Design and build your own toys!!!
We design toys together by sharing; toy reviews, toy research, toy safety/design tips, d.i.y. toy tutorials and toy design concepts. Share your comments, opinions, ideas, sketches, etc... and entered win the free toy giveaway! In addition, each new toy design idea you submit will have a chance to be made into a real toy in our Playful Factory! Get involved now with our current toy design project.
30 Sep

Adventure Playgrounds

Have you ever heard of these things?! They originated from a landscape architect observing that kids liked to play anywhere, but on the playgrounds he designed. From this experience he imagined “A junk playground in which children could create and shape, dream and imagine a reality.” From this started the adventure playground movement. As stated on, “At adventure playgrounds children get to play how they choose; they are not limited by fixed play equipment or by organized activities or games. Children are given the safety of an enclosed supervised environment. Playworkers are always present to mediate disputes between children and help them when necessary.” The idea is kind of a make it your own, do it yourself space for kids to create, control, and evolve the space to be what they want it to be.

Check out this adventure playground in Berkley, CA.


Some toys designed around this general concept:


Imagination Playground



I want to play!

13 Jul

Let Kids Design Their Own Play


Great article on letting kids design their own play by Cas Holman (RISD)…

A few favorite quotes:

“In childhood, toys become part of a playful process of becoming ones’ self… Essentially, in childhood we play our way through discovering who we are.”

Given this, then…

“The ideal toy for a child is not a toy at all but something that they’ve appropriated for play… Because these found objects have no assigned story (they are “un-designed”), they shift identities as needed.”

How to talk to kids about their play…

“important difference between asking kids “What are you building?” and saying to them, “Tell me about what you’re doing… by saying “tell me about this” we leave the door open to stories about what children are imagining, and they can share challenges, discoveries about putting things together, or any number of things about their experience with their peers and school.”

Summary type stuff…

“Giving children less leaves room for them to contribute more. By allowing them to direct their own play they develop habits of agency, independence, and self-determination. Armed with these skills, they jump in to figure out who they are and will be in the world, rather than waiting for someone to hand them a model to follow… When children have agency in their play, they learn to have agency in their lives. The instructions we should give to children? Don’t wait for someone to tell you who and what to be—jump in and figure it out.”

Makes me reflect on the value of kids designing their own toys. How does that fit into this approach to thinking?

02 Jul

Ideation with Kids


This great article was shared with me. It has some very practical tips on ideating with kids, by making just a few tweaks to typical ideation methods.

Schedule lots of breaks.
Whereas I recommend a break every two hours for adults, you need a break every hour for 8-11 year olds and every 90 minutes for 12-18 year olds.

Help keep them stay still.
I know this sounds silly, but kids will swing around in chairs and can’t sit still, especially boys. You’ll avoid that distraction with chairs that don’t spin or have wheels. Ideally, have lower chairs where kids’ feet can touch the ground. It physically “grounds” them as well as helps them not feel so small. All that being said, don’t stress about their fidgeting—it’s natural.

Pay attention to blood sugar.
Provide snacks—that is the BEST way to change the energy of the room, but beware of high sugar snacks where you’ll have big blood sugar spikes and dips.

Talk to them in an age-appropriate way, but don’t be condescending.
Talk TO them, not LIKE them. Be yourself and authentic, but don’t resort to gimmicks to relate to them. Lay off the thesaurus and use age-appropriate words.

At the beginning, clarify that you are not a teacher and this is not a classroom.
Kids this age are absolutely wired for school. They see the moderator as the authority and are looking for the “RIGHT” answer. Spend some time debunking that and make sure that they know that you are looking for THEIR answers and ANY answers are the right ones. Use humor to reinforce that you are in charge, but not the teacher who will be grading them.

Over-emphasize the process and what you want from them.
Tell them the process at the beginning and reference it several times through the session. Remind them often (seriously, like every 10 minutes) what kinds of output you want out of them. It helps them to know where they are and what they are supposed to be doing.

Link these thoughts with IDEOs Methods JR cards and my Ideate Like you’re 8 tips and you’ve got some real fire power.

27 Jun

Maker Faire

For years I have followed Maker Faires across the country, although I have only ever ‘attended’ online. I have never actually been to one… until today. My son and I headed out Union Station here in Kansas City to see for ourselves what all the making is about.

Our favorite was all the robots!

We made our own out of Legos

More robots out of cardboard

We met the coolest robots of them all, R2D2. My 4 year old son was a bit skeptical of his realistic movements and noises, but I felt like I was 4 years old again! Made me bust out in C3P0 imitation. (not pictured below)


There was a great station for kids making whatever they wanted… reminded me a lot of Playful Factory.


We had a blast and will be going back next year!

01 Jan

Open Toys

Reminiscent of the original Mr. Potato Head…


These 3D printable pieces can be used to hack almost anything into toys… Shown here with veggies:
Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 2.01.42 PM


Download and print your own here:

Some other great toys along the same lines:



08 Oct

Doodling is Good for Your Brain


Since most of the drawings/graphics I put on this site are doodles, this article stuck out to me…

According to a research reported by The Wallstreet Journal, “Doodling helps people stay focused, grasp new concepts and retain information.”


If you want to get serious about doodling, check out the Doodler’s Manifesto.

Happy doodling all you smart people.

25 Jul

Make the world a better place… with more WATER BALLOONS!!!

A project worth backing.

03 Jul

Creative Fireworks

Have a great 4th of July weekend… Hope to see some fireworks!


image source: Playdough

08 Mar

Great Toys – Pop Toob

I found a great toy today! It seems like I played with one of these as a kid, but never realized it was actually made for kids. I found these at the local grocery store for a dollar a piece.

I love the ‘play-ability’ to cost ratio! I gave my nieces and nephews several of them and they played with them for hours… turning them into marble runs, telephone lines, whistle wind mills, and more!

pop toob

The only downfall of this toy that I can see is that they come with a barcode sticker attached to one end… while removing it leaves behind that awful sticky junk.

24 Dec

Play from Scratch… Build Big Ideas

A great new site to check out, follow and buy cool DIY toys too!… Play from Scratch. A fun company with a great mission…

“We want to inspire kids and adults to build big ideas through open-ended creative play. We see the world as a place full of possibilities and resources that can be used to solve problems and create fun.”