"Selected" means that you will have to CHOOSE a child's educational toy (one already sold in the shops or over the internet) to base your project on. "Identify" implies that you will need to find such a toy yourself, rather than being given a choice eg from a list of 10. So you might for example use an internet search engine or visit a toyshop to "select" a product (toy).
INVESTIGATE the principles of good design:
You will have to think about how the toy has been made safe enough for a child to play with (see RoSPA or ToysAdvice websites). What safety features are suitable depends on the child's age. EG toys for ages 0-3 are usually made from wood and plastic rather than metals because they are soft and non-poisonous. Even so, with wood, you need to ensure that it won't "splinter". If the child is very young the pieces must not be small enough to be swallowed. Any paint needs to be non-poisonous, and flammable materials should not be used (eg nylon).
With older children the pieces can be smaller (eg nuts and screws in a Meccano set), and metals can be used, - preferably soft metals like aluminium and copper because brittle metals like wrought iron, although stronger, can snap and create sharp edges.
If the toy needs to be powered it will have to use a small battery (9V or less) and not plugged into the electrical mains supply (240V).
If the toy has moving parts you should not be able to trap your fingers in it.
Don't assume that all of the toy's features are suitable and safe - you may be able to identify some features which are unsafe or unsuitable for children of the intended age.
EXPECTATIONS of the user:
This means, will the child enjoy playing with this toy? Is it interesting? Is it strong enough, or will it break or fall apart too easily?
How would the child want to play with it? eg with a doll, can the arms, legs and head be turned to put the doll into lots of different positions.
Good design is about how well the product does it's job - in this case, how well it "educates" and how well it can be "played" with. You will need to consider : "Is this toy something that a child of the given age would want to play with?" EG for a toddler a toy with bright colours, flashing lights, and moving parts would be much more stimulating and enjoyable than a toy of one colour with no moving parts (but designing it would be much more difficult) . Toys like Meccano and Lego are good because they are so versatile - you can "play" with them in thousands of ways. For example, with Lego, if young you can make simple shapes like letters of the alphabet, while older children can make trains, cranes, ships, houses, ... an entire village!
If the toy is described as "educational", does it in fact teach the child anything? (But possibly all toys can be described as "educational" in some sense. )
This is probably about technology and fads/fashions.
Technology: There are many more electronic toys nowadays, and even for toys which are not video games there is a trend to use electronics to make them more interesting. For example, 30 years ago a child of 5 might be thrilled to play with a life-like fluffy dog even though it did not move; today the same child can have a robotic dog which walks, wags it's tail, responds to noises, barks, and does back-flips on command. So a fluffy toy which does not move is unlikely to interest a child in the US or UK today.
So there has been a major trend away from simple toys like dolls, skipping ropes, and footballs to complicated toys like motorized scooters and video games.
Fashions: On the other hand, some simple toys (eg skate board, hoola-hoop, yo-yo, Rubik's cube, frisbee, skipping rope, kite) go out of fashion but then come back again years later, perhaps with a "twist" to incorporate new technology (eg electronics or stronger plastics). So even though a toy is "old fashioned" it might still be popular with modern children if it is "interesting". Some of the simplest of all toys - eg the football - have never gone out of fashion.
The way that society thinks about wars (espeically after the Vietnam War in 1975) provoked a trend away from war-related toys (such as Action Man, toy guns, toy soldiers and tanks, Airfix planes) - presumably because somebody thought playing with such toys makes children violent (but strangely it is ok to blow someone's brains out in a video game)! For the same reason society has outlawed toys which could be used to harm other children (bow and arrow, pen-knife, catapult, air-gun).
You have to describe the features which make the toy "well-designed" by considering things like the materials used, how safe it is to play with, and how rewarding it is to play with.
Answered By: Barry G - 2/2/2010