HOW IT ALL STARTED
How did you think of this idea? This is the question Christina finds most people asking her when they first discover her unique silicone connectors. The idea was born when she was in graduate school earning her M.S. in Industrial Design from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
Her final year was focused on her thesis project titled Reconnecting Children With Mother Nature Through Play. As a child she cherished her uninterrupted outdoor play sessions in the woods -- experimenting with natural materials and systems, taking risks, and of course, constructing awesome hide-outs! Choosing this direction for her graduate thesis project felt natural.
Christina exploring insects and natural material her backyard
Although her idea was to design open-ended products to encourage children, ages 5-12, to ditch screen time in exchange for outdoor play, her ultimate goal was to increase a child's appreciation for Mother Nature. Using play as a catalyst, could a product designer strengthen one's bond to nature? Richard Louv's text, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, uncovered research stating that those who had a positive relationship with the outdoors during their childhood years were more likely to become Mother Earth’s green stewards. How powerful!
Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods informed her thesis work
WHY A FORT-BUILDING TOOL?
Months of research with users ages 18 - 70 helped this industrial designer realize that adults cherished their childhood memories in the great outdoors. Fort-building, specifically, was a wildly popular childhood activity. On top of those insights, Christina recognized that a stick (a free material offered by Mother Nature!) can be found almost anywhere. Bingo!
She was hopeful that a playful fort-building tool would encourage children to explore their outdoor environments -- gathering sticks, imagining the structure they'll customize, and then building and playing within their creation. They could become designers of their own experiences with a little help from a tool!
Her next step was to test existing tools. She assembled multiple play-dates with children from a variety of demographics in and around Providence, RI to conduct research. Together they engaged in fort-building using balloons, plastic sheets, cardboard tubes, sticks and more. To better understand the available tools and the kids' capabilities, she had them construct stick forts using rubber bands, zip-ties, rope, string, and existing rubber joints intended for trellis construction.
Photos from Christina's early research stage
It became evident that there was a need for a fort building tool to exist, specifically one that worked well with natural sticks. Research told her that the design had to be flexible, forgiving, intuitive and colorful.
Pardon My Purple STICK-LET® (the same shape as Evergreen)
It was a struggle to find companies that aligned well with STICK-LETS’ mission at the start of Christina's business venture. She believed in the importance of giving kids agency. Toys should activate the kids' minds and grow with the children. Kids should have more flexibility in controlling their experiences and the outcomes. But would retailers have faith in a totally new concept which didn’t do the ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ for the child at play? A toy which required users to head outside to find free material (sticks) to build with?
Customers in Australia, Germany and Canada were some of the first to purchase STICK-LETS® for their Reggio-Emilia and Waldorf schools and STEAM-focused retail shops.
Parent and children building with sticks and STICK-LETS®
STICK-LETS® & THE WILD
| LIFE OUTDOOR ADVENTURES
When we connected with Wild | Life Adventures
in Canada, we knew it would be a fantastic partnership. A company focused on promoting outdoor play and adventure through their monthly kits? The perfect match for our silicone stick connectors! Their mission aligns so well with ours. The woman-owned company states that we must "give children the skills and opportunities that will lead them into adulthood with confidence, independence, and courage."
We 100% agree! Check out their website here
Their carefully curated kits combine a variety of products which work in harmony together. Wild | Life Adventures
delivers a new adventure each month to your door with gear and tools from around the world, keeping young learners engaged in outdoor exploration.
With the help of these nature-focused kits, kids will be prompted to ask new questions related to the natural world, survival skills, STEAM concepts, and more. What we appreciate even more is that most, if not all, items in their kits are reusable beyond the tasks outlined on their activity cards, which include ten hours of educational yet fun activities!
STICK-LETS® (only our Evergreen and Black Birch Connectors) are in Kit No. 4: Take Cover.
We look forward to future collaborations and work by Wild | Life Adventures! Thank you to Jenelle and her team for providing kids with the tools they need to thrive with confidence in the great outdoors!