Parents are coming to terms with the painful reality that kids may not be able to return to school full time in the fall, given that coronavirus infections are spiking across the United States. Families are gearing up for the potential of many more months of homeschooling, which means creating designated spaces for schoolwork, desks included.
Rosan Bosch, a Danish designer whose eponymous studio specializes in designing schools and classrooms, has created a simple kit to give kids more agency over their education while also serving a practical purpose. “Adults are not the only ones who feel like their lives are out of control because of the coronavirus,” says Bosch. “Children are feeling it as well. These kits are designed to empower them and make them feel in control of their environment on some level.”
There are four different Wonder DIY kits, but the one that will likely grab most parents’ attention is a cardboard island with a tabletop that serves as a desk. Schoolwork could become infinitely more exciting if kids are able to pretend they’re doing equations to escape a remote desert island or writing a message to put in a bottle. And that’s not the only landscape to spur imaginative play: There’s also a tree, a cave, and a theater. Kids can put together the cardboard cutouts to design and build their own landscapes and can rearrange the modular pieces to create different configurations. Since the cardboard is plain, it can also serve as a blank canvas for art projects.
The Wonder DIY kits are inspired by three decades of research showing that children learn best through play. A 2018 United Nations report advocated that governments introduce play-based learning in early education programs, including exploring and inventing, improvising, and learning from trial and error.
Rosan Bosch and her team are well-versed in child development. They designed these kits in response to the pandemic, which has forced schools to shutter and parents to take charge of their children’s education. Bosch says the guiding principle was to encourage kids to interact with their environment differently. She believes that humans settle into routines as they interact with the objects and furniture in their homes, but these kits encourage kids to think about their space in new ways. “Many kids have been stuck at their dining tables, doing their school work in the same way for months,” Bosch says. “This is designed to let them think, ‘Hey, I can crawl into this space for an afternoon to read a book, or I can perform a play using this theater.”
The kits are sold through a Danish furniture company called Stykka for about $65 and can be shipped to the United States for another $20. Of course, this is significantly more expensive than handing your kid a discarded Amazon box. But there are benefits a simple box is missing: The kits are more durable, can be collapsed and stored when not in use, and prompts on the box are designed to guide a child’s learning. Plus, all of the kits are made from recycled cardboard, which means they can be recycled again when they’re no longer needed as a backdrop for homeschooling.
I think I speak for many parents when I say, that time can’t come soon enough.