Designing for and with kids
I spent over a dozen years focused on designing experiences for kids at probably the best-loved and world-renowned Brand, LEGO. I have been in more kids playtests and read more research documentation on trends, shifting and evolving play patterns, educational benefits, time challenges etc than hot dinners. I want to help promote play and good design so here are some of my top tips.
What do you need to consider most or first when designing for kids or indeed WITH kids?
Make quality time
In truth, I find that it's not the amount of time you spend with kids but the quality or type of time spent. E.g. playing games and co-creating with them or overseeing live testing of products and prototypes, any place where they feel free to talk openly and without fear.
Be your 8-year old self
To really reach, understand and thus successfully design with and for kids, I believe you need the ability to switch yourself into the mind of your 8-year old self, some find this easy, some just can't seem to do it at all. Being a parent of kids in the right age group can also help immensely in understanding or making the mental switch, which is why you see so many kids products and ideas come from parents who have or just had kids at the age the product is designed for.
Start with play.
Playing is what kids want to do, enjoy most and learn best from. It’s also fun.
Spend time talking with kids to understand their needs, participate in their play to see how they react and respond to different stimulus and situations. See how quickly they understand, adapt and evolve in their play habits. Don’t ask them what to do or what is wrong or right with a product, instead see where they intuitively have problems and design fun solutions for those issues.
Create a safe space
Kids need a space where they can be themselves and treat you not as an adult, a parent, teacher or friend but as a peer, another kid or person like them who shares their interests.
Use their intuition
Kids are intuitive and naturally inquisitive creatures. If they find a way to play with your product in a new or alternative way, go with it, don't correct that behaviour or think it is due to poor instructions. A kids test should be one of discovery and insight, not a right or wrong evaluation of a products launch readiness. Kids should be involved as early in creative development as possible, if there's no time or room left to implement changes, it's too late already for involving them.
Co-development is key
Investing in hiring an expert in kids product development can ultimately save you a lot of wasted time and money in the long run, It's not a replacement for good co-development with kids and should be in conjunction with it. You won't convince a kid to spend their time playing with or promoting something they think isn’t fun or intuitive, and to succeed you need both.
Good luck and have fun playing and creating play!