, jigsaw puzzles and more valuable enough to give up our time, living space and money. Playing with toys is an everyday part of a family life.

At Digitaf kindergarten, we initiated a toy program at the beginning of the year. Every week is focused on a different child. The child of the week chooses a toy. We research, plan and design the toy and then the other children join to help gather the tools and materials needed for the project and we start the building process.

After the first few weeks we had some conclusions:

1. We noticed the children enjoyed the work and the toys served as a tool for rich sociodramatic play.

2. We found our kids had a few lacking skills.

3. We needed to teach new methods of attaching things together. 

We introduced the kids to various methods to connect parts together: 

Liquid glue

Liquid glue

Split pins

Split pins

Wool threads

Wool threads

Pipe cleaners

Pipe cleaners

Zip ties

Zip ties

Magnets

Magnets

Insulating tape

Insulating tape

At the end of the week we hold an exhibition with the child of the week acting as a host to explain the process of the toy making. We try to make the toys out of recycled materials and to use parts from toys we disassemble.

Each project is totally different from the other. I try to direct the each child to use as many tools as possible and encourage the use of the 3D printer to make connectors and various accessories. Here is a skateboard one child has made with 3D printed wheel holders.

This week one child wanted to make a jigsaw puzzle. She loves the movie "Frozen" so she drew her favorite characters on a 90x70 cm wooden board.

We then went on a trip to the local Fablab. A digital fabrication laboratory, with CNC machines, laser cutter, vinyl cutter, electronics and wood workshops and 3D printers. I explained about the machines and showed the kids a few projects of mine and others.

We then went to the laser cutter to cut the puzzle. 

IMG_9367.JPG

During a project the child of the week is in charge and is responsible of the entire decision making process. They invite other kids to help and instruct them what to do. It is an empowering experience for a child to make his or her own toy and to be the one to orchestrate the whole thing.

3D Printing for preschoolers

"3D printing refers to various processes used to synthesize a three-dimensional object. In 3D printing, successive layers of material are formed to create an object. These objects can be of almost any shape or geometry and are produced from a 3D model or other electronic data source." - Wikipedia

But how do you teach that to a five year old kid so that he or she could use a 3D printer? Well, just like any other thing you want to teach - Let them experience it first hand and make something.

When I installed the printers in the kindergarten, the kids looked at them with wonder. I told them that we are going to print our own toys, but could clearly notice they didn't understand the meaning of it. At one point a kid asked me if she could bring a doll to put in the printer.

I had to start from the very beginning and introduced the kindergarten to Tinkercad, a browser-based 3D solid modelling tool for rapid prototyping known for its entry-level ease of use.

It has an intuitive interface and is a great tool to demonstrate the meaning of 3D. At first I would pick and arrange a few bodies and show how they appear from different points of view. A sphere would be seen the same from all angles, but a cylinder could appear as a square or a circle. The arrangement of the bodies in the space also affects how a body might hide behind another. The kids got the hang of it in a few days. They played with the software and we saved their projects just like we did with their drawings on Paint.

To demonstrate the concept of layers in a 3D printing process, I developed an easy activity in which the kids take an active part in.

I chose three identical cylinders and placed them on the printer bed in different orientations. We talked about the way the three are positioned and I asked them to draw the three shapes as they see them on the screen. It was interesting to see it through their eyes, most of them weren't able to draw it perfectly, but the exercise was good. I then asked them to choose a color for the first layer and started printing. At 25% I paused the printer and asked them to draw the partial print they see.

I let them choose and switch to another color, resume the print for another 25% and pause. During a print, the bodies are "open", the outline of the layers are clear and the infill is visible. Again I let them draw what they saw, this time with two colors. We kept on through the day until all four layers were finished and we had three cylinders with the same dimensions and different color distributions. 

In this exercise the children get to be a part of converting a digital shape into a solid object. I think the best way to understand the concept and logic behind 3D printing is to experiment with it yourself.

Here are some toys the kids chose from Thingiverse. I also designed 3D name signs and each kid chose the colors for base and letters.