structure and interpretation of children’s toys

Pure joy! The pleasures of breaking open a contraption, studying what is it that makes it work – and finally, reassembling it. Fascinating.

For the past few weeks, at the erdkinder (junior) classes, we have been looking at various toys – analyzing among others:

  • Why have been designed they have been
  • What is interesting about the form-factor – how is this and the colours of the toys – are related to the enduser children…
  • What are the various aspects of ‘packaging’
  • What is minimalist (and functional) design
  • What are the various mechanical and moving parts
  • What are the various laws that govern the moving parts
  • What are the basics of safety
  • How to handle tools…
  • etc etc

The fact that the children have spent nearly an year with the basics of science and math at the high school levels does help.

The way we go about doing it is: We discuss the toy – how it is supposed to work, why it looks the way it looks  – just by looking at it. And then, we pass it around and take a call. And then, we open it and discuss. Layer by layer, children learn the HowTo and WhyOnEarth kind of ideas. 

We finally reassemble it – at the end of an hour of fun, that is!

We sincerely hope that this infection of HowAnythingWorksVirus is bad and virulent enough in our children, goading them to apply the wonders of  ‘screwdriver technology’ to just about anything at home!  May be they would infect you too! For example, yesterday, we discussed as to how to cut a sheet of glass with a pair of plain old scissors, would you want to know how?

May be we would make a few toys with some locally and cheaply available materials when we graduate to that point…

I almost forgot to tell you – Actually, we are planning to look at the Barbie dolls in the next session – more from the point of view how anatomy basics are seriously violated by them! We would also look at the diabolical targeted design and appeal of the aforesaid toy range. GI Joe will have to wait, not that it really does Mattel

The title of this post is shamelessly derived from the tile of  THE best computer science book ever written – ‘The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs’ – the whole book is available online –  given time and energy, I would love to work with the children borrowing ideas from this book.

But then, I also remember the um, old jingle saying: Man Schemes, God Lisps…  Oh, the pun of it….

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