Why Play?

Playing is how you made your first friends, confronted your first challenges, and learned from your first mistakes. It showed you the value of rules and the sting of injustice. It encouraged you to ask “what if…”and to imagine yourself in other people’s shoes.

We learned the most when we were at our most playful – then play somehow became the opposite of work, something which should only happen after recess, a long day or on the weekends. But a growing number of educators, workers and entrepreneurs are beginning to take back play.

Toy Revolution

Twenty One Toys is the product of a revolution. You could say this revolution has been happening since the 1800s, or you could say it’s early days still. You’d be right on both counts. Our revolution, the one we go to work for every day, is a learning revolution.

Our revolution demands answers: Where are creativity, play, teamwork and empathy in our classrooms, our boardrooms or the public square? More importantly, how do we teach these critical skills?

We thought the revolution started with our hero Ken Robinson, and the growing movement within education, business and the not-for-profit sector to educate people on what Mariale Hardiman calls the key 21st-century skills: Creativity, Collaborative Learning, Innovation and Problem Solving. … But then we scratched the surface and realized our revolution has deep roots. We began discovering new heroes. Chief among them is Friedrich Froebel, the 19th-century inventor of Kindergarten. Friedrich developed 20 toys – or “gifts”, as he called them. Often considered the world’s first educational toys, they were the early whispers of the revolution towards play in learning – and they influence us daily. His approach hinted at a question that is the cornerstone of our work:

Why not use toys as tools for social change?

We like to think that we channel Friedrich, and our work starts by designing his 21st toy . . . for the 21st century, of course.