Kit Tangram – educational wooden toys for children by Bruna Kim


What was your inspiration for your educational wooden toy Kit Tangram?

The inspiration was the traditional oriental toy called Tangram. It is a geometric pieced puzzle, and in a bidimensional perspective the player can build and discover silhouettes of animals. The pieces have no joints, they are placed close together on a table. I remember playing the traditional Tangram in my grandfather’s house. It wasn’t an easy toy, but very challenging, we have to imagine all those animals with that same few pieces.

The story about this tridimensional Kit Tangram begins with my childhood memories, but came together today with my woodworking classes for kids, at St Paul’s School (at the After School program) and also with kids woodworking workshops in other institutions.  In the beginning of our most severe quarantine (march), me and the other woodworking teachers (Ms. Ana Takenaka, Mr. Sergio Barrero and Ms. Olga Gouveia) had to rethink our way to propose the classes. We have to think in a wood activity with no tools, and we have a very short time to execute, and then the idea of a Tangram shows up fast between our discussions.

I was already researching contemporary Tangrams around the world and I made the first prototype in my house, with my “ryoba” saw (a japanese saw), my drilling machine and dowels. I guess a big part of it was ready in my mind, because there were any drawings (and I draw a lot). An important detail to say, I did that first version using standard sizes of wood (like a “2×2” dimensional lumber for example), and this detail that made the pieces production possible.

Why is the Kit Tangram especially suited for children as a creative toy?

The kids can imagine different things and animals using the pieces. What they said and imagine is what the construction will be.

Meaningful design for kids – what does that mean for you?

There are two important things that I take seriously:

1. I’m interested in the idea of construction toys. And a toy planned to be constructed is different from a “ready to use toy”. As an adult it is a little hard to see this, but when I started teaching kids the difference was very clear to me. The final result does not have to be “adult aesthetic perfect”, and the process of construction is where imagination begins. It is like an effort to create a good spark to children’s imagination.

2. I have to quote the phrase of the incredible designer Cas Holman “Easy is boring ”. It’s true. And we figure out this when we are in contact with the kids.

How children respond to your Kit Tangram?

I always got impressed with their imagination. They are very fast to understand the dowels system, and that the number of holes are limited. The possibility to recreate is also a very good appeal. The same toy can be a dinosaur now and a flying bull tomorrow (or in a few minutes).


A few personal questions at the end: What toys did you play with as a child?

Beyond my grandfather’s Tangram, I had teddys bears, some dolls, skate, bicycles. My brother was an important person to play. I have played severeal hours of Nintendo with him. Today my toys are the woodworking tools that allow me to construct things that I imagine.

If you look into a crystal ball and predict your future as a designer: what children’s product would you like to design next?

I’m developing the Kit Tangram’s family, with more rounded pieces. But looking more forward, I would like to increase the Kit Tangram scale, to encourage the kids to build slides and other structures.

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Photos Cicero Andrade, Daniella Yumi, Laila Kim