It's Not Just Child's Play
Students put research into practice by designing toys for young kids
BY DAVID DICENZO
They may not have the name recognition of Fisher-Price or Hasbro, but a group of U of G students are trying to make a splash in the toy business.
Thirty “companies” in family relations professor Susan Chuang's second-year infant development class have put research into practice, creating developmentally appropriate toys for young children. The students will present their prototypes and posters outlining the research behind their projects April 4 from 12:30 to 1:20 p.m. in Room 100 of the Axelrod Building. Everyone is welcome.
Cathy Gilhuly is part of a group that created the MagMat, a toy that features a barnyard floor/wall mat and soft animals that can be attached to the backdrop magnetically.
“The animals are made from cloth of different textures and colours and have different stuffings to enhance learning and infant development,” says Gilhuly, whose group wanted to encourage imagination, creativity, learning, brain development, hand-eye co-ordination and fun in children ranging from infants to pre-schoolers.
“The animals are easy to handle for babies and can be played with using the mat or just by themselves,” she says. When they're ready, young children will learn to name the animals, helping with their cognitive development, she adds.
Gilhuly's company, called Imagination Station, looked at a number of considerations when developing a prototype, beginning with a review of toy safety for the age group and a discussion about what kind of toy would stimulate a child's interest and skills over time. They then drew up plans for the toy, bought materials and sewed the animals themselves. They've also come up with ideas for advertising their creation.
“It's been a substantial process,” says Gilhuly, “but it's been a very fun and interesting project.”
Chuang says she's impressed with the creativity her students have shown in everything from coming up with company names and logos to developing the actual toys.
“Having students translate their knowledge to ‘reality' not only makes them active learners but also gives them the opportunity to showcase their talents,” she says.