When trying to mitigate climate change or deal with the threat of natural disasters, and their aftermath, you might not think the role of toys, or fun and games would be very important.
But one Thai toy designer has created an innovative set of games, designed to help communities cope – toys, she says, that change the world.
Asia Calling’s Nicole Curby met with Panida Tancharoen at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali to find out more.
I’m at a toy making workshop for kids.
There is intense focus in the room, as small groups of children work on their colourful creations.
The workshop is being led by Plan, or Panida Tancharoen.
She is a toy designer and illustrator from Bangkok, Thailand.
Her specialty? Toys that change the world.
Games that address climate change, and that help communities to cope in a natural disaster, like an earthquake, typhoon or tsunami.
Plan believes that we learn best with fun and games.
“I think that when people hear that okay, lets play with a toy, let’s play a game, or lets play anything, people feel that oh, it must be really fun. Its like they already have an open mind.”
And continues Plan, “when you open your mind, your brain is open as well. When you feel good, when you have good emotions, so you’re ready to learn, or read or do something new, you’re ready to change yourself.”
Plan does toy workshops with communities in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan.
Learning what to do in a disaster situation is a crucial set of skills that could make a massive difference when it comes to the crunch.
But says Plan, it can start with a game.
“The game is a disaster cycle. I am playing this game in the Philippines and Thailand. It depends on the disaster in each area. In the Philippines I use storm cycle.”
The game, she explains, mimics the cycle of the disaster, “what happens before, during, and after, and what you should do between those situations.”
Playing it is easy says Plan, “you mix and match the card with the board, and the community can use it as an educational tool.”
In games, it’s okay to make a mistake, and Plan says this is an essential part of learning.
Kids have a great aptitude for games and playing, and Plan says it is often adults that are learning from kids.
“One of the grandmas told me, “Oh I didn’t know that my grandchild was so smart, and it’s the first time for me that I was playing a game with my child and my grandchild.”
Plan has run workshops in Fukishima, Japan, after a tsunami hit the Daichi nuclear power plant and caused a nuclear catastrophe; and in Tacloban, the Philippines, a community devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
Being in these places, Plan also learned an important lesson.
“When I come back to Thailand I am wondering why the Philippines had a lot of storms and typhoons and lost a lot of life. I found that it’s about climate change as well that effects people.”
“It means that if we are doing something here, if we are creating a lot of pollution, it will effect our friends in other countries.”
Her board game, Risko explores this kind of cause and effect. Participants get points for changing their behavior, reducing pollution and climate change risks, and avoiding natural disasters.
Back at the workshop, the kids seem to be picking up the message very quickly.
Photos courtesey of Anggara Mahendra and Ubud Writers and Readers Festival