Inventing and designing a new children’s toy via research, strategy, branding, prototyping, and experiential design.
Every parent has experienced the twinge of frustration when they purchase an extravagant gift for their child for Christmas and all the child wants to do is play in the box. The cardboard box was actually inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2005. Children love playing in cardboard boxes because they allow for self-directed play that is spontaneous and self-organized. The box leaves more to the imagination and encourages creativity.
Inspired by the "Cardboard Box Theory," I sought to develop a toy with a focus on open-ended play. I studied popular toys through the years and was attracted to the idea of building block toys. Studies show that toy blocks can help children with motor skills, spatial reasoning, cognitive flexibility, language skills, a capacity for creative thinking, social competence, and engineering skills. I also loved the fact that cardboard boxes are big, allowing children to imagine life-size structures that they can inhabit.
My research revealed that there have been developments in recent years towards life-size building blocks. However, these toys primarily use building blocks allowing for basic geometrical structures. They also tend to be expensive and inaccessible for singular families.
In short, Noodlers are pool noodle connectors.
In length, Noodlers is an open-ended construction toy that gives children the ability to create their own worlds. The lifesize parts encourage children to move their whole bodies and work collaboratively with others. The flexibility of the parts allows children to create imaginative forms beyond basic geometry. Noodlers bring children away from screens and into the world of their imagination. They are made from high quality, sustainable natural rubber, lessening the environmental impact of plastic in landfills.
There are three variations of Noodlers that allow for different connection types.
Throughout the process of creating Noodlers, I had to keep asking myself why this product was different and what need it filled in a heavily populated marketplace. I saw a deficit for inexpensive, lifesize toys.
As I continue to refine this product for public release, I will keep focusing on differentiating Noodlers from other toys and returning to the user needs. Currently, I am still testing the toy prototypes with beta users. However, I plan to eventually license the product to big box stores.
The full breadth of my research and process can be found in the below booklet.
Using Rhino 3D and Fusion 360, I designed the form. With a Lulzbot 6, I printed various iterations. Then, I physically played with each prototype. Once it was at more complete stage, I began to test the toy with my target audience.
Once the general form of the toy took shape, I began to iterate the details.