Design Thinking For Youths: Teaching Kids Real-World Problem Solving

By Ben Chong

Much of today’s education is founded on ‘rote learning’ where classes are more focused on memorising content instead of understanding the why. Rather than engaging the material, schools put more value on finishing textbooks and written exams. This has left children and teens with a huge lack of experience required to be creative and solve real-world problems. So in an increasingly complex world, how do we ensure they have what it takes to innovate and succeed?

On July 25 to 26, Positive X ran its very first inaugural Design Thinking For Youths workshop as part of our Young Makers programme. The workshop is designed to equip kids and teenagers with real-world problem solving skills by understanding user needs. We did this in 4 simple steps:

Learn With Real Challenges
From the get-go, we posed a real-life Design Challenge to get our participants out of the typical classroom experience. By presenting the clear challenge of ‘How Might We Make Publika Mall More Fun?’, we avoided the ‘rote learning’ mindset and instead focused on actively solving a real-life problem. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Coaches also encouraged participants to move around, and explore the mall in order to understand their users. This provided Young Makers with a new surge of independence and creative thinking in the workshop. Children and teens started expressing opinions and ideas more confidently when they realised their contributions would affect a real project.

Approach Users In Real Life
Understanding your users is key to solving real-life problems. In the Empathise step of our workshop, young participants learned to interview real users at Publika. By doing so, children and teens learned how to explore the feelings and needs of users.
Later on, we found out our Young Makers never thought of understanding challenges from the source. They reported the activity gave them more confidence to speak with users in the future to solve problems.

Understand Problems Deeply
Problems can be vague and complex even to the most seasoned of innovators. During the Define step of our workshop, Young Makers learned how to drill down the information collected from users to find a universal need.
Our coaches chose to use only hands-on activities to help the Young Makers categorise all their observations. With lots of sticky notes and paper, children and teens found it much easier to sort information on a physical space. Eventually, this let them identify which users and needs they would aim to help.

Execute Ideas Rapidly
Here’s comes the fun part! In Ideate, Young Makers were responsible for coming up with as many ideas as possible in an hour. Children and teens were given unrestricted freedom to be as creative as possible with their solutions. To facilitate this, our coaches provided simple thought exercises to encourage their ideation.
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For example, Young Makers were asked to ‘Think like a superhero‘, and imagine all the things they could do with unlimited strength, smarts, and wealth. This helped encouraging them to create more unconventional ideas, and resulted in two amazing prototypes by the end of our workshop.

Positive X is a people development firm that equips talents with design, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking and skills. Our Young Makers programmes aim to transform kids with Design Thinking and cutting edge education into powerful innovators. You can know more about us at

This article was written by Ben Chong, our resident Design Thinking enthusiast and creative.

Edited by Ben Chong.

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