This open-ended learning framework was developed to help children direct their playful, right-brained tendencies toward changing their immediate environment for the better.

Design Play was initiated as a design research project for a studio course in CCA's MBA in Design Strategy (dMBA) graduate program. Specifically, how to introduce design thinking into childhood education, without modifying existing curriculum. The goal was centered around three central challenges:

  1. Harnessing the natural, playful activities of children and helping to keep them present into adulthood.
  2. Directing these playful activities to intersect with society and make new learning opportunities.
  3. Developing an offering that empowers children with design thinking tools – one that is engaging and able to be adapted across age and cultural barriers.

The result is a framework that helps empower children through the activities they already do as they play. Design Play isolates these activities that have parallels in design thinking, and frames them in engaging ways that are appropriate for the child’s developmental level and specific learning environment.

The Design Play framework is meant to help shift the current educational paradigm away from nearly exclusive, standards-based learning to one that encourages creative, systems-thinking in children. These children's playful activities will intersect with society in the future as they innovate and add value on a global scale. This value will be seen across every sector of society, solving challenging problems in business, technology, culture, health and the environment. Design Play provides opportunities for children to engage in right-brained activities that lead to new thinking, creativity and innovation.

The video above was created to explain the Design Play framework to other like-minded parents, educators and members of the design industry.

The team entered this project in Core 77's Design Awards competition, and was the winning entry in the Design and Strategy Category.

Design & Strategy Winner in the Core 77 Design Awards.

Design & Strategy Winner in the Core 77 Design Awards

Design Play framework

The framework for Design Play

GoBook - Design Play activities for 4th graders

Prototype testing in an ethnically diverse 4th grade classroom

GoBook - Design Play activities for 4th graders

GoBook - Sample Design Play activities for 4th graders