Vezaljka – educational toys for children by Stella Grabarić


What was your inspiration for your educational toy for children “Vezaljka”?

“Vezaljka” is an integral part of the project “HAI” (Hrvatske Autentične Igračke or Croatian Authentic Toys). The main goal of this project was to make an authentic Croatian toy for children of preschool age. Our task was to find inspiration from Croatian heritage, explore all aspects of chosen topic and make an interesting game that will teach children about the old Croatian customs. “Vezaljka” is an authentic Croatian toy for children of preschool age and inspiration was Croatian embroidery. We can find it on Croatian national costume. The national costumes are most often worn with connection to special events and celebrations, mostly at ethnic festivals, religious holidays, weddings, and by dancing groups who dance the traditional Croatian kolo or circle dance. “Vezaljka” is made out of wooden boards and every board has its own graphic. Graphics are directly drawn from the samples of the folk costumes of Croatian regions. Motifs are printed on the boards with UV direct print and each of the motifs on the boards originates from a certain Croatian region. When turning the board on to the other side, something funny and typical for the very same region can be read.

May I ask you, what’s the difference between playing and learning?

If you put yourself in a child’s position, you would probably choose playing over learning. But can you really separate those two things? Young children actively explore their environment and the world around them through learning-based play. Playing is a vital part of a child’s optimal social, cognitive, physical and emotional development. Researchers agree that playing provides a strong foundation for intellectual growth, creativity, problem-solving and basic academic knowledge. Children are seeking for new experiences, new toys, games, picture books etc. I think that, through playing, children are learning, developing cognitive and social skills, they also gain the self-confidence and mature emotionally. The self-confidence is required to engage themselves in new environments and experiences. Commonly known term when referring to combining learning and entertainment is “learn through play”. It has been acknowledged that there is a strong connection between learning and playing for children at young age, especially in the areas of language acquisition, literacy, numeracy, problem solving and social, physical, and emotional skills. Through play children can develop social and cognitive skills, mature emotionally, and gain the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments.

What are the main stages of designing for kids? Aren’t they just the same as those that we use for designing for adults?

Designing process is very complex and there are many stages. Firstly, designers have to analyze the problem they are solving, they have to analyze the existing solutions and make concept designs. Then, they have to evaluate conceptual design and they have to work out detailed solutions and last, but not least, exanimate and correct the mistakes. When designing, first two questions you should be asking yourself are: “What are you designing?” and “Who are you designing for?” The product has to be user-oriented. It means that some items has to be defined. For example, you have to define what users of your product need, what do they desire and which problems do they face while using it. Product also has to be context-related (when, where, how or why it will be used). These items must be clearly defined before the start of a designing process. The main stages of designing for kids are similar to designing for adults. Designing for kids requires a strong understanding of your users and what they need and want. However, what differentiates designing for a child and an adult one is children change very quickly. In a short period of time, a child experiences significant motor, technical and cognitive growth. Children are growing way too fast, so product for kids should “grow” too.

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

When I think of suitable design for kids, I immediately think that the design must be adapted to the child’s age. It means that design shouldn’t be too complicated, because child would not be interested enough and maybe even not understand the concept or purpose of it. Product also shouldn’t be too simple, the reason is that it might not be challenging enough. Children should learn through the game, so you have to be careful not to make the product boring. It is important to keep that in mind as you develop your products and games. Game itself should grow with your audience and, of course, give them the knowledge and help them to develop their skills. The product has to be effective, safe, comfortable amusing and self-developing. Let me just highlight the word safe, it is very important to choose your materials and shapes very carefully. Materials must not be toxic, sharp or anything that might hurt children.

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