The Toy Revolution: Teaching Empathy, Innovation & Creativity through Play
Kara Stewart Fortier chats with Twenty One Toys founder, Ilana Ben-Ari on this week’s episode of PlayGrounding – a podcast about “the power of play and what it means to live a play-inspired life.” With an array of topics ranging from how does one win at empathy, to the historical context of teaching toys with a lesson on Friedrich Froebel’s gifts, Kara and Ilana cover a lot of ground in this 48 minute episode.
Responding to the classic question of “Why is it called 21 Toys?” founder & lead designer Ilana Ben-Ari reveals:
“It’s funny, people hear ‘21 toys’ and they assume we’re designing twenty-one of them. We are designing a series of toys but really the reason we’re called 21 Toys is because we’re designing and manufacturing toys that teach 21st century skills. So people are talking about these key skills that we now need not just in schools but in the workforce as well. Which is: Innovation, Creativity, Collaboration, Creative Problem Solving. They’re really hard to practice, assess, and understand. And where we come in, is you can’t really teach those skills with textbooks. Toys are the new textbooks.”
Winning at empathy
Kara: “We talked about gaining insight into patience and frustration. What are some other sorts of traits that might reveal themselves as people are playing the Empathy Toy?”
Ilana: “People always say, ‘how do I win empathy?’ The goal of the game is recreate the other player’s pattern. The criteria for success is how you deal with that not working out.”
Kara: “Is this a huge challenge for a lot of people?”
Ilana: “It’s always a reflection of the group dynamic. The true way to win at empathy, I would say, is to practice things like active listening, checking your assumptions, touching base, positive reinforcement, and acknowledging when you don’t understand something – not just sitting and being silent.”
Check out the full episode to hear more about the toy revolution: teaching empathy, innovation & creativity through play.