For better or worse, products and the designed world are used as tools for self-determination. In childhood, toys become part of a playful process of becoming ones’ self. Child psychologists have known for decades that through play, children learn empathy, “try on” identities, and experiment with their place in the world. Essentially, in childhood we play our way through discovering who we are. Unfortunately for kids today, the designed world doesn’t leave much room for them to explore. Most toys come with pre-defined identities and stories, which rob children of the joy of imagining these things. There is also a dearth of open-ended toys, or toys without instructions and right and wrong answers. This leaves few opportunities to figure out how to use a toy, experiment, fail, and invent the story of where it came from, and why it does what it does.
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