Thursday, November 1, 2007

When I grow up...

... I want to be a fireman! A teacher. A bus driver. A doctor. We hear all kinds of responses from children when we ask them this question. But I don't think I have ever heard a child say,

"When I grow up, I want to be a graphic designer!"

In fact, most children don't know that "art" is a career possibility. Kids learn their shapes and colors at a very early age. They learn to fingerpaint and color with crayons shortly after they start to walk. From then on, they learn that scissors are fun (but sharp) and paste is even more fun (but tastes bad), and so on. So why is it that kids tend to forget about art as they grow older? Perhaps other more glamorous activities like soccer, baseball, or gymnastics begin to entice them. Perhaps their friends don't think art is "cool," so they are pressured to fit in with the crowd. I'm not sure what the answer to that question is. And, more importantly, I think we need to ask ourselves a better question: How do to we continue to inspire kids to be artists once the crayons have all been broken and the paste has all been eaten?

I think Fisher Price has found a possible answer with one of their new products that is just starting to hit the market (targeted advertising for this Christmas). This product allows you to transform your home computer (PC only, darn!) into a mini-graphic design studio for kids! The Digital Arts and Crafts Studio has two components: software that you upload onto your home computer and a USB-driven device that is like a Wacom/mouse/tool palette/color palette combo (see photos below).

The design software boasts "undreds of creative activities and formats" like party hats, cards, coloring books, paper airplanes, and jumping frogs. Kids can also work without a template to create whatever it is that they dare to dream up. The stylus (part of the USB device) can act as a pencil, brush, crayon or stamper, and there are 256 colors to choose from. There are also other software add-ons that can be purchased so kids can create with Dora the Explorer, Diego, and Dinosaurs. Artwork can also be saved and printed.

The best part: it is cheap! You get the basic software package and the USB device for only $50.00! I don't have kids, so I'm trying to think of someone's kids I could buy this for this Christmas!

From birth to age 14, there was no computer in my home. Now, kids are growing up with technology: tesearchers are calling them digital natives. They are in front of the computer, using the internet, playing video games, talking on cell phones, and creating Facebook and mySpace pages at early ages.

It may seem scary to think about, but I think it also gives us an opportunity to innovatearound the technological influences in their lives. It gives us the chance to create opportunities for kids to explore, innovate, and discover. Who knows, they just might end up saying "When I grow up, I want to be an artist."

Images are snapshots from a video about The Digital Arts and Crafts Studio.
To watch the full video, click here.

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