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An Interview with Emily Obereder: Hands On Learning and Colorful Learning!

Jul 16, 2013 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) First of all, what got you interested in developing educational products for children?
 
I worked as a graphic designer for a consulting company that focuses on creating training materials for large corporations and when my husband and I started our family it really began to occur to me that I was yearning to branch out and design fun, impactful products for children as well. 

I loved school as a child and I think fostering a love of learning is one of the greatest gifts anyone can nurture in a child.
 
This desire for me started very early as I designed board games, obstacle courses, and treasure hunts for my younger siblings as soon as I could read, write, and draw. My profession as a graphic designer with an emphasis on educational products was also highly influenced by my mother who was an elementary art teacher for 15 years. I have always been  inspired by the way she reached so many students through art and really brightened and enriched their education through creativity and visual learning techniques.

I share this passion with her in the joy I receive in seeing young kids light up when they touch, talk about and experience my designs.
 
2) Secondly, why the focus on color?
 
Simply put, I have always loved color! One of my favorite things to do as a child was to admire every color in my Crayola crayon box and carefully choose the ones I wanted to use for all of my art projects. When I began to see my first born daughter explore color and get giddy with excitement over all things blue, starting with blueberries, her favorite food, I knew color was where I wanted to start. Color is powerful, emotional, universal, and something children are attracted to at a very early age.
 
3) You integrate color with learning words – is this intentional ?
 
Yes. I think color is a great way to bring words and pictures together. It allowed me to connect animals, plants, flowers, fruits, vegetables, shapes of all kinds, and man-made objects. Kids love to sort and organize as they begin to make sense of the world around them and my puzzles encourage them to do this through color while also learning fun new words at the same time.
 
4) In addition, you are doing some development with your boards of visual motor integration. Is this intentional?
 
Yes, I love the tactile nature and beauty of wooden puzzles. It was great to create something sturdy and chunky for little fingers to grasp and have
the satisfaction of putting together. Each piece has a little wiggle room when placed on the board as well so that it’s not too difficult for toddlers to successfully assemble.
 
5) How often do you encourage parents to develop certain skills?
 
My products are definitely designed with both child and parent in mind. The shirts are a great conversation starter between adults and children.
There’s a strong element of teaching that’s encouraged through introducing new vocabulary to the child such as “eggplant” or “lavender.” After the
child masters the puzzles, I encourage extended play for kids and parents through introducing a simple game component with a spinner. Each puzzle
board then serves as a color bingo card. 

The game is simple enough for toddlers to play and introduces the added fun and skill of group play. Another activity I suggest is to have the child select a few pieces from a few of the puzzles and then to use the pieces as a launching pad for an imaginary story that you can take turns creating together. It may take a little practice to get the child involved but is really a lot of fun.
 
6) Where are some of your materials found? And for what ages are they appropriate?
 
My products are intended to be low-tech, simple, timeless and all natural. Wood, ink, and 100% cotton are my materials of choice for the puzzles and t-shirts. Getting back to basics is my favorite approach to engaging the hands, minds, and imaginations of children. The puzzles are safe and appropriate for children between the ages of 18 months and 4 years. The shirts are sized for children between the ages of 2 and 5.
 
7) You also have some shirts and other materials–tell us about them?
 
The shirts came from a desire to create apparel that was both appealing and packed an educational punch. I think it’s rare to see this. Most fashion trends for kids revolve around favorite cartoon characters or clothing that is simply designed to be cute.  My goal was to layer in some learning fun.  Once again, for me, it’s all about getting kids excited about learning. When I see my curious daughters faces light up when they make a new connection or learn something new, it’s truly one of the most rewarding parts of my day.
 
8) What are you currently working on? And do you have a web site to describe and to review?

I’m currently working on a pink design and a black/white design to add to the collection. I also have more game ideas, some alphabet inspired designs, and countless other ideas in mind that I look forward to getting started on whenever I can carve out some time in my busy day! My two daughters, ages 3 and a half and 4 months certainly keep me busy and are also my main source of inspiration.
 
My website is www.emmykatedesigns.com. I’m in the process of a total web overhaul so stay tuned for the new site to be up and running soon!
 
9) What have I neglected to ask?
 
I can’t think of anything…You can also find me on facebook at Emmy Kate Designs.

Thank you for your great questions :-).
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