Designing a relevant learning experience for children can be both challenging and rewarding. And one of the best ways to do it is by bringing in the play through educational games.

What crosses your mind when you think of the word ‘design’? Captivating colours? Fluid forms? Striking shapes? Trendy typefaces?

While all these elements and more are vital to design, it’s important to note that they all in conjunction serve the bigger purpose of design, and that is to solve a problem. This is exactly what makes designing so relevant, extending its use case to every discipline, one such discipline being the field of education.

From time immemorial efforts have been made to help children learn, especially mathematics. For example, in the 18th century Freidrich Froebel, the German educator, designed wooden toys to introduce play in mathematics. Since then, we have seen innumerable games, puzzles and fun activities to solve the problem of learning for the young.

In this article, Sonia Tiwari throws light on 4 novel ideas of how games and puzzles can be designed to make learning mathematics accessible and fun. Before jumping in let’s understand the two underpinning theories that the four projects are based on. Firstly, Constructionism (Papert, 1980), suggests that children learn by creating artefacts based on mental models. This visualization helps them understand how things work. Secondly, Spiral Curriculum (Briner, 1960) states that children can revisit complex topics as their understanding increases, or that any learning content can be made more accessible if structured and presented well, tailored to the child’s needs.

The other aspect to be taken into account is the type of material being used, the two types being, found material (paper/wood/cardboard/fabric) and fabricated material (3d printing, printing). The kind of material plays a vital role while designing games, especially for the purpose of education. The material needs to be perceived as an element that contributes to the learning experience, either through the various senses, or the ease of usage.

Puzzle 1 – Woodland Explorer, a Textile PlayBook

What can you do with leftover scraps of fabric? The answer is – you can make a wonderfully engaging Textile PlayBook for toddlers!


The cotton textile industry in India is quite large, which means, there is plenty of fabric waste being disposed of. And toddlers from the rural segment, with no access to formal schools, are equally widespread in India. Now imagine solving this problem by bringing the two together to create colourful fabric books of learning wonders.

The Textile PlayBook is designed as an educational playbook, allowing children to interact and engage with various cloth objects within the pages. And through the exploration and discovery, the children learn basic concepts and delve deeper in their imagination. The PlayBook is designed to facilitate versatile learning approaches, thus letting children learn and explore exactly how they please.

Learning Play
Pages exploring time and counting

Let’s look at the book, Woodland Explorer. Each page has a different story. For example, the “inside view” of the Hedgehog’s home, spread over two pages. The pages have an interesting mix of elements like cheese slices, tomatoes and mushrooms pinned on, letting children create their own story or explore basic mathematic concepts like sorting, grouping and counting.

A Fox and its world are spread over the next two pages. These pages allow the child to ‘pluck’ fruits and collect them in the basket, in the process sorting, arranging and building patterns. Children can unleash their imagination with the Fox character, by even introducing the Hedgehog from the previous page.

The next spread helps children learn to read time from an analogue clock. With materials like Velcro and magnets, the page comes alive with possibilities of interaction.


Apart from basic learning concepts and exploration, children also learn with the sense of touch, or sensory-tactile activities, thus heightening children’s overall learning experience.

Puzzle 2 – Cookie Cutter

This project was designed for a Kindergarten classroom in South Central Pennsylvania, USA, specifically as a teaching aid for a module on fractions. What makes it interesting is the story around it. Since the module was scheduled around Christmas, the emerging puzzle was a hungry Gingerbread man, who wanted to eat cookies – but must be fed only one piece at a time.

Learning Play
Cookie Eater, A fractions puzzle

The primary learning goal of this puzzle is to help children understand how simple shapes combine to form complex shapes. This also allows children to visualize fractions like halves, one-fourth and wholes, thus crystallizing the concept in their young minds.

The secondary goal is to allow children the freedom to play with the puzzle pieces by combining, stacking or building structures. This practice encourages discovery through exploration.

A. Simple Shape formations: Constructing and Deconstructing Shapes
a. Diamond = 2 triangles
b. Square = 4 smaller squares
c. Square = 2 rectangles
d. Square = 4 triangles
e. Circle = 4 pies
f. Circle = 2 semi circles
g. Rectanglecould be = 2 Squares
h. Rectangle = 4 rectangles

B. Complex Shape formations: Constructing and Deconstructing Shapes
a. Heart = 2 semi-circles + 2 triangles
b. Hexagon = 6 triangles (available separately to fit in the same socket)
c. Hexagon = 2 squares + 4 triangles

C. Fractions
a. ¼ + ¼ = ½
b. ¼ + ½ = ¾
c. ¼ + ¼ + ¼ = ¾
d. ½ + ½ = 1
e. ¼ + ¾ = 1
f. ¼ + ¼ + ¼ + ¼ = 1

D. Tangrams – Children can choose to combine puzzle pieces to make their own shapes
E. Structure Building – Children can stack the puzzle pieces to build structures
F. Counting – Children can count the puzzle pieces (up to 45)
G. Sorting – can sort by shape and size, possible to sort by colour if 3d printed in different colours
H. Comparisons – large vs small, wide vs narrow, tall vs short, sharp vs smooth etc
I. Free Play – building stories with the Gingerbread man and cookies, stacking, sorting etc.

Learning Play
Cookie Eater, A fractions puzzle

Puzzle 3 – Bricksters

When a game is designed around the immediate environment of children, it becomes relevant, and thus accessible. The Bricksters game was designed again for a Kindergarten classroom in South Central Pennsylvania, USA. But this time the game was based on Halloween, the eminent season. The objective of the game is to aid children in understanding the concept of constructing and deconstructing single digit numbers, through the idea of ‘trick and treats’. With the help of the board game, children get familiarized to single-digit addition and subtraction, depending on the trick and treat tiles of the board game. As the game proceeds, the children’s stack of blocks also raise, thus allowing them to visualize the added values.

Learning Play
Bricksters, A Board Game for practicing addition and subtraction
Learning Play
Learning Play
Learning Play

Puzzle 4- Turtle Pom Pom

This project was designed for toddlers. As the name suggests, children play with glittery turtle-shaped coasters and little colourful pom poms. The idea is to add the pom poms to the coasters to practice concepts like counting, sorting and grouping. The colours and containers provide many opportunities to explore the basics of mathematics.

Learning Play
Turtle Pom, A sorting and Grouping game


Clements, Douglas H., and Julie Sarama. 2004. Building Blocks for early childhood mathematics. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 19:181–89.

Clements, Douglas H., and Julie Sarama. 2005. Math play: How young children approach math. Early Childhood Today 19:50–57.

Creative Gaga - Issue 49


As the digital world has made the world smaller, design has coalesced as well where different forms are uniting and new evolutions are seen. Illustration ‘Type’ is one such avenue of type design which can add more meaning to characters and words. Visual Communication Designer, Shaivalini Kumar throws some light on the key points to be kept in mind while venturing down this path.

Design is like a chemical reaction.

We’ve studied it in science how some reactions slowly yield products. That’s exactly how design works as well. It all starts with the hint of talent that predisposes one towards the creative side of the world, just like potential energy which when comes in contact with culture, people, books, dialect, surroundings and food explodes to yield a great product – a designer! Inspirations that cradle us from childhood combine and release themselves through creative energy which manifests in various forms. It’s all about finding magic in the mundane to create extraordinary designs.

Design for Education.
Design for Education.
Inner Spread
Inner Spread

It’s all about reading the letters!

Typography is a challenging area of design where one is limited with a form that is already defined; an ‘a’ has to look like an ‘a’ in order that people read it as ‘a’. This is where “illustrated type” has been a saviour for many designers who are inspired by the possibilities that typography has to offer. Combining illustration and graphic design, this mode of design allow designers to bridge their two areas of interest. In order to redefine a form that is already defined, it’s important to re-look at it often with a theme or a storytelling perspective. This is where a simplistic base structure is crafted and then modified by either constructing on top of them, modifying them, detailing them and giving them depth, all in a way so that each letter has its own story to tell.

Publication Design
Publication Design

It’s also a lot of hard work behind the scenes.

If you’re a digital artist, as most designers are in today’s world, it’s really important to be well informed with technological updates that can help enhance the design process. For those who are on the move a lot, working to make quick sketches using the Adobe Photoshop Sketch App on the iPad is a great way to utilise technology. One can then render the artwork on the laptop. Think of it as a scribble made digitally! While creating artwork, it’s also important to research extensively about the technicalities of design as well as what is trending. The last thing you want is to create something that could have turned out better. Read about artists as well, follow blogs, create a blog, share stories and most of all, collaborate and be an active member of a prolific design community in order to stay abreast with all the latest.

Illustrated type

Judge a book by its cover!

It’s popularly said that never judge a book by its cover. However, interesting illustrations and design is changing this belief. When a designer designs a book cover, their aim is to not only showcase the content of the book, but to also create a personality for the cover which is emotive and inviting. This vision enables the audience to engage with it on various levels. Think of it like packaging design and how critical that is for brands. In order to help make covers relevant and appealing, graphically illustrated typography and elements can be used that are designed to have a personality that suits the subject. In other words, make the matter the hero.

Hero Hoodies Identity Design
Hero Hoodies Identity Design

Published in Issue 30

Since stone age when individuals were identified with certain marks, branding has always been an integral part of our life. It has evolved so much that now every success can be connected to branding behind it, but still brand creation has always been a mystery. We interviewed the branding experts, who are behind some of the very successful brands. Lopez Design, have shared the story behind the recently developed branding of ‘Bihar Museum‘ and also shared the basics of brand creation in the ‘Gyaan’ section. Young visual communication designer like Shaivalini Kumar shared her love for the letter design while experienced graphic designer Anup Shah dwelled upon his passion for calligraphy. In brief, this issue is packed with branding and typography design experts who can help you solve the mystery of the brand creation! Hope you will enjoy the articles!


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Creative Gaga - Issue 49