Sarah Smith

MA Art & Design | 2015


The Child as Philosopher: Potential realisations, not prescriptive expectations

This research questions how the design of educational toys might place the child at the centre of the process. Educational toys are often designed to encourage the child to achieve within a predefined category based upon an ideal of age-performance embedded in the form and functionality of the object. I argue that design reinforces our ‘idea’ of what the child is and should be, not how the child may actually be.

Through Piaget we have come to understand that rather than a simple stimulus response relationship, the basis of a child’s cognitive development is a complex reciprocal interaction of the child within the world. So, rather than to design for a prescriptive expectation imposed upon the child, we might more usefully try to understand the potential realisations of each child’s individual cognitive development.

My thesis proposes a method which, by engaging with the child and observing the way they interact with ‘undesigned’ objects of play (found objects such as sticks, stones and boxes) it might be possible to gain insight into the “child as philosopher” (Piaget) thereby fostering a shift in the design process of educational toys to accommodate the creative cognitive relationships between child and world.