Guest Post By: Dr. Beverlie Dietze.
We are thrilled to present another informative and insightful guest post by Dr. Beverlie Dietze, an internationally-known author, researcher and expert in the field of early childhood education and outdoor play.
Design Thinking & Children’s Play
When adults observe the play values inherent to the Water Weavers product series, they may determine that the predominant features to children are primarily physical development such as jumping, reaching, stretching, and squatting. They may also note that children learn about spatial awareness, space attributes, and an array of science skills related to water flow, movement, and patterning.
One of the most exciting features of Water Weavers that may not be obvious initially is how they contribute to children engaging in the process of design thinking. Design thinking is not a new concept – it has been used by engineers, architects, educators, and designers over the years – but it is a newer concept being introduced in early childhood literature. Why? Because child development experts now recognize its place in children’s play.
Children using design thinking approach problems that they are trying to solve by first identifying an array of ideas to solve the problem, experiment with the ideas, and explore alternative options during their play.
Diagram 1. The Water Weavers Product Series — Water Weaver 1, 2, & 3.
A product collaboration with world-renowned public space designer, Markus Ehring, the Water Weavers product series is composed of three uniquely interactive play elements designed to stimulate the mind, inspire exploration and encourage movement through interactivity and playful weaving water effects.
What Is Meant By Design Thinking?
There are many definitions associated with design thinking. For the purpose of this blog, I define it as an approach that children use to identify areas of wonderment and then create as many potential ideas and solutions as possible to solve the problem, either individually or collaboratively.
Design thinking differs from problem-based thinking, which tends to be trying to solve a problem in a particular way, usually based on past practice. Design thinking is an open-ended, nonlinear, and often messy way to think about and identify possible solutions to problems.
The process of design thinking contributes to children tinkering with ideas and experimenting with possible solutions. The solutions are often non-traditional or obvious in nature. The ideas put forth lead to generating innovative and creative solutions. Solution generating processes combined with experiential learning leads children to understand and answer questions about the whys and hows of things. This satisfies their curiosity, leading to deeper learning and then advancing them to have more questions and ideas to explore.
Design thinking is predicated on children individually or collaboratively focusing on generating an array of ideas and how they will test the ideas before actually trying the ideas to solve the problem. This human-centered approach to play increases an array of skills including communication, listening, turn-taking, and self-regulation, all of which are foundational for children building 21st-century play and learning skills.
Diagram 2. An exciting game of splashes with the interactive 360° hub of the Water Weaver 3.
Take shelter under the canopy! Physically engaging and sensory-rich, Water Weaver 3 encourages interactive social play — adding value to any aquatic play pad.
How Does Design Thinking, Children’s Play & Water Weavers Connect?
Think about children who have had experience with Water Weaver 1. They learned through observation, trial and error, and experimentation how the spray rotates. They probably determined how best to maneuver their bodies to achieve their preferred sensory experience and how to add some adventure and intrigue into their play or the play with others by the movements and positions of their bodies. Over time, they could have learned when more children participate in the play, the spray patterns change depending on what others do with their bodies.
Diagram 3. Children take turns jumping over the spinning “skipping-rope-like” sprays of Water Weaver 1.
Jump & take aim! Featuring an interactive design, Water Weaver 1 allows multiple users to race the water streams as they spin 360° — encouraging collaboration and strengthening spacial awareness and bone density.
How Do Children Learn Through Play?
The process of learning occurs when children draw upon what they already know and transfer that knowledge to how they may create new play options. Being able to transfer what is known to new situations is vital in expanding their depth of thinking and in determining potentially new play opportunities.
For example, as children progress to play with Water Weavers 2 and 3, the complexity of opportunities is intensified. Instead of focusing their attention downward toward the Water Weaver as is necessary with the smallest Water Weaver, whereby they figured out the types of body movements required, they soon discover that the height of the Water Weaver, the spray patterns, the flow and circumference of the water spray offers them a new level of curiosity and they require new solutions to achieve various goals.
Diagram 4. A young girl tinkers with ideas, investigating what can be done with the Water Weaver 2 and a beach ball!
Visually stunning, attracting multiple play outcomes, Water Weaver 2 spins to create a water fortress that invites investigative play.
Diagram 5. Illustrates how children may engage in the process of design thinking in their play.
Children embark on design thinking in many ways. As outlined in Diagram 6, they generally go through a three to six-step process.
Why Children Benefit From Design Thinking
Design thinking ensures that children remain at the centre of solving problems by first considering an array of possible solutions. Children use a combination of linear and abstract thinking processes to consider both good and less favourable ideas. As they become more proficient at design thinking, they expand their thinking processes to make predictions about what might happen with each of their proposed solutions.
This process encourages children to “think outside the box” while sorting out how to proceed. Through this process, their creativity and flexible thinking is heightened as they determine whether there may be more than one solution to a problem. Because of the open-ended play options inherent with Water Weavers, and with limited loose parts type materials generally found in the space, children need to think creatively to advance their play – this is design thinking!
Design thinking results in children engaging in critical thinking, gaining creative confidence, becoming innovators of ideas and embracing deep engagement in their play and learning experiences.
Water Weavers offer children a non-structured, open-ended experience, thus providing numerous play and learning opportunities. The spray processes of Water Weaver 1, 2 and 3 intrigue children of all ages and abilities, increasing their curiosity and play ideas, which is ideal in triggering them to engage in the process of design thinking. Exposing children to Water Weavers contributes to increasing their 21st-century skills of critical thinking, innovation, communication, problem-solving, experiential learning, deep learning, and collaboration, all of which contribute to creative competence, self-regulation skills, and deeply engaged learning.
Want to Learn More about Water Weavers? View Full Product Details
About the Author
Dr. Beverlie Dietze, is the Director of Learning and Applied Research at Okanagan College, Kelowna, British Columbia. She is involved in research with non-profit organizations and industry, including Waterplay, related to children’s play, child development, and learning.
In addition to her position at Okanagan College, Beverlie is an internationally-known expert and has written and co-authored seven books on early childhood education and outdoor play. She is also, the lead researcher for a national and local research project that is examining strategies to advance children’s outdoor play through training and space design.