Tuesday, March 2, 2021
GUEST BLOG: Love Toys and Anything Playful

I love the minds of children, the way they move in between fantasy and reality, curiosity and joy of learning and being enthusiastic about life in general! That is what play is all about for me!

It is about making connections; first to get to know yourself then your environment and people! It is with play we engage with our subjects, and with that joy we continue!

I am a child by heart! I have always been like that! Play and playfulness has this common feeling of joy! It is the joy of exploration, joy of being curious, joy of taking risks and of experimenting!

Learning comes in various types; I am a kinesthetic/ visual learner, meaning I need to explore in action and see the connections visually.

And I have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), I had a very hard time focusing at school during classes, and I could only imagine the topics in an animated way so I could make sense of them.

I would make those stories tangible; imagining and dreaming about things, places, people and building these worlds either by drawing or sculpting them! Every object, material or piece of information inspires me; as they each hold their own stories!

I grew up in Izmir, Turkey, a harbor city by the Aegean Sea! Most of my childhood was spent on the white sandy beaches building sand castles, tunnels and intricate sand mazes, those memories are still fresh in my mind! Play is so powerful that it creates ever-lasting memories, and this is how we learn best!

My journey to become a Toy Designer started while I was at High School! I used to melt plastic pens and shape their back ends sometimes adding liquid to create playful pens! They were so unique that years later they helped me to get onto a Toy Design Program in New York City!

What is your favorite toy? Or play activity? What makes those toys so unique for you? What motivates you to want them? These are the questions that I tackle almost every day! I try to understand and unlock what motivates us to PLAY! Toys and Games are the reflections of our societies, our habits and what brings us together! That is why we have many toy/games categories! Outdoor games, dolls, vehicles, craft sets, construction toys! Every single type of toy has its own shelf space and is divided into ages! As different ages have different needs!

Before we start to design a toy product, let’s say an action figure or a collectible doll item, we need to understand what is ‘cool’? What makes them strong characters to be part of the story narratives that the players will create?

Stories are like a wish list of what we would like to design! In toy design this wish list is just the beginning of a long journey, after deciding on this the next step is to go back to our drawing tablets and start sketching! In order to get to the point of what looks right we also have to gather inspirations!

We look at many things to get inspired and get excited! We then ask people’s opinions about if they like our sketches, ideas or our imagined worlds! If all works out fine, then next comes the simple prototypes! We call these prototypes “looks like and works like” demo toys! This part is so much FUN! As you get to hold what you have imagined, all of a sudden dreams become reality! And we get to play with them! I really love trying my prototypes, you get to observe, test them out and see if they work how you imagined?

Yesim’s thoughts on play!

1 It is super fun to have a playful mind! It keeps you curious! And also helps you to be aware of many things all at once! Sometimes having a playful mind keeps you happier as well! Because when we feel down for whatever reason having a playful mindset means we can keep finding fun in everyday things, even when they might look dull! A playful mind makes anything interesting!

2 Play keeps us moving! Being active is great for your mind! It pumps energy into your cells and makes you feel energised. Have you tried juggling? It needs a lot of focus and physical activeness! Why not ry to learn how to juggle! It is super fun!

3 I play with whatever I see.... What I mean is; look at the clouds or shadows or even stains. I love trying to see patterns in each and make up stories! It is very simple but also a great exercise for your imaginative minds!

4 Find anything from your surroundings, a bottle cap for example, and try to turn it into a character in your mind.... Can you try to imagine it walking with you? How would it behave? What would it say to you? And would you like to add an accessory for it? Can this become a puppet if you have added arms and legs? What would it look like? How would it feel?

5 Let’s imagine a game; only use paper and paper clips, what kind of game could this be? What type of rules will you add? What is your target? And how can you win or do you win at all? We call games ‘rule based play’! And they have their own mechanics; they can be very simple like marble games or be very complex (strategic types) like chess.... What type of games do you enjoy? See if you can create your own.

Most of the time we find better ways of making things! That’s why it is very important to make simple, quick prototypes and it is OK if the first one does not meet your expectations! It gets better as you make slight changes and solve ways of making it even better than what you have imagined! What I mean by this is; sometimes unexpected results show you a new perspective or a new solution.

We have to dream about scenarios, and not just one but many scenarios! And then start to imagine how each item will fit into that story line!

A toy designer’s day starts by playing with many toys to understand why they are FUN! And how they as a designer can make it even more magical! Most of the time we feel like Santa’s Elves, working and playing day or night to create magic!

Talking about magic, “play” is magic! This is what I usually mention during my lectures and talks at conferences! The reason I say that is because it transforms people who participate! How? We as social beings need to connect to each other but before we do that we need to connect to ourselves!

This is the way we learn about our place in the world, how to adopt it and then we learn to make sense of the things around us, how they function and why we need them in the first place!

In play we expand our mindsets, we learn how much we can risk and try new things, we laugh together and create our own common language! In play we create new stories and objects that relate to us!

Without play, there is no connection! No engagement means; no learning, no adaptation and no evolution! Play takes us to new realms and gives us the power to have awareness of each other and ourselves!

I love this quote from paediatrician and psychoanalyst, Winnicott explaining the importance of play in the discovery of self.

“This is that in playing and perhaps only in playing that the child or adult is free to be creative and use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers self.”

D.W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality, p.71

Check out the Toys and Play learning kit here.