Craftmens for kids

CCAD Industrial Design students design wooden toys for children in need

Product DesignDavid Burghy,

John Donahue,
Adjunct Instructor
Craftmens for kids project

Toys are more than just playthings. The very best toys teach as well as they entertain.

And for children in poverty, toys can be hard to come by.

Enter Craftsmen for Kids, a group of 16 volunteer woodworkers who produce everything from puzzles to balance beams for kids ages 1–5, mostly in Appalachia. Since their founding in 2016, they have donated more than 2,800 toys worth more than $140,000 to children in need at Head Start classrooms, women’s shelters, and other venues.

Now, about 30 CCAD seniors, juniors, and sophomores across three Industrial Design studio classes are tackling a new project to design new concepts for Craftsmen for Kids’ wooden toys.

“Most of the kids we serve are raised in homes with a lot of poverty, and they start life behind their peers. We’re trying to help Head Start catch them up,” said Don Davis, a volunteer and spokesman for Craftsmen for Kids. “But we’ve been making a lot of the same toys. So, we’re excited to partner with Columbus College of Art & Design, and we’re looking forward to some new fresh ideas and some new ways to help these kids' developmental skills.”

Over the course of the four-week project, which began in mid-January, students will meet with early childhood education specialists, including Meghan Federer, Director of STEM Education at The Works in Newark, and CCAD Adjunct Instructor John Donahue, who teaches a course called Psychology of Development. The students will then design concepts of new toys, create prototypes, and conduct brainstorming workshops with kids in CCAD’s Saturday Morning Art Classes.

At the end of the project, on Thursday, Feb. 7, the students will present their designs to volunteers from Craftsmen for Kids, who will choose their favorites, produce them, and give them to children in need.

“We’re excited for this opportunity to give back to the community and help our students gain real-world experience working with a client,” said CCAD Industrial Design Professor David Burghy, who is leading the project. “This project has ‘feel good’ written all over it, and it also has ‘learning’ written all over it.”

The project came about after a similar group of Industrial Design students partnered with the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio in fall 2018. Davis read a story in The Columbus Dispatch and reached out to a student quoted in the article. That student talked to Burghy, who established the partnership between CCAD and Craftsmen for Kids.

“For a lot of designers, we’re just big kids who still want to play with Legos,” Burghy said. “And what could be better than designing toys and making the world better for kids?”

CCAD Prepares Students For Careers

You can find our alumni using their creative skills in small businesses, multinational corporations, nonprofits, and even in such fields as banking, healthcare, and insurance.