Design and Technology as we call it in school here in the UK, starts when a child begins to imagine and bring together their ideas to produce something. It can be anything and, for me, it is the main part of what I do – create crafts that sometimes push the limits, or challenge skills.
In school, DT is also a process – it begins with thoughts, then designs and ends with a ‘product’. In the UK, schools start it from the get-go, ages 5-6. We don’t have it as a subject in the Early Years, we don’t need to because children love to create. They have ideas (even wild ones) and need no persuasion to have a go at making it! Out comes the glue, boxes, paper, junk, scissors, fabric… you name it, they will use it if they think they need it. No questions asked. We, as adults, watch and encourage and celebrate the final product.
As a trainee teacher, I found my passion in my DT lessons too. I got to create and make some amazing things! My most precious product was an enamel mussel shell. I was hooked!
The purpose of us actually ‘doing’ was to develop a full understanding of the process, no matter what that was and what we were making. Sometimes we really don’t think about how we do something, we just do it – I was very guilty of that! I saw how important it was when teach DT for children to also understand the process they were going through, BUT…
…I think children ‘grow’ into their ability to understand the process and enjoy that part of it. In teaching young children to think about the design process (and I’m going against all the research I read at the time!), you can also put children off the creating part. Some children (often those who were the most hands-on and practical!) would hate sitting and drawing their product and then writing how they did it. They just wanted to MAKE IT!
Luckily you aren’t a school, so the making is the most important part of problem solving and if you can encourage your child to create ANYTHING, the way to develop their understanding of the design process, which will develop their creative brain, then just ask them some questions while they are engrossed in making it.
· How is it going to [stand up/stay still/move…]?
· Where would you use something like this?
· Who would use this?
· If you had other materials to use, what would be the best thing for it to be made of?
· How are you going to make it move?
· Have you seen something that might help you work it out?
Just a few questions like this can extend learning and develop the skills your child can use in other projects or ideas for using in other subjects in school, or elsewhere. It might even trigger some interest in a specific area, like mechanics or sailing… whatever theme their project is based on.
So, how do you start the DT process?
· Offer plenty of opportunity to have the time to create.
· Gather different materials to inspire or challenge your child’s thinking. Keep a big box of “make and create stuff”.
· Use story books to inspire ideas (see my Narnia post!)
· Talk about how just normal everyday things work – they aren’t as boring as they seem!
Want some ideas? How about…
· Make a moving vehicle (car/lorry/bike)
· Build a fortress with a draw-bridge
· Build a tower with only paper and tape!! (great challenge for the whole family!)
· For older children, develop their understanding of DIY – allow them to use tools (under guidance first) to do small jobs for you or with you. Tools in whatever form are a vital part of creating and learning that certain tools achieve certain results develops a rounder understanding of the possibilities of tools in a bigger project. It’s also a great way to build confidence for later life when they need to stand alone!
· Create an insect home for the garden, or even a camp for themselves!
· Work out how to make a windmill move in the wind, either as a building or just the arms on a stick.
· Create masks or costumes for a play.
However you want to investigate the processes of design and technology, you will be doing your child a huge favour later in life, when they confidently face problems and attempt to solve them, no matter what career they pursue!
Share your idea and results here with me, or add to the discussion and let us know how you manage or don't manage to incorporate DT activity in your family time.