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Encouraging creativity in children through design thinking

By Mansi Jain,

Design thinking can be a powerful tool for innovation.

Design thinking is used by designers and innovators in the fields of science, engineering, businesses and even in music and literature.

Design thinking is used by designers and innovators in the fields of science, engineering, businesses and even in music and literature. Through this thinking process, they seek to understand their audience or consumers, rebuild their assumptions and redefine problems to come up with out-of-the-box solutions. It consists of five steps or spaces, namely, to empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. These are explored further below. 

If inculcated in the right way in students, design thinking can offer students a new way of learning and understanding of the world. It isn’t a type of textbook knowledge that they must acquire through study but more of a thinking pattern which can be applied to a large variety of issues and situations. This type of approach leads to innovation and fuels creativity and is a very powerful tool for students to start developing at an early age. At school, teachers can incorporate the principles of design thinking through various projects and assignments.  

Why learn design thinking? 
Design thinking, if developed as a default problem solving pattern, can come with a plethora of life skills. These include: 

  • Confidence to face new challenges. 
  • Ability to embrace failure and take risks. 
  • Ability to identify and define problems and come up with innovative, actionable solutions. 
  • Capacity to learn, unlearn and relearn 
  • Value collaboration and criticism 

Teaching design thinking to children. 
While the idea of developing these thought patterns in children is very exciting, creativity is usually tricky to inspire. To put this into action, parents and teachers need to teach children to practise the different facets that make up design thinking. Here is a low-down on those facets or ‘spaces’ 

  1. Empathize: Learning about the audience for whom you are designing.  

Encourage your children to ask themselves certain questions when they start on a creative project for someone else. Who are they creating this for? If they have a particular audience in mind, help them interact with them and take note of their views and concerns. Encourage them to think from the audience’s perspective. 

  1. Define: Using those insights, redefining and focussing the question.  

Whatever information or insights you child has gleaned from the previous stage, motivate them to keep that in mind and reconsider the problem or the project. Are there any new points of focus that can lend them an alternate perspective to the solution? 

  1. Ideate: Brainstorming and coming up with creative solutions. 

Encourage your child to think outside the box and map out all their crazy ideas by writing them down in a notebook or on post-it notes and sticking them up on a wall. At this stage, no solution is too impractical. It’s all about broadening the range. 

  1. Prototype: Building an archetype of one or more of the ideas. 

Now that they have gathered ideas, help them shorten the list with a realistic and practical point of view. Can there be some ideas that can be realistically modelled when merged together? Encourage them to build a physical representation or a prototype for the most effective ideas. 

  1. Test: Doing a test run of the solution to gauge its effectiveness and gathering feedback. 

Help your kids test the prototype. Motivate them to share it with their audience, be it a friend or family, and find out if it works. Encourage them to take advice and criticism and any feedback that can help them improve the prototype in a positive way. 

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