Lucy Grunfeld Saskia Jamieson Shape Shifter

  • Tauira / Students
    Saskia Jamieson, Lucy Grunfeld
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Rodney Adank, Emma Fox
  • School
    Massey University College of Creative Arts
Judge's comments:

The judges really enjoyed the engaging and playful construction system as well as the commitment to incorporate recycled materials into the manufacturing processes. The judges praised the way the design was easy for kids to handle and obviously ticked the fun to play requirement of any toy. A well thought through and test projected.


Shape Shifter is a children's building toy made of sustainable materials with interlocking pieces to inspire creativity and develop fine motor skills.

Shape Shifter was designed as part of a 12-week brief provided by Wellington-based Wishbone Design Studios to redesign a retro or classic children's toy following their ideological and ecological approaches. Their design principles are focused on transformability, modularity and giving back to the users.

Following this brief, Shape Shifter took inspiration from the classic shape sorter, beginning its life operating similarly to this shape sorter, helping the child differentiate between shapes and colours. Shape Shifter will then grow to become more of a building toy as the child gains motor skills. The modular design of the connectors and panels encourages open play, so children are inspired to use their imagination to build anything, from castles to rockets to vehicles.

In America, the average number of new toys a child receives in a year is 70 ( Unfortunately, over 90% of these toys are plastic-based and are outgrown and discarded within eight months of use (

Blocks, vehicles and alternative building toys are among the top 10 toys a child needs for rich, creative play ( Shape Shifter is a single toy that falls into these three categories. It offers multiple purposes that allow it to transform throughout the child's life, contributing to cognitive development throughout the changing stages of a child's early life.

Shape Shifter consists of four different coloured panels with geometric shapes to fit into them, five different types of interlocking connectors, and a wheel component that can be inserted into the connector pieces to encourage more complex building and explorative play.

These panels have been waterjet cut from offcuts of acoustic panels made from recycled plastic bottles to create a soft, durable, child-friendly touch value.

Usability for children is ensured through the larger connecting pieces with protruding edges, which help children remove the connectors during building while they develop their dexterity. For mass production, these would be injection moulded using a recycled polymer, to build a narrative of sustainable values for both parent and child.

Shape Shifter consists of two separate components; the panels and connectors, which can be used to build creatively when joined together. All pieces included in Shape Shifter are made out of one single material, without any adhesive, to allow these elements to be recycled for reuse independently at the end of their life. Shape Shifter is a sustainable toy which follows circular design principles.