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Design Lab teaches kids and parents innovative thinking

Innovative activities for kids: a strategic design day

On January 30, UNICEF Canada and Overlap Associates were invited by the Ministry of Innovation Science and Economic Development (ISED) to the ISED Lab in Ottawa to lead a strategic design lab with children and parents.

Strategic design thinking is based on the premise that a human-centered and creative approach to innovation can help find solutions to our shared problems. The day was focused on using design thinking to improve the future of child well-being in Canada. There were two sessions attended by almost 40 participants, one for children aged six to 10 and their parents, and one for young people aged 11 and up and their parents.

What did we do?

We started off by discussing overall well-being and what the world would look like in 2030, and then envisioned what we wanted for Canadian children in the future. Using the design thinking process, we asked each group of participants to use their imagination and create something that would help kids in the future with the materials provided. Kids and parents were separated for this activity, and each group had between two to five people.

Here are some of the most innovative ideas that were generated to improve child and youth well-being by 2030:

Innovative activities for kids: a strategic design day
Innovative activities for kids: a strategic design day
Innovative activities for kids: a strategic design day


The kids created robots with unique skills, including a robot who helps refugees learn French and English when they come to Canada to reduce isolation for newcomers, as well as healthy ice cream, vegetables that tasted like chocolate, medical products that solved some of our toughest challenges and flying cars. Adults gravitated more towards creating contained, self-sufficient communities that had safe spaces for kids to play.

What did we learn?

This process was very insightful and offered proof that using strategic design thinking process with kids is an effective way to gain their insights, and produces results that we wouldn’t otherwise get. Who better to ask what is going to help kids in the future than kids themselves? Children excelled in this activity; they jumped right into the day with no hesitation, immediately manipulating the materials given to them to create their vision.

When children and young people are given the space to have their voices heard, use their imaginations and solve problems, the results are incredible. Their imaginations are truly fascinating, and are a vital part of understanding and planning for a better future for our kids. We have so much to learn, and we are looking forward to engaging more children and young people in design thinking to generate more innovative solutions to today’s challenges.

We are extremely thankful for the opportunity to work in the amazing space at the ISED Lab and we can’t wait to collaborate with ISED again soon in order to make Canada the best place to grow up for every child.

To learn more about the challenges facing Canada’s children, click here.

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