“Stack, Flip and Rotate.” The Kaleidograph is a toy that should be played with daily. It’s like visual math for designers of all ages. In arranging its many cards, you learn about composition, movement, depth of field, color theory, pattern, geometry and probability. And as advertised on the coaster-like die-cut paper packaging, you can make more than 350 million designs.
Drawn from Friedrich Froebel’s Kindergarten play activities, the Kaleidograph fits into a larger set of educational toys that are meant to awaken our senses and brains to better observe and perceive our environment. Color and shape, observation, and creative expression are fundamentals of Kindergarten’s cognitive philosophy—simple ways of looking at the world around us (even before learning how to read), often absent from today’s toy markets. I’m always shocked at how quickly branded our little ones get through ubiquitous Disney characters and the likes. Their visual logic and literacy is sadly about stuff not ideas, products not forms.
Designer Norman Brosterman’s long love affair with the Kindergarten material, as a savvy collector, author and curator, has been a personal inspiration and a bigger one as I enter motherhood and explore the emerging territory at the crossroads of learning and play. A long way to go yet for education by design.