Make Time for Play Time

Make Time for Play Time

How we can benefit from letting loose right now

March 2021

Remember a year ago, when we didn’t quite know what was coming but we sort of figured it would all be over soon?



Yeah…



This year has been crazy. It’s turned everything on its head, including the routines we’re used to as parents. Parenting is always an incredibly rewarding and challenging act, but during times like these, it’s nothing short of heroic. Trying to keep kids entertained and off their screens? Trying to home-school them while you’re on zoom calls? Trying to have a moment’s peace and quiet? It’s not easy.



That’s why we wanted to write a piece for all your rockstar parents. Today isn’t about tips and challenges for your kid’s playtime. (If you want those, we suggest you head here or here). No, today is parents day. Today we are going to talk about just how important it is for you to have the time to let loose, blow off steam, and be creative.

Three Reasons Why You Should Be Incorporating Play Into Your Day to Day Life

When we tell people we are a toy company, everyone assumes our products are designed just for children. Yes, we have created Clixo with children and their endless supply of creativity in mind, but no, Clixo isn’t just for kids



Clixo is for play, and play is something everyone should be doing. 



Why?



Well, first, off, it’s fun. But it’s also healthy for us. Especially in crazy times like these, play offers us a rare and valuable escape from the stresses of our daily routines. According to a study called “Play, Stress, and the Learning Brain,” play has no immediate survival purpose. It’s done for its own sake, and for the pleasure of the act. It also occurs when we are not under stress or rushing to get other things done.



How many things do you do on a daily basis that are solely for the joy of doing them? (Be honest).



If you’re anything like most of the parents we speak to, your number is probably a whopping zero. So this leads us to reason #1.

1. Letting Go of A Need for Achievement or Productivity Reminds Us of What Really Matters.

It’s a vicious cycle. We work hard, thinking we will someday get to the bottom of our to do list, but somehow it just keeps growing. There’s almost more to do, more to achieve, more goals to reach. We could always optimize our lives more. 



Especially during pandemic times, parents seem to be extra attached to executing control over the small realms in which they feel like they can control things. 



Listen–there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get things done and have an impact on the world. The problem is when we get so sucked into the adult mindset of “go go go, do do do” that we forget why we are doing anything in the first place. 



We forget that the starting motivation to get something done is usually rooted in a desire to get it out of the way, so that we can focus on what really matters.



Maybe we want to retire early so we can travel. Maybe we want to be able to work four days a week so we have more time with the kids. What this all boils down to is a desire to have the space in our life to relax, to have fun, to be ourselves, and to spend time with those we love. 



Play is all of these things. It’s about self-expression and self-exploration. It’s about laughter and curiosity. It’s about letting go of the goal, and being fully present in the journey. Making time for play nourishes us, and reminds us of our core values and motivations. It gives us an opportunity to refresh our minds and spirits, and to get in touch with the child in all of us. In fact, we’d take it a step further and say it’s one of those important activities that reminds us of just how much we have to learn from children. Playing makes us better parents, and better people.



So here’s a suggestion for all you parents out there who have (totally understandable) run out of ideas for entertaining your children during the pandemic. Why not set aside some play time for yourself?



We think you’ll be pretty amazed with what comes out of it. 

2. It Frees Us From Our Need of Control.

There’s probably never been a time in any of our living memory when we felt more helpless and less in control. 



Near the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of the mental health experts out there encouraged adults to keep informed, but limit engagement in the media, as it can only spike that anxiety, and to “focus on the things you can control.” That makes perfect sense: sure, we can’t predict when we will be able to get a vaccine or what will happen to the economy, but we can decide what we will have for lunch today, what board game we will play with the kids in the evening, or whether we want to take a bath or a shower. It may seem small, but these micro decisions are very important for our sense of well-being. 



However, a year in and our patience for being ‘content’ with micro-decisions has grown thin. That’s the second reason we wanted to reach out today and encourage all you adults to take play more seriously as a mental health benefit. Maybe the answer isn’t to keep fighting 24/7 for a tiny plot of control. Maybe the best thing we can do right now is engage as much as possible in activities that free us from our tyrannical need for control. 



Think of play as an antidote to all our adult habits that aren’t serving us right now. Let go of timelines and to do lists, and invest in your creativity and your sanity. Most importantly, don’t approach play as some huge new goal to ‘control’. That would be entirely missing the point. 



Playing as adults can be super simple. If you need a few ideas to get you started, we recommend reading this

3. Parents need Screen-Free Time Too.

Clixo Fascinator Head Piece Bonnet

We all know that screens have come to play too big a role in our lives. There has been special concern for the amount of time that screens take up in children’s lives, especially during COVID-19. All of that is true, but what about you? What about the fact that so many of you are now working all day on your computer, socializing through zoom, and ‘relaxing’ on social media and Netflix?



Adults need screen-free time, too. In a time when we aren’t allowed out much, it’s super important that we don’t get lazy with our free time, but instead lead by example, and get creative. Whether that’s making sure you are making time for reading, family dinners, adventures to the park, or playtime, everyone benefits from time that is spent connecting and rejuvenating rather than sinking into digital sinkholes. 



One of the particularly beneficial aspects of play is that it not only helps us unwind and get away from screens, but it helps us get into our bodies. Since most of us aren’t going to the gym, or out dancing, or even hugging friends, anything that helps us be more embodied is super critical for our health. 



Want to share your story? Reach out to us @my_clixo with what play means to you as an adult, and we may interview you for an upcoming series on making play a part of life for everyone, everywhere. 

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An open letter to lovers of instruction booklets

An open letter to lovers of instruction booklets

By Assaf

February 2021

Dear Friends,



I read an alarming article the other day.



In it, Gail Cornwall, a writer who specializes in writing about education and parenting, traces the rising attack on children’s autonomy through increasingly controlling parenting models. She writes, “In recent decades, constantly monitoring and directing kids, or scheduling them to be monitored and directed, not only became the norm for parents who can afford it, but the model of parenting. Indeed, research indicates parents across the class spectrum now consider it the ideal way to parent.”



But what are the costs of this trend? The list is long.



First off, research shows that it increases a sense of helplessness and decreases the growth of agency and resilience. Helicopter parenting has also been linked to depression, anxiety, and lower levels of self-advocacy. 



Now, I’m not a trained expert in parenting, but I have spent over two decades teaching design, working in the toy industry, and developing a philosophy around play.



I can say with complete and unequivocal confidence: attempting to control children’s play is not only counter-productive, but actually damaging to creativity. 

Why? Simply put, children are better positioned to be the masters and guiders of play than we are. When we, as adults, try to control what they do, we are superimposing our much more rigid, limited way of thinking on them. We are doing them a disservice.



You may be asking at this point, what does this have to do with instruction booklets?



Basically, we don’t believe in traditional instruction booklets. Too often, instruction booklets are simply a way for adults to push their way of thinking onto children. However, we received some feedback over the holidays, in which some parents wished Clixo came with more intensive instructions, and so I decided to write an open letter to all you skeptics out there.



The question I would like us to begin with is: “Why do you wish there was an instruction booklet?”



I won’t pretend to know your exact reasoning, but I bet it falls under the following kind of logic. You might think that it’s cheap or lazy to not give children guidance on a toy you just bought. In the absence of extensive instructions, the weight will fall on your shoulders to tell them what to do with it, and isn’t the whole point of a toy that it makes your job as a parent easier, not more difficult?



Let me assure you, the minimalist booklet that comes with Clixo is very intentional, and serves a specific purpose.

As you can see above, it’s not that Clixo arrives with nothing, but that we have very intentionally provided just enough guidance to kickstart creativity, but not so much as to control it. 



One of the core design elements of Clixo is that it is an intuitive toy. We went through over a thousand prototypes to find a base shape that signals in a very obvious way how to connect Clixo pieces to themselves and other pieces. This does enormous work to lower the barrier of entry for children. Instead of unwrapping a complex set of pieces that require forethought, reading, and ‘understanding’ in order to begin, children can jump right into creating. 

This allows them to follow their creative intuition, rather than be corralled from the start by an adult’s opinion on how they should start. 



I can’t tell you how many genius creations I’ve observed come out of children when they were first handed Clixo–many of the creations that have now come to be classics in the Clixo vocabulary were sparked by children thinking outside the box.

Not only does this allow kids to start more quickly and naturally, but it also creates a safe, non-judgemental space for creation, right from the start. The natural by-product of rigid instructions is that they force a binary distinction between a ‘right’ way of doing things, and a ‘wrong’ way of doing things. In line with the research around helicopter parenting, making these strict judgements seriously hinders creativity, but even more concerningly, it has a negative impact on childrens’ development of autonomy and confidence in self-expression. 



Now, there is of course a time and a place for instructions. If you are putting together a piece of Ikea furniture, for example, it’s pretty critical that you assemble the pieces in the right way, in order for the furniture to be functional.

But what’s the point in determining what a child ought to create from the start? At best, they will execute it accurately, and that will be the end of it. When children are forced to create in a certain way, they are unlikely to be inspired or excited to make future creations. It increases their self consciously and anxiety to compare themselves with others, or to keep their creations inside the ‘typical’ box. After all, toys don’t serve a functional purpose–if you’re trying to build a couch, get furniture. If you’re trying to decorate with static models, buy a model set.

If we are being totally honest, kids aren’t the ones who want instruction manuals. It’s parents who want them. 



I don’t say this as an accusation, but as a gentle reminder that the discomfort is a natural part of the process. It’s okay to worry that your child will be bored or won’t know how to have fun within the semi-constraints of an open-ended play system. But ultimately, working through that discomfort is your responsibility as a parent, because in doing so you will be protecting and encouraging your child to thrive creatively. 



At Clixo, we strive to always hit the sweet spot of constraint. In fact, this is one of our five pillars of play philosophy. This means creating an ever-expanding catalogue of challenges for our Clixo community, so that there are sparks of inspiration available, but never rigid guidelines. It’s the difference between leading with instructions versus allowing the community to come seek inspiration, should they want it. 



In other words, it’s the difference between deciding how play should be, and giving you all the tools to create the best form of play for yourself.



Happy playing,
Assaf

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Revisiting Packaging: Sometimes change is uncomfortable.

Revisiting Packaging: Sometimes change is uncomfortable

By Clixo Team

January 2021

Why it’s time to let go of boxes upon boxes.

Back in August when Clixo had first launched, we posted a piece about our (somewhat unusual) thinking around packaging. Yes, we are doing sustainable packaging, but that’s hardly the big news. What’s different about Clixo’s packaging is that it’s, well, almost like anti-packaging.



Say what?

As you can see, the recyclable box Clixo comes in is very low profile and unobtrusive. Unlike standard packaging in the toy industry, where the boxes toys come in are then used for storage, Clixo’s packaging is meant to be recycled or repurposed.



Over the holidays, we got a lot of feedback from Clixo customers who loved the product, but were requesting the kind of packaging that they are used to.



In other words, they wanted to stay in their comfort zone, with packaging that doubles as storage.



We thought about this request long and hard. On the one hand, we pride ourselves on developing and innovating Clixo in very close dialogue with our community, and we take the feedback we get very seriously. But on the other hand, we felt very strongly that the thinking behind our packaging choice was a direct representation of core values we hold as a company. On top of that, we’d reached our original stance based on the extensive consumer testing we did even before launch, and we’d heard time and again that toys which are stored in boxes end up in another box — be in a chest or a closet — and often stay there.

As we were mulling over this dilemma, I happened to run into a parent who lives in the Clinton Hill neighborhood and regularly frequents our play lab. I was deep in an internal debate over the packaging, and the conversation I had with this parent came at the exact right moment. In simple terms, she just got it. She really understood our philosophy around Clixo, and how our packaging may be difficult to adjust to at first, but is a genuine representation of our core ethos around play. This made me realize two things:

1. We needed to stick to our intuition, but
2. We needed to do a better job at educating our community about the thinking behind our packaging

So, without further ado, let me explain.

Play as Unboxing Versus Play as Play

One of the most troubling aspects of the toy industry today is the way that mass manufacturing and the rise of licensing has led to a never-ending race to attract eyeballs through flashy packaging. The toys that sell best these days are often not the most thoughtfully created toys, but the toys that come in the most attention-grabbing packaging. The toy industry has learned how to play into children’s weak spots, luring them in through collectibles and characters they see in the media. The result is that buying toys has become more about the dopamine rush of unboxing than the long term, creative and often educational engagement that occurs with thoughtfully designed toys.



It makes total sense that a toy which hasn’t been designed for long-term entertainment will need a storage container. After all, if most of the excitement comes from unwrapping and then a child quickly grows bored of a toy, it’s completely reasonable that parents would want a nice (ideally modular) storage container to put that unused toy away in. Original packaging serves this purpose. All you need is a closet with some shelves, and there you go! You can pack box upon box.

But let’s think about this a little more deeply. Isn’t the whole notion of storing toys away in boxes, piled on top of each other, in some hidden place, a huge barrier to play? It makes getting the toy out a whole production. The fact that parents prefer this isn’t a good sign: it’s an indicator that either:

1. The toy is so boring that children don’t ask to get it out very often, so the hassle is minimal
2. The toy is so aesthetically offensive that parents really don’t want it laying around, or
3. Both of the above.



Is that really the best we could hope for from a toy?



At Clixo, we don’t think so. We think that thoughtful toys are meant to be universally accessible, endlessly entertaining, and aesthetically complimentary to more adult environments.

Similar to the principles behind the famous child “Cockpit” designed by Bruno Munari (a jack of all trades and an idol of mine), Clixo has been designed to intentionally dissolve the boundary between object of play and the storage of said object: Clixo is always available for play, partially because it is self-storing.

Say goodbye to boxes. Say hello to creativity.

Clixo Toy Store

What I realized in my conversation with our friendly neighborhood parent is that parents, just as much as kids, need to be encouraged to be creative in their thinking. “Of course it was uncomfortable at first,” she said. “I wasn’t used to a toy that naturally integrates with the apartment rather than is put away after play, but I quickly got the hang of it and now I see how cool it is for a toy to be always ready to go.”



She was especially inspired after she visited our play lab and saw all the creative ways that Clixo was integrated with the environment:

She realized that Clixo didn’t need to just lay on the ground or sit on a counter until its next usage — it could make a shape on the kitchen appliances, the desks, the bed frame — anywhere her child felt inspired to create.



“Also,” she added, “if I really needed to ever store it somewhere, I could always use storage I already have, like a Tupperware or a zip lock bag. Honestly though, I don’t see myself doing that. Now that it’s always around, I even find myself picking it up and playing with it.”

Change is Tricky. Especially for Adults.

One of the things we love so much about children’s minds is how open they are, and how quick to adapt. Among our avid community of Clixo-enthusiasts, no kid has complained about a lack of storage options. You might say, “well yeah duh,” but it’s worth pausing to think through why that is. It’s not like children aren’t used to packaging being a certain way. Like their parents, they also have navigated the standard-issue toy box plenty of times. But instead of being so resistant to change, children are much better at taking it in stride. Give them a stack of Clixo, get rid of the box, and they’ll never think to ask about it, they will just naturally come up with creative ways to play with it and place it.

For the parents out there, here’s my suggestion. Embrace the discomfort. Innovation naturally brings some growing pains: just think about Tesla’s model of car charging points, for one example among many.



We’re very confident that if you think it through and accept that the real purpose of a toy is to encourage play (and the best way to do that is to have a toy naturally designed to be accessible and adaptable) then letting go of packaging is a step in the right direction.



Sure, you might have some knee-jerk reactions to it at first, but hey, when is it ever better to play it safe in the realm of creativity?



Happy playing,
Assaf

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A Gift For the Ages

A Gift For the Ages

By Assaf

November 2020

Why Clixo is the perfect present this holiday season🎁.
– A #SmallBusinessSaturday special blog post –

We can all agree that 2020 has been an unusual year. It would be nice to believe that such unprecedented times won’t impact the holidays, but of course they will. Everything about 2020 — including Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Years — is radically different.



So, what should we do when the world changes shape?



We should change shape with it.



Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a whole lot of trickle-down innovation into the toy industry (or the marketing of toys) this year.



Today I want to write a short post, sharing three reasons why Clixo is a gift well-suited for such crazy times. …

Reason #1: the all-in-one minimalist gift.

In Rosseau’s Second Treatise, he makes the argument that our ability to adapt is what sets us apart as a species. We don’t passively navigate the world — we actively move through it, constantly making connections and micro adjustments to our behavior to better suit the environment. It is in our nature to metaphorically change shape.

And yet, so much of what we engage with as an extension of ourselves — from toys to tools to technologies — doesn’t accurately reflect that characteristic. We create things that are static, immovable, and single-purpose because they are easier. They’re easier to create, and they’re easier to make redundant, therefore perpetuating a cycle of consumerism.

Our lives and homes become cluttered with discarded, poorly made toys in our quest for creativity.

No sooner has a child received a toy than they have outgrown it. Why?

Because the toy doesn’t adapt. It doesn’t change shape as the child grows and explores new realms of their imagination. It also doesn’t adapt to different environments — whether it’s the back seat of a car, the waiting room at the dentist, or the grocery cart.



I built Clixo to be a natural, rather than artificial, tool for play.



Its shape was inspired by the human hand, with its infinite ways of bending, connecting, and holding. Everything about it, from the durability yet flexibility of the plastic to the strength of the magnets and the color combinations was created with an eye towards encouraging play any where, any time, for any one. Most importantly, it makes this kind of play easy, by requiring only a single stack of lightweight, easy-to-pack pieces.

Underlying these design principles is a social and moral philosophy: at Toyish, we don’t believe in consumerism for the sake of consumerism. We also don’t believe that toys have to clash with an otherwise ‘adult’ space.



Why not bring the design thinking that informs highly functional, beautiful, minimalist design into the toy world?



Why not create a single toy that integrates seamlessly with any space, making both parent and child happy?



Human creativity is a highly dynamic, flexible, and adaptable quality. Don’t buy into the marketing that claims your child needs 101 toys to ‘hone their creativity skills.’ It’s simply not true.

Reason #2: Creativity extends beyond the shapes.

As we buckle down through a second wave of COVID cases, parents and children alike are understandably pretty stir crazy. There’s only so many times you can redo a puzzle before all excitement wears off.



From the very beginning of Clixo (even before we knew a global pandemic was on the way), we’ve been committed to not only building a toy, but building a community of creativity. This plays out in a number of ways.



First off, we hold regular virtual playdates, in which I lead whoever wants to tune in over zoom through challenges with Clixo. These events provide a nice structure and break from the routine of lockdown, and allow community members to connect through play.

Clixo Toy Store

Second, if you are based in NYC, we encourage you to come check out our learning lab in Clinton Hill. An airy, COVID-safe space, it has been providing families with an outing that brings some much needed playfulness back into their days.



We are constantly coming up with new, innovative ways to engage, challenge, and continue lighting the spark of creativity in our community. If you buy Clixo, you aren’t buying a static, finished product. You are entering into a whole world of constantly evolving ideas and opportunities. You’re joining a community of creativity.

Reason #3: It’s sustainable.

This reason is short and sweet.



We know climate change is a problem. We know consumerism is a big part of that, and that the holiday season accounts for an enormous percentage of annual consumerism in the United States.



Clixo is a truly modern toy because it genuinely reflects our modern reality. Made from a proprietary blend of plastics that are durable and recyclable, and delivered in packaging made from recycled paper, Clixo’s design is inherently eco-friendly.

Even more important than the materials that go into Clixo’s material shape is the minimalist ethos behind Clixo, discussed above. Clixo isn’t made to be redundant, or to require infinite future purchases. Yes, we will continue to build out new shapes and accessories, but not because the original set doesn’t contain enough possibilities as is. We continue to evolve and grow the Clixo shapes based on feedback and creative ideas from members of our community, but it is never our intention to pressure (through marketing or design) our customers to buy more.

It may sound strange to hear a CEO disincentivizing his customers from buying more of his product, but it has truly never been our goal to flood people’s lives with an over-abundance of Clixo. That would just be replicating the thoughtless, unsustainable methods of the mainstream toy industry.



We built Clixo to offer infinite possibilities. We truly hope that the Clixo family makes their purchases with intentionality, and the confidence that a single Clixo set is more than enough to keep kids (and kids at heart) fully submerged in the magic of play.



Happy holidays, and happy playing!
Assaf

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When the world changes shape, Clixo changes with it.

When the world changes shape,
Clixo changes with it.

By Clixo Team

September 2020

In this final piece of a three part blog series, Clixo founder Assaf discusses the importance of adaptability, and how Clixo can be a useful aid in the age of COVID-19.



Raise your hand if you’ve built a slide down your stairs out of cardboard boxes, turned the entire apartment into a playroom, or decided the whole family should don formal attire for a Tuesday night dinner? Times are crazy. We work, socialize, and play differently now, and there’s no instruction manual–parents are just making it up as they go along. 



In the first blog of this series, I talked about the role of constraints in creativity, and what COVID-19 has taught me about them. In the second blog, I talked about letting go of control, and how important that is for creative development. Now I want to turn to the third aspect I’ve reflected on during COVID: adaptability. 



In many ways, adaptability has to do both with constraint and with letting go of control. If we are adaptable, we are able to shift easily into new environments and circumstances. We are flexible, not rigid. Sometimes we get to have some say over adaptability in our lives. Other times–like right now–we don’t have a choice. The world has changed, and we have to change with it. 

One of the aspects of Clixo I am most proud of is this very characteristic: adaptability. Working in the toy industry for over twenty years, I have often been struck by how static and contextual toys are: sure, many of them are small or lightweight, but they don’t pack or travel easily, they are always underfoot, getting lost behind car seats, or require flat surfaces to play on. These toys can be very fun or very educational, given the right context, but they minimize potential creativity and enjoyment by being tethered to location or critical mass. 



What we need, I thought, is a modern twist on the classic building block: something that can be taken on the go, is easy to store and pack, requires a minimal number of pieces for maximum possibilities, and is just as fun to play with in a car, on a plane, at home, or on a playground. 

Clixo’s paper design and durable magnets makes it just such a toy. With even our largest pack weighing less than a pound, it stacks quickly and easily, integrates with objects around you, and is built for wear and tear. Best of all, with only seven shapes, you can already create millions of possibilities. 


At a time when our regular methods of travel, play-dating, and home life have been disrupted, I truly hope that Clixo can offer even an ounce of relief to parents everywhere who are struggling to adapt to the times. Whether you bring Clixo to the beach, turn it into a soccer ball, wear it as a crown, or make a duck while taking a bath, Clixo is there for you.

When the world changes shape, Clixo changes with it. 

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COVID-19, parenting, and the illusion of control

COVID-19, parenting, and the illusion of control

By Clixo Team

September 2020

In the second part of this three-part series, Clixo founder Assaf shares his experience and insight on why trying to control play and creativity is foolish.



How many of you feel in control these days? If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent your adult life paying lip service to a buddhism-esque mantra that we’re not really in control of things, but secretly you’ve thought you’re the exception to the rule. Bad things happen to other people. Plans come crashing down on those who don’t safeguard themselves well enough. But not you–you will emerge victorious and gracefully in control! 



With the arrival of COVID-19, no one can lie to themselves anymore about just how little control we have–just how easily the world can turn on its head. It’s a terrifying and stark reminder that life very rarely colors between the lines. 



In this series of blogs, I’ve been trying to make use of some of the reflection time I’ve had during COVID-19, and share my thoughts on how it relates to the realm of design, toys, and play. 

One of the big ideas I keep returning to is how as adults we have this white-knuckled grip on life, especially when we deeply care about things (like our children). We don’t want them to just play–we want them to play the most, the best, have the most fun, make the most creative things, learn the most they possibly can. But the simple fact of the matter is that when we approach creativity and play with that perspective, we are completely missing the point. You can’t control creativity. You can’t control play. What makes them so essential to childhood (and, let’s be honest, to adulthood too), is the fact that they resist linear, predictable development. Play is at its best when it is unexpected, when it breaks down boundaries, when we let our imaginations and intuitions take over. 



There’s an assignment I frequently give undergraduate students to try and get them back into this space of ‘uncontrolled’ creativity. By the age of 18, most people have already trained themselves to think there’s a right or wrong way to do things, and that the goal is to control yourself and the world around you as much as possible, so as to perform the ‘right’ way as much as you can. It’s a difficult habit to break. So I give my students an assignment they can’t google. An assignment that seems ridiculous, but which forces them to think in new ways. 

“I want you to come up with a way to move a cloud from New York to London,” I tell them. This is usually followed by crickets, some anxious questions, and a fearful silence as the students exit the class. But by the following week, when everyone has presented their often humorous and always extremely creative ideas, we’ve broken through into a new space. 



At Clixo, we’ve worked long and hard to develop a tool for creativity that puts all of the ‘control’ back in the hands of children. By control we don’t mean something rigid, but rather the opposite. We want kids who pick up Clixo to be immediately invited in, but not told there is a ‘right’ direction to go in. In fact, the goal–if there is a goal for Clixo–is for it to never reach a final form. As soon as something is created, we hope for it to be broken down and turned into something new.”

It can be counter-intuitive in the current day and age to correlate endless process rather than outcome with value, but it is indeed the cornerstone of creativity and all the good that creative engagement brings with it. 



So next time you set out to build a giraffe with your kid and they turn the head into a helicopter, we encourage you to congratulate, rather than try to rein them in. Let go of your illusions of control. It’ll do you–and your kids–a world of good. 



[Check out Part 1 of this series here and part 3 over here]

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How (some) limitations can be helpful

How (some) limitations can be helpful

By Clixo Team

August 2020

In this first part of a three-part series, Clixo’s founder Assaf shares some reflections on creativity and constraints during the time of COVID-19.



Nearly six months into COVID-19, it’s safe to say many of us are a little stir crazy. 😅



Seemingly overnight our worlds shrunk from, well, the world, to small, contained spaces, sometimes no bigger than single room apartments. The pain of this transition is particularly acute for parents, who have needed to suddenly fill in the gaps left by dozens of external structures that normally contribute to their childrens’ development, creativity, engagement, and sense of self. Summer camp? Cancelled. Play dates? Dubious. School? Remains to be seen. The disappearance of these integral parts of day to day life is more than just an issue of filling time. These activities are part of what help children grow, learn, and understand themselves, others, and the world. As parents, how can we possibly make up for all these critical aspects of development? Amidst all the unprecedented challenges and tragedy, are there any silver linings?

When I think about COVID-19, I think about the extremity of constraint it places on our lives. Things we have taken for granted forever–whether it’s taking the subway, offering your arm to an elderly person crossing the street, or having friends over for dinner–are suddenly dangerous at best, and quite often socially irresponsible. The interesting thing about freedom is that we notice it most acutely in its absence. As if made of gas, we tend to expand out to fill as much space as freedom allows us without a second thought. It is only when it is taken away that we notice the edges. 




But constraints aren’t entirely a bad thing. From a design perspective, constraints can actually be a critical part of encouraging freedom. Yes, that’s right–boundaries around freedom can actually strengthen freedom.”

Think about the following examples – Your boss walks into your office (this is back when offices existed) and tells you that the company needs to come up with a creative idea. You ask a few follow up questions, trying to figure out the perimeters. Your boss shrugs and tells you to just come up with something. What do you do with all that freedom? Is it liberating, or actually oppressive?



Another example. Your teacher asks you to write an essay on anything. Or you’re given a blank page and some crayons and told to draw whatever you like. Certainly, I think the vast majority of us would say there’s more pleasure to be found within total freedom than total control, but the ideal actually lays somewhere in between. 

In the toy world, I have long been fascinated with discovering what the exact ‘right’ amount of constraint is. From a psychological perspective, humans tend to be most creative when we are given some kind of perimeters to work within, the right tools to explore that space, and then the freedom to be and do in that space as we will. Even seemingly totally unstructured things, like playing in a sandbox, actually have very specific constraints built in, when you think about it. First off, there’s a literal box around the sand. Then there are the tools (the shovels, buckets, etc.) that children have to play with. Finally there is the material consistency of sand: some things are made easily with sand, some things can’t be made.

Now, am I saying the constraints COVID-19 has placed on us are a good thing that we should just be grateful for? Absolutely not. But it is also possible to take up creative possibilities in this time of constraint. A quick scroll through social media these days can reveal all sorts of fresh, innovative ideas parents have come up with for their kids during this time–ideas that never would have grown without the constraining factors that led to their genesis. 




With Clixo, the idea of constraint being wedded to creativity is built into the design. It took us over a thousand iterations to come up with a toy that provides just enough structure to alleviate the fears around starting, but which helps kids immediately establish a sense of infinite creative potential and autonomy once they start clicking.” 

Can you think of a constraint that initially irritated you, but ended up leading to a creative breakthrough? How can we work with constraints, rather than have them work against us? We’d love to hear your thoughts!



[Part 2 of this series is here and part 3 is over here]

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Don’t Store It, Use it!

Don’t Store It, Use it!

By Assaf

August 2020

Clixo’s packaging is made to be recycled, not re-used. 



It’s becoming best practice these days to put extra effort into product packaging. Whether that’s making it eco-friendly, adding personalized touches, or using really high quality materials, companies are using packaging as a way to make a lasting first impression. Given how much competition is out there, this makes sense. Every way to differentiate your brand helps.

At Clixo, we’ve also thought long and hard about packaging, going so far as to do extensive user testing on a variety of models. First we tried out a thin, cardboard case that allowed the Clixo pieces to lay flat. Next, we got excited by the possibility of a metal box. But then when we went out into the field to talk to parents and observe how kids interacted (or didn’t) interact with toy packaging, the resounding response we heard was that toys disappear back into boxes, boxes disappear into stacks in the closet or on shelves, and the system that was meant to help organize actually ends up cluttering.



We take the feedback we receive from parents and children very seriously, and so we ended up coming to a slightly different conclusion than most other brands. Instead of using packaging as yet another material to try and assert our presence in, we built our packaging with the opposite goal in mind.

We want you to get rid of our packaging. Not because it’s cheap, shoddy, or an aesthetic nightmare. No, because the whole ethos of our toy is for it to jump straight out into the world and never go back. The bamboo, recyclable shell it comes in is minimalist and can be used to store other things (if you’d like), but the quick peel-off lid is purposely made to not go back on the shell. That’s because we want opening Clixo to be a singular experience, before the toy takes on its true nature as a constantly evolving creative tool in whatever environment you’re in. While some toys are made to be perfectly fit together (only to end up collecting dust on a shelf), and others are made to be messily used and then carelessly thrown back into boxes, Clixo is built to be in a constant state of iteration. It’s self-storing, integrating with the world around it.

Maybe at the end of today’s play session your child’s Clixo pack has turned into a crown they wear at dinner. Or maybe it’s turned into a basket they attach to the refrigerator. Maybe they want to bring it on a playdate the next morning, and so they quickly snap it up into a stack and put it in their backpack.



Regardless, the mark of a good Clixo session isn’t a feeling of having ‘completed’ something and then storing it away. It’s about experiencing the joy of exploration, invention, and discovery.”



Our packaging is simple. That’s how we think it should be. Environmentally responsible, satisfying to tear open and dive into, and made to be recycled. After all, anything that gets between you and your creativity is something to be minimized, not maximized. So let it go, and get clicking!

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Play as the Antidote to Perfectionism

Play as the Antidote to Perfectionism

By Assaf

August 2020

Perfection is a tricky one. It’s something that has interested me throughout the years, maybe because I myself suffered from perfectionism. I’ve learned how to deal with it in my work and my practice, and I want to pass those lessons along.



On the one hand, we all know achieving perfection is impossible. On the other hand, we tend to harbor a half-baked secret belief that we are the exception to the rule: that perfection is impossible for everyone else, but that we might have a fighting chance at it. In fact, it’s that unrealistic belief that spurs action and makes us strive towards our goals.



Sometimes when concepts are hard to wrap our heads around, it’s good to take another look at the words we are using. The word ‘perfection’ comes from the Latin Perficere, which means “to complete.” At first, that may seem a little confusing, but when you think about it for a bit, it begins to make sense. We tend to think of perfection as reaching a final form that couldn’t be made better. Perfection means an ending. 

But when you look at your life, isn’t it true that the most important ideas, experiences, and insights always come in the middle of things? In fact, isn’t it true that in the rare event that we actually ‘finish’ something, it no longer brings us as much joy or inspiration as we had during the process? Sure, there’s that initial burst of satisfaction when you read the last page of the book or put in the final puzzle piece, but then what happens? The book gathers dust on the shelf. The puzzle sits forgotten on the coffee table.



“At Clixo, we call this “gathering-dust-on-the-shelf-syndrome,” and it’s exactly what we try to advise against. We don’t want kids to fall in love with their creations, after spending countless hours following instructions. Instead, we want kids to create in a faster way, and in a zen approach that encourages them to disassemble what they’ve made and put it back in a different shape, or continue on from a shape they’ve already made.”



Rolling our sleeves up and diving into the messy, ever-evolving creativity of life is where we most become ourselves. We learn about problem solving, collaboration, and imagination. When we treat life as an ongoing journey rather than something that can–or should–be perfected, we create the most space for play, and by extension, for growth.

o nurture this unstructured space is important for people of all ages, but absolutely critical for children.When we are young our brains have more plasticity, and can create all sorts of neural connections that are harder for us to do as adults. Those connections aren’t made by following rules and executing in a standardized, ‘perfect’ way. They are made by approaching things from entirely new angles, without expectation or the need to achieve anything specific. 



Going through over 1,200 prototypes for Clixo before landing on our current design might look like a classic arc of striving for perfection, but here’s the thing–Clixo is far from finished. My whole process of creating Clixo has been built around an open-ended, exploratory approach, where one idea sparked a totally different idea which led me forwards, backwards, and sideways. Most importantly, what we are offering is just the start: Clixo will always evolve. It will never be finished.



So here’s the message from the Clixo family: keep on striving and keep on creating. Build the biggest, most elaborate toy you can, and then break it down so you can begin again. That’s about as close to perfection as you can get.



All the best from the Clixo fam,
Assaf

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The Birth of Clixo

The Birth of Clixo

By Clixo Team

June 2020

While the idea behind Clixo has been developing in me over the course of my career, it officially began to take form in 2017, as I watched design students get incredibly creative using only paper. The concept struck me: how could I use paper–an incredibly dynamic material–in a way where it would attach to itself?



I began to iterate as quickly as possible, using paper, hot glue, and magnets to test out different ways I could build shapes. My years of experience teaching, playing, and studying the philosophy and psychology of play was all coalescing into this project. I wanted to know how I could build something that could be more than one thing, and would encourage the greatest amount of free form, free range creativity. 

At first, the iterations kept leading me towards a tube shape. This was interesting, but ultimately limiting. Sure, I could build a dragon neck or buildings or trees, but I felt that the system wasn’t flexible enough. I moved on to sets of geometric shapes: squares, triangles, and circles, but again, after hundreds of iterations, I ran up against a limitation. Geometric shapes wouldn’t transform in an intuitive, natural way from 2d to 3d. I wasn’t entirely sure why, but I knew that whatever I created needed to make this transformation gracefully, and geometric shapes wouldn’t offer that possibility. 



It was at this point that I sat down with Oren Zuckerman, an expert in interactive technologies at miLab in Israel. After a long conversation, he said something I needed to hear. “Who cares about another dragon?” he said. “Go back to the fundamentals. What is your Lego brick?”

I knew there was something in the seed of my idea, but that I needed to begin again, stripping everything back to basics. I began playing with strips, and then strips that had circular ends. One day, I connected two strips with magnets at their center and saw just how dynamic this shape was, able to fold and click intuitively into endless different shapes. 



If I had to point to a singular moment in which the base form for Clixo was created, this would be it. But the creative process is never about a singular moment or a strict before or after. All of my years of experience and playful exploration through iteration informed this moment, and the design just kept evolving from there. I discovered that the rounded nature of the shapes gave creations an organic feel, and that the base form very intuitively moved from 2d to 3d. The more I played with it, the more I surprised myself, constantly finding new ways to attach the shapes and transfigure them. 


As a creator, I never want to discover the full potential of anything I create. My ultimate goal is to aid and nourish the infinite possibilities that children are able to come up with through approaching a toy in unique and varying ways. My job is to facilitate, not control.

In fact, Clixo isn’t so much a static toy as a family of shapes that work together as a tool for creativity. We are constantly evolving and expanding the vocabulary of shapes, sizes, and accessories, not just based on our own ideas and discoveries, but based on yours. We always love to hear from kids (and kids at heart) about how we can expand the creative universe even further. What would you love to be added to the Clixo shape vocabulary? 



We look forward to hearing from you at hello@myclixo.com.



With love from the Clixo family, 



Assaf

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Overcoming Creative Blocks

Overcoming Creative Blocks

By Clixo Team

April 2020

The importance of creativity in a world of consumption. 



One of my favorite things to do with a fresh set of design students is give them an assignment that’s impossible to google. For example, I’ll tell the group to come up with ten ways to move a cloud from New York to Paris. 



This request is usually followed by crickets, and then a tentative request for clarification. 



“Anything,” I’ll tell them. “Come up with any and all creative solutions to the problem. Nothing is too ambitious or too silly.”

What I love about this assignment is that there is nowhere external for students to turn. They can’t look up an answer. There aren’t even comparable examples they could study. They have to turn inwards. They have to get creative.



This is often an uncomfortable process for my students. They’ve been raised in a culture that rewards those who consume and memorize vast quantities of data or information, but has less respect for the non-linear messiness of creativity. Most leave the classroom in a state of anxiety, afraid that whatever they come up with won’t be good enough.



It makes sense to be afraid of the creative process. It’s a vulnerable activity, with no rubric to follow and no guaranteed route for success. Most importantly, whatever we put out into the world represents our inner lives–that essence that makes us the unique, particular people that we are. That’s a hard thing to lay in the open for others to judge. 

But when my students return the next week with all sorts of wild ideas–birds pulling the clouds, ships with enormous fans–an important boundary has been broken down. They have moved beyond the realm of checking boxes and perfectly executing already-formulated ideas. They are now in the space of play. 



Play liberates precisely because we can’t control it. The thing that’s so scary about letting ourselves enter the world of creativity is also the most powerful aspect of it. We are free to be and do anything. That’s why the most revolutionary ideas and innovations come from this space, but it’s also why we get so fearful of entering it. What if we do or become something we are ashamed of? What if we don’t create anything at all?

As my students share their concepts, a magical thing happens. Laughter and playfulness enters the classroom. Outrageous ideas that a student was initially embarrassed to present are congratulated and built upon. The group grows increasingly excited, the more they come to trust that by openly sharing their ideas–their inner, creative force–they’re doing the most important work of all.

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The Sweet Spot for Creativity

The Sweet Spot for Creativity

By Clixo Team

June 2017

What’s the right amount of constraint?



Have you ever thought about the process of building a puzzle, or putting together a model? You get a bunch of pieces, and the goal is to figure out how to put them back together again. How quickly you achieve this can vary, but there’s only one of two possible outcomes: either you succeed, by making the one intended final product, or you give up. While this process can be challenging and even fun, we at Clixo don’t believe it’s the best method for breeding creativity or innovation.

So is the solution to eliminate constraints entirely? Well, not so fast. 



The truth is that research shows too much freedom is also a creativity killer. Faced with a blank page or a set of non-descript, homogenous objects and told to “do anything,” the chances of sparking inspiration are also low.



It turns out that the sweet spot for creativity lies between these poles. Too much constraint, and we are uninspired. Too little, and we don’t know where to start.



The question becomes: what is the ideal amount of constraint?

This question is one of the fundamental principles integrated into the design of Clixo. Like the art of origami, Clixo is infinitely changeable, but sets of principles guide the way. Designed with a shape and a method of attaching to itself that never runs out of alternatives, Clixo also provides enough structure so that no child is lost at the start. As you discover certain shapes, or sets of shapes, you begin to build a vocabulary of principles that can then be built upon and adapted in new ways.




For example, a child can quickly discover how to make a snake out of Clixo. Once they have that construction internalized, they will then see that possibility when they are trying to make a neck for a giraffe, or legs for a robot. The possibilities are endless, but they are built out of manageable steps.

As parents and adults (but also kids-at-heart), we would do well during these unprecedented times to reflect on how constraints often serve a purpose, or can have a silver lining. As COVID-19 has relegated many of us and our families into our homes, limiting us from playgrounds, playdates, and school, we have been forced to get creative in how we keep our kids engaged. Scrolling through Instagram accounts like Goodnews Movement, one sees slides built out of cardboard boxes, improvised backyard rollercoasters, and whole-family musical productions with lyrics adapted to reflect COVID-19. None of this is to undermine the enormous difficulty and tragedy COVID-19 is, but to offer a gentle reminder that sometimes limits can make us see, engage with, and reimagine things in new ways.



Often, we don’t get to choose what limits us. We take what exists for granted, and utilize it to the best of our ability. What is so wonderful about play, and what children teach us again and again, is how constraints aren’t an end point—they’re a beginning. We can’t play away the laws of gravity or physics, or the materiality or objects, but we can break down our calcified relationship to those boundaries.



Don’t bump up against a constraint and turn back. Hit a constraint and jump off.



With love from the Clixo family,



Assaf

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