CCAD students work with Craftsmen for Kids to design new wooden toys for children in need

Jan 14, 2019
CCAD Industrial Design students work on wooden toys for kids

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Industrial Design students at Columbus College of Art & Design are going to work with an Ohio-based nonprofit called Craftsmen for Kids, Inc., to design wooden toys for children in need.

Craftsmen for Kids is made up 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, this winter, the nonprofit is turning to CCAD for help designing new concepts for their 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,” says 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.”

The project will kick off Tuesday, Jan. 15, when about 30 CCAD seniors, juniors, and sophomores across three Industrial Design studio classes will meet with volunteers from Craftsmen for Kids.

In December, the students got a look at the toys that the charity currently makes. (That way, the students had a chance to mull over ideas during the holiday break, when they might be around younger family members.)

Over the course of the four-week project, 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,” says 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?”

A showcase of the various toy concepts created will take place on Saturday, Feb. 9, 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m. in CCAD’s Crane Center lobby (112 Cleveland Ave.). The event is free and open to the public.

About Columbus College of Art & Design

Columbus College of Art & Design teaches undergraduate and graduate students in the midst of a thriving creative community in Columbus, Ohio. Founded in 1879, CCAD is one of the oldest private, nonprofit art and design colleges in the United States, and in 2019, the college is celebrating 140 years of creative excellence. CCAD offers 12 BFA programs and two master’s programs in art and design that produce graduates equipped to shape culture and business at the highest level. For more information, visit

About Craftsmen for Kids, Inc.

Craftsmen for Kids, Inc., is a nonprofit organization comprised of 16 retirees who turned their passion for woodworking into a way to serve children growing up in poverty. The group meets in woodshops near Hebron, Ohio, to craft quality, hardwood learning and teaching toys for children ages 1–5 in Head Start classrooms, a women’s shelter, and similar facilities serving at-risk children. For more information, visit  


Above: Industrial Design students at Columbus College of Art & Design look at toys designed by Craftsmen for Kids, Inc. Photo by Ty Wright for Columbus College of Art & Design. 

Additional high-res photos are available upon request.

Media contact

Jeannie Nuss
Director of Public Relations
[email protected]