Why do you design educational toys for children?
What we experience in childhood can affect the rest of our lives. The brain is so plastic at this age; it is wired to take in as much information as possible. This is why it’s important to expose children to things that build their curiosity, their resilience, their creativity, and their reasoning. A well-designed toy creates an experience in which a child can build these brain “muscles” through playful exploration.
What was your inspiration for your Momentix Toys?
We met studying physics and art in college, and initially wanted to design something that would get girls excited about science. Once we looked into the research about how to close the STEM gap, we saw a huge overlap between design mindsets – like creativity, resilience, and iterative problem-solving – and the skills that create space for more diversity in STEM.
As a kid, Alana loved Rube Goldberg machines (chain reactions.) We realized they were a perfect place to start in designing a toy that would create opportunities to organically practice those skills. By building and flexing their creativity and resilience muscles in the low stakes world of play, children can build the creative confidence and resilience they need for more serious life and work situations – something that is more important than ever in a rapidly-changing 21st century world.
The 21st century is this interesting time where technology is getting so powerful that our uniquely human skills, like creativity, resilience, and collaboration, are more important than ever. These skills not only make for better scientists, software engineers, and researchers, but they also make build more adaptable, capable, and literate problem-solvers. Momentix is a way for kids to practice and learn these skills.
Why are your toys especially suited for children as creative toys?
Children use their old toys and anything else from around the house along with Momentix pieces to create a contraption unique to them. The pieces are simple enough that kids as young as 5 years old can play and build without help from grown-ups. This enables creative, independent, and open-ended play for kids, no screens involved.
How do children respond to your Momentix Toys?
Our kid testers have built everything from a machine that tells a story to a machine that pranks a sibling to a playground for stuffed animals! We see them naturally come up with creative ideas, then try them out and fix them when they don’t work. It’s amazing to see them come up with ways to combine Momentix pieces with their environment in ways that we hadn’t even thought of!
A few personal questions at the end:
What toys did you play with as a child? Did you have a favorite toy?
Anna As a kid, I loved art projects and building forts out of branches in my backyard.
Alana I loved building chain reactions with duct tape, toilet paper tubes, and anything else I could find. Lincoln Logs and Legos often played a part.
And subsequently: What toy do you think is completely superfluous?
Pink, plastic, collectible toys are the worst in my mind. Instead of giving space to allow kids to be creative and imaginative, they send the message that they just need to add to the collection.
Anna Gilbertson & Alana Amodt