“The possibilities are limitless” – how designers are entertaining kids in lockdown

For many families this week will have been the first, perhaps of many, where children have been out of school because of the coronavirus pandemic. With plenty of time to fill, this is how designers are using their creative skills to keep kids entertained at home.

“Having had symptoms of ‘you know what’ a couple of weeks ago we’ve been in quarantine as a family since the 16th March. So we’ve already been homeschooling for almost two weeks; and if I’m entirely honest it’s bloody hard! (Hat tip to all the teachers out there – you do an amazing job.)

The last few days have been a bit easier and we’ve found the key to that really is routine. Getting up and starting school at 9.30am every day, doing the same set of subjects each morning and keeping things as much like school as possible (including when break times and lunch happen).

After lunch we move into ‘enrichment’ mode which is where I get to flex my creative skills. On my homeschooling days we’ve done Pop Art style collage, created a logo design and naming for a fictitious new instant noodle brand and designed packaging for toothpaste. And my wife has set them projects to build a junk version of the International Space Station and flags for their new school (Westbrook Primary – our house is called Westbrook).

Because all my work stuff is at home the kids get to use real design tools and they love it. They’re getting to use the Adobe suite of tools and an iPad Pro (although I’m being strict and getting them to sketch out their ideas with pencil and paper before moving to a Mac), learning new skills and getting to understand what their dad does for a living a little more.

The upshot is my ten year old son reckons he wants to become a graphic designer (which he’s never shown an interest in previously) – so watch out for Supple & Sons in ten years.”

– Jamie Ellul, founder and creative director at Supple Studio

“I have created a storytelling kit for children which is essentially a deconstructed book in a bag. It’s called a Walk-in-Book. It contains a map of story locations, a character, cards with story beginnings and a mask so your child can become a character in their own story.

I also launched an idea on Instagram based on the children’s game ‘I packed my bag’. The idea is to draw your perfect bag and contents too; children and grown ups can give it a go. The bag I drew was inspired by a beautiful flatlay from Toast. Creating my illustration gave me the idea for the game.

Your response can be wholly visual, or you can add to it by making up a story about your journey and how you used the contents of the bag. The possiblities are as limitless as your imagination, for example: “I packed my bag for a trip to the seaside”, or “I packed my bag for a trip to the moon”.”

– Melanie Smith, illustrator and designer at Smith&Wonder

“So I set up Strickson’s Super Special Art Club this week as a way of wresting a bit of control back, really. Its three fold. I really wanted to see If I could help people a bit — I know that lots of parents would be suddenly trying to fill days up with activities. But also for all the others out there who just want some directed drawing time. I have had all my public facing work cancelled or postponed – Well, I’ve had 95% of ALL my work disappear. I needed to fill my time with something as well so I could have a little certainty in a period of history that is unprecedented and uncertain!

Although this is a temporary initiative – for this time is temporary, it will pass — the one thing thats happened in the last few weeks that will stay with me above everything else is the joyous sense of real community and real action that people are taking together. I really hope we carry that on for a long time to come. I always feel we are stronger together, and can achieve so much — and now I feel that is happening, although the circumstances are so strange and hard.”

– Rebecca Strickson, illustrator and designer

“If it’s the early days of home schooling for you and you’ve already been forced to administer multiple detentions, possible expulsions and are pondering when you can schedule your first inset day, here’s a few things that might help you though this period.

The internet’s hive mind has gone into overdrive on your behalf. With no shortage of goodwill, there’s everything from free apps to video tutorials to teach your kids every skill under the sun. We’ve helped compile a free ‘Happy Colouring’ book, with artworks donated by some of the world’s best illustrators, such as Malika Favre, FriendsWithYou and Anthony Burrill.

If your kids are more musically inclined, the kind folk at Extraordinary Facility have made their wonderful app ‘The Tune Zoo’, a musical toy for the iPad, free until schools re-open. For book worms, author Oliver Jeffers is reading one of his stories live each night on his Instagram feed and you can watch them at any time on his YouTube chanel.

You can create your own story with Anorak Magazine, unwind with Cosmic Kids Yoga or explore and have fun in ‘The Great Indoors’ with The Scouts free activity packs. There really are countless things to do. If you need more inspiration, sites such as ‘2020Kid’ and ‘House to House’ have been put together, in light of recent events, and will keep your kids creative until school’s back.”

– Jon Dowling and Céline Leterme, founders of Counter-Print

“We have an amazing opportunity to become more responsible over our screen-time behaviour – and reset this for future generations. We recently collaborated with Scouts on #TheGreatIndoors.

Our aim was to create a diverse cast of characters that would take part in the activities (to help demonstrate what should be done) and hopefully young people can see something of themselves (or someone they know) within our merry gang. Another key part of the project is humour, the further we got into the project we realised our dog (Buddy) gave us a lot of scope to add some chaotic fun – especially in more imaginative activities.

The activities have been tried and tested by Scouts to help instil resilience in young people. We approach designing for ‘young’ or ‘older’ demographics with the same outlook – we try to keep the message as simple as possible and inject fun by not taking ourselfs too seriously.

We also recently collaborated with V&A Dundee on the ’Sewing box for the future’ exhibition – which has a ton of free resources online to help ‘people get back to basics by repairing their clothing and becoming more ethically responsible about fashion waste’.

There is a suite of recipe cards available online from mending a hole (darning) or creating an embellishment using felt and sequences. The most important thing is to keep ourselves busy and constantly learning new skills.”

– Geth Vaughan, director at Young

“I was sitting at home on a Sunday evening two weeks ago watching the news, and realised that with the impending school closures lots of parents would soon be at home with their kids looking for things to do.

I realised there and then that I might be able to help. I’ve been doing draw-alongs at my live events since 2015 and had dabbled in an online version back in 2017, and it was suddenly obvious that I could resurrect that idea, post videos twice a week and give the children something to do and, hopefully, look forward to.

So I made a little teaser using one of my old drawing videos and posted it on social media. The reaction was huge. So, on the Monday morning, realising that the design of the films would be crucial, I came up with a visual identity, made a little title sequence and started shooting. I posted the first film (Gregosaurus) the next morning and immediately began to be inundated with pictures of children holding up their drawings of my character. I actually felt very emotional.

It’s now taking up the majority of my time – managing the social media feeds is such a huge job in itself. But it’s also hugely rewarding. The best thing about #DrawWithRob, is the children’s faces. It’s a joyous thing to see, and it resonates even more at such a stressful time. It’s a real balm, I think. I think it has really struck a chord with people because it’s a very simple and enjoyable way of doing something creative and positive at a difficult time. It takes people’s minds off the problems they are facing, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. It’s definitely one of my better ideas!”

– Rob Biddulph, illustrator and children’s book author



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