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Kids are designing and they don’t even know it

Let’s get something straight: design isn’t the final product, it’s the process in making it.

We have had parents of kids who are keen on graphic design ask us, “what should my child be doing? Is there a class, should they do an art class? What will improve their chances of eventually getting a job in design?”.

To us, formal education isn’t everything. You learn to use design thinking from a very young age; if you’re reading this as a parent, your kids are probably already using design thinking and you haven’t even realised. Your kids may not have realised either, as they are likely just having fun “creating”.

Design is not about being a master of Photoshop or Illustrator. They are tools. Image editing programs are great fun to play with for kids, but they aren’t expected to learn it or go to a class about it. Experimenting in childhood is the best education – they learn during play. And there is a lot of design in play that is underrated.

A couple of great projects for kids to use design thinking while having fun:

  • Create a board game. It might be redesigning an old game (maybe a new snakes and ladders board), or it could be developing a whole new game. Planning the game, writing the rules, creating the board/cards/pieces – every aspect pushes their thinking into new bounds.
  • Write and illustrate a kids book. This can be made age appropriate – it doesn’t have to be complicated. After writing a story, planning out how many pages, where the drawings will go, and where the text will go all require design thinking. Is it the right amount of pages for the book to be bound? How will it be bound? It will sharpen their problem-solving skills too.
  • Create an activity book. This could include contacting friends and family to find out what sort of activities their “customers” would like to do. Whether they are colouring pages, crosswords, puzzles, jokes, “find the object” pages – they all require their own planning and design. Most pages also can require a lot of manual drawing, which is good for honing their drawing skills.

The list is endless. The goal is for your kids to have fun. And whether they eventually go into design or not, learning how to use design thinking will set them up with an amazing skill for any job.