“Design thinking” is a methodology that draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systematic reasoning to solve complex problems and find desirable solutions.
Think with Art is a monthly subscription box for children ages 6 to 10 that uses art as a medium to encourage problem-based learning and develop critical thinking skills.
In Think with Art, children follow the adventures of a cat named Mr. Toffee, and help solve problems he encounters along the way. Art is the primary medium through which children are encouraged to think about and solve Mr. Toffee’s problems.
I received a sample Think with Art box so I could evaluate the product. I hope that by sharing our experience it will help you decide if Think With Art would be a good fit for your child.
If you want to try Think with Art, new subscribers can save $5 off their first box using the code CURIOSITY5 at checkout.
When our Think with Art box arrived in the mail, I invited the kids to open it with me.
We oohed and aahed as we looked over the materials inside, which included:
- a small book titled “Meet Mr. Toffee”
- a plastic cover to protect our work surface
- a set of Crayola watercolor pencils
- a pencil
- a notebook for sketching
- a paint brush with fan-shaped bristles
- a pencil sharpener
- an eraser
- a roll of washi tape
My first impression was “Wow, these are NICE art supplies!”
I had never heard of watercolor pencils before and I had never seen the fan-shaped paint brush before. So just by virtue of being introduced to something new, I was impressed.
We soon learned that our Think with Art adventures were to be guided by the small book inside.
We read the story about Mr. Toffee and his adventures. The problem he faced in this story was that he needed to find a method of travel he could use to explore the world that was not a car, boat, or plane.
Upon finishing the story, the book guided us to experiment with the watercolor pencils. The directions gave us a particular technique to try out, and we all did.
The watercolor pencils were super cool. There are several ways to use them, but our preferred technique was to color with them on dry paper and then use a brush to add water afterwards, giving them a watercolor effect as if we had used watercolor paints.
Our next assignment was to brainstorm some ideas for Mr. Toffee’s transportation. Keeping in mind that he was afraid of cars, planes, and boats, we had to think of other ways to help him travel the world.
My kids’ first inclination was to start at the end and simply paint their solution to Mr. Toffee’s problem. But I insisted they follow the process outlined in the book, which involved brainstorming and sketching at least three different ideas to help Mr. Toffee before doing anything else.
At first my kids were a bit stumped, but their creative juices soon began to flow and they came up with a LOT of ideas to help Mr. Toffee.
In fact, watching them get so creative with their brainstorming was probably my favorite part of the box. And I think this was where the “design thinking” aspect of the box really kicked in for us.
After they had each sketched a number of ideas, they shared their ideas with each other and we discussed pros and cons for each method they had considered.
This then kicked off another round of them wanting to sketch some additional ideas for Mr. Toffee.
Eventually they settled on one idea to follow through with, and we turned to the next step in the process.
The directions told us to use the watercolor pencils to create a background image, so my kids did that first.
QBoy set his drawing on a green hill against a blue sky.
XGirl’s drawing also was set on a green hill, but against a bright red sky.
Once their backgrounds had dried, they copied one of their sketches onto the background.
Here is QBoy’s final work of art, showing Mr. Toffee strapped to a rocket that will blast off to take him where he wants to go. QBoy thoughtfully provided Mr. Toffee with a chair and a periscope to see outside of the rocket.
XGirl also decided to strap Mr. Toffee to a rocket. Hopefully Mr. Toffee will find rocket travel more pleasing than traveling by car, boat, or plane. 🙂
Think with Art Overview
Think with Art is geared toward children ages 6-10. It encourages problem-based learning with a focus on design thinking. It exposes children to different art mediums and techniques each month.
Who will enjoy Think with Art?
Kids who love getting into the nitty gritty of art techniques will really enjoy Think with Art, especially the opportunity to try out the art technique presented each month. The art supplies were WONDERFUL. My kids really did enjoy themselves and I found them diving further into trying out a new art technique than I had really seen them go before. From the perspective of teaching art, I think this box has a lot to offer, and I’m very curious to know what techniques will be presented in future boxes.
Homeschool parents looking to incorporate more art into their homeschool will also really enjoy and benefit from Think with Art. The fact that kids will learn new art techniques and have the opportunity to try different art supplies each month would make this box a good addition to a homeschool art program.
Areas for improvement
I would have appreciated more information about design thinking, including how to use the Think with Art kit to facilitate design thinking with my children. I assume the design thinking aspect of the project came primarily from kids brainstorming transportation methods for Mr. Toffee and then picking one option to focus on in their final artwork, but this was never explicitly stated. As the adult implementing the box with my kids, and not being intimately familiar with design thinking myself, I could have used more guidance on how to facilitate a design thinking experience for my kids.
Another issue for families with multiple children is that there does not currently seem to be an option for a sibling add-on. Fortunately I had extra paint brushes and watercolor paper so both of my kids were able to enjoy the process, but families who do not have these supplies on hand will find it difficult to please multiple children unless they purchase two subscriptions.
Ultimately I feel like this Think with Art box was stronger on the art side than on the design thinking / critical thinking side. Of course, for art lovers this would not be a problem, especially because they would receive some really wonderful art supplies. But for parents more interested in the design thinking aspect I think the experience could be improved. I shared these thoughts with the owner of Think with Art, and this was his reply: “I agree with your suggestion on providing some guidance for parents to facilitate the session more effectively and also defining design thinking (since it can be a broad term).”
How to sign up
Sign up here to get Think with Art delivered to your home each month. New subscribers can save $5 off their first box using the code CURIOSITY5 at checkout.