I have always had a childish imagination, and to this day have a keen interest in toys. But where most educational games fall down is the fact that they are not fun and they become tedious after one play.
Skill Blocks is an interactive puzzle game that requires players to create a path from a start block to an end block, using a variety of different blocks.
The secondary task is to guide the ball through the path by using the spring system to tilt the game.
The idea of Skill Blocks is to offer children the opportunity to become more confident through the development of their motor skills. Having witnessed children play with Skill Blocks in real life it was clear to me that boredom was not an issue for this game.
Parents always look for ways to get their children to play and learn and I believe Skill Blocks is a fun and interactive way to allow children to do both at the same time.
The idea for Skill Blocks first arrived as a result of my final year dissertation at university. The dissertation’s theme was Confidence: what is it and can it be improved by products?
After copious amounts of research I discovered that confidence is initially developed in children through the development of their motor skills. My goal then, was to design a toy that challenged kids to use their motor skills to interact with the game itself, and engage other learning elements such as teamwork, hand eye coordination and problem solving while retaining the element of fun necessary in any game.
The process started off with some really rough designs which were given to children along with a basic idea of the game and they were told to just play instinctively. After seeing the initial testing was quite successful the project started to pick up speed.
For the next few months I spent all of my time trying to create different blocks to engage different motor skills, and a way to allow the children to control a ball through the path.
The moment I realised that I had created something which really did work, did not hit home until I saw groups of children play with the product at the New Designers Exhibition in London in July. On one of the days the exhibition was open to school children and I witnessed groups of children stand and play with the game for long periods of times, some of the children even came back round hours later to have another go.
This positive feedback was really reassuring and made me realise that I had created something of value. I am now at a point where I would love to see Skill Blocks take off as a product.
Growing up as a child I was always playing with Hot Wheels, Nerf guns, Brio train sets and to this day still have them stowed away in a closet somewhere, unable to let them go. For me working in the toy design industry would be a dream. When you are young people always tell you to find a job that you love and you will never work a day in your life, although it’s quite a cheesy saying, if I were to get a job designing toys I would have succeeded in doing so.
In my opinion the toy industry should always take the opportunity to look towards young designers. As far as toy design goes the market is constantly changing and the number of amazing and original designs being created by young designers provides an almost limitless scope for the toy industry to tap into.
When designing for children I think having someone of a younger age who can still think the way they did as a child is invaluable. I recently watched a television programme about a large toy company and the huge efforts of many young designers to try and fulfil their life goal to get a job for said company. This programme exemplified how I think aspiring toy designers think. After all everybody likes to feel a bit younger now and again.
I will have the opportunity in September to pitch my idea to some of the largest toy manufacturers in the world, so for now I will prepare for that. I knew that if I created a toy it may help me make contacts in the toy design industry but I didn’t expect my design to get such a positive response.
Hopefully the project can help me bridge the gap from university into a professional toy designer. Whether it be developing the project further or even just starting a career in toy design, only time will tell.