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A toolkit that encourages failure

A toolkit that requires children to attempt activities and experience failure. Each activity will be accompanied by step-by-step instructions for the parents: - how the activity works, learning points & how parents can encourage their child.

Photo of Fernn Lim
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How children develop their creative confidence during their early years is largely dependant on their parents.

Taking reference from Tom and David Kelley's childhood years, the Kelley brothers were given the liberty to tinker with things, take their toys apart and push boundaries at a very young age without being reprimanded or judged. These experiences probably nurtured their spirit of creative confidence.

Instead of asking "How might we inspire young people to cultivate their creative confidence", perhaps we should ask ourselves: "How might we help support parents and inspire them to cultivate the creative confidence of their child?

Very often, parents are unaware of their behaviour towards their child and do not realise that they are partially responsible for cultivating the creative confidence of their child. At times, parents are privy to this but do not know how to start.

The toolkit that encourages failure highlights the importance of this and teaches parents (1) how to be more mindful of their speech and behaviour, (2) how to nurture their children's creative confidence and (3) how to allow their children to experience failure and learn from it.

It may sound counter intuitive, but it is important for children to experience failure early. With the toolkit,children get to learn how to fail safe and fail fast. It is also of equal importance for the parents to explain and highlight to their child how they failed, why they failed and how they can seek to improve their performance. In summary, this toolkit helps to enlighten parents and build our childrens' self-efficacy and resilience; skills that are necessary for life.

In this challenge, we want to create ideas with young people, not for them. Outline how you’re planning to involve young people or other end-users (parents, teachers, etc) in designing, iterating or testing your idea during the Ideas phase.

This toolkit would be a perfect open collaboration for parents, teachers and students. The conception of activities can be developed through interviews conducted with the children. "What do you fear to do most?" "What would be the most outrageous activity you like to attempt?" "How fast do you think you will take to complete 30 circles into drawings?" The design of the step-by-step instructions would also need to be tested with the parents. "How would you prefer reading instructions?" "What kind of layout would you prefer?" "What other complementary resources would you like to be provided along with the toolkit?" The input from teachers would also be highly crucial. With their expertise and advice, teachers can help to suggest and match the appropriateness of the activities to the targeted level.

How might you envision your idea spreading across geographies or cultures so that it inspires young people around the world to cultivate their creative confidence?

This toolkit is entirely scalable, regardless of countries and cultures. It can also be made available as an e-book or as an accompanying teaching resource for schools. In fact, the toolkit can be made into a three-part series where the design of the activities are pitched at various appropriate levels. For eg. (2 - 5 years old, 6 - 11 years old, 12 - 16 years old).

What skills, input or guidance would you like to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

Graphic Design Support Financial Support Network to locate parents, teachers and students for interviews and contributions to the activities that will be in the toolkit Ref: Visuals taken from


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Photo of Ashley Jablow

Nice one Fernn! I like where you're going with this. Just to clarify - is the toolkit for young people, their parents or both? You might want to check out Saskia's idea for some related thinking and inspiration - perhaps there's a way that you two can build on each other's thinking?

Photo of Fernn Lim

Hi Ashley!

Thank you for your comment. The toolkit is for both but primarily targetted at the parents as they play a pivotal role in the growing years of the child. They need the guidance and the know-hows to help nurture their children into creative individuals.

The kids on the other hand are experiencing failure through the activities but their parents will be around to help debrief the activity.

Using the 30 circles challenge as an example, at first attempt, children will not be able to complete filling up the 30 circles in 1 minute. The parents need to explain and highlight the intent of the question and ask their child to attempt the activity again. In this case, the child has experienced failure, learnt from the activity and attempted the activity again.

Photo of Shane Zhao

Hi Fernn,

I agree that kids will benefit greatly if parents and teachers can encourage them to re-tackle challenges after "failing" for the first few times. My grandfather use to make it fun for me and my cousin to solve riddles by saving each of our doodles and ideas in a scrap book format. He would refer back to the scrap book and remind us of how creative we were in trying different ways to solve the problem. This made a tremendous impact on my perception of problem solving as something that is fun and rewarding. I wonder what type of reinforcing advice/ exercises the Failure Toolkit would have for parents and teachers?