The Toddler-Grandparent Conversation

Toddlers repeatedly ask “why?”. Why is the sky blue? Why do cats have tails? In this activity, we participate in an imagined grandparent-toddler conversation by repeatedly asking “why?”.

This activity is a great way to unpack the motivations or the nested context of a design scenario. It demonstrates and exercises the third dimension of inclusive design – Broader Beneficial Impact – by taking us from the local and immediate assumptions out to the larger framing and context.

The Toddler-Grandparent Conversation can be used to question and reflect on our assumptions and get to the fundamental motivations of our design process, and to query the goal or objective of a design process. It provides a way for a group to respectfully and collaboratively reflect on their fundamental vision for a design, allowing time to slow down and explore a more expansive view in a way that a wise grandparent conversing with a grandchild might.


Pairs or groups can roleplay this process by having one person begin with a simple statement about the design goal or motivation. For example: “We need to build cars that can drive themselves”, or “We want to help people find jobs”.

One member of the group then asks “why?”, and another member of the group must answer the question with a statement, framing it in a way that a toddler would be able to understand. For example “Because there will be less car accidents and fewer people getting hurt”, or “Because people need to be able to buy food for themselves and their families and feel that they are doing something useful”.

A member of the group again asks “why?” and so on, until the group feels they have developed a strong sense of the fundamental motivation and larger context of the design scenario. One member of the group can record the answers at each step.