5 ways to inspire design with Purple Mash and Mini Mash

Nov. 13, 2018

The Design and Technology Programme of Study is very rich indeed. That’s because, approached imaginatively, it can take in so many other aspects of the curriculum. According to the Programme of Study:

“pupils design and make products that solve real and relevant problems within a variety of contexts, considering their own and others’ needs, wants and values. They acquire a broad range of subject knowledge and draw on disciplines such as mathematics, science, engineering, computing and art.”

That sounds a bit daunting, but fortunately the Programme of Study puts the emphasis on solving everyday problems. In fact, the whole thing can be condensed into just 8 main stages:

● Identify an everyday problem.

● Explore existing products intended to solve the problem.

● Come up with criteria for a solution.

● Do some market research.

● Design a product.

● Make it.

● Find out what others think.

● Go back to the drawing board if necessary.

So what does Purple Mash have to offer in this context?


The first thing the children have to do is come up with ideas for a product that solves a particular problem. Now, the good news is that the “problem” can be really quite simple, such as: how can we make a great festive greeting card? (And by the way, there’s a competition for just that running until 25th November) Obviously, they have to talk to each other, but it’s also good to get ideas down on paper, or at least a screen. This is where they can come up with a few criteria that their ‘solution’ has to meet.

Enter 2Connect (available free), a fantastic mind-mapping tool that, like all 2Simple applications, is surprisingly sophisticated.

Let’s suppose the problem to be solved is how to stop children talking across each other or shouting across the classroom. One way of making people aware of the classroom rules is to have a poster.

Start by launching 2Connect and choosing a template.

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2Connect has semi-filled-in mind maps to get the ball rolling.

In this case, the blank template is probably the most suitable one.

To get started, just click anywhere on the screen and start writing. You can make the box bigger or smaller by dragging the arrow that appears when you click on the box. You can change the colour of the box, change the style of the text, make notes and insert pictures or sounds by clicking on the little pencil which appears.

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The edit mode is where you’ll find several ways to change your mind map’s ‘look and feel’

To join the boxes up, click on a box, and then click on the grey border that appears, and drag the line to another box. You’ll end up with something that looks like this:

2Connect makes it easy to build up a mind map by linking boxes.

The brilliant thing about this tool is that you can get the children working in pairs or small groups to hammer out their ideas, and then make their mind maps available to everyone to work on. Create a special folder before the children start work. Then they just have to click on the wi-fi icon at the top of the screen and then save their work into that folder. Once they’ve done that, any changes they make will be saved automatically.

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The collaborate option may be found by clicking on the standard wi-fi icon.

Before leaving 2Connect, it’s worth pointing out that you can easily use it to design many other things. For example, a science experiment (for which there is ready-made a template), outlining a story (ditto) and a flowchart for a computer program (for which the science experiment could make a good starting point).

Also explore...

Mind-mapping doesn’t suit everyone, and you might think it’s a bit complicated for some children. So another great tool for getting ideas down is one of the writing templates. Type ‘writing’ into the Purple Mash search bar, click on ‘Blank writing templates', then choose the one called ‘Blank List’. Needless to say, you can change the name of the list, and insert some nice clip art to make it look attractive and interesting.

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Use the List template for creating a criteria list for your design.

2Paint and 2Paint a picture

Purple Mash has a number of tools for children to use to create things. Let’s continue with our example of a poster for now. Two applications you’ll want to explore are 2Paint and 2Paint a picture. Obviously, these are both painting programs, but the main difference between them is that 2Paint is very simple, and therefore ideal for younger children.

Start by going to the Home screen, then click on Art. One of the options shown is 2Paint. As you can see, the screen is quite plain, the the first set of tools shown is a collection of felt tip pens.

However, by clicking on the icon showing a spanner and screwdriver, you can obtain an extra set of tools such as shapes and pencils. The children can also see a wide range of colours by clicking on the arrows at the top and bottom of the pens. They can also put some text on the bottom of the picture by clicking on ‘abc’, and they can insert a background picture by clicking on the little picture at the top centre of the screen. To add another dimension, the children can take a photo through the webcam on their device, and use that as the background. So they could have a discussion about what kind of photo might be suitable. For older children, 2Paint a Picture offers a greater variety of options when they start.

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One of the many background templates on offer in 2Paint.

These are all different textures and effects. The great thing about 2Paint a picture in the context of design and technology is that part of the work the children do can be to try out the different effects and evaluate them. As we saw earlier, evaluating is a big part of the D&T curriculum, and is a useful skill in any subject: the children need to think about whether what they’ve created is ‘fit for purpose’ - especially at Key Stage 2.

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2Paint a picture offers more effects, although it’s easy to default to the plain 2Paint screen if necessary.

Also explore…

Paint Projects. These are, in effect, templates for 2Paint, designed to help the children get started, even if they think they can’t draw. You can find quite a few to start with by typing ‘projects’ in the search box. However, there are many more to be found in the context of particular topics. Thus in some sections you’ll find not only an application or two and teacher guidance but Paint Projects specific to that subject. In some cases you may also find some Mashcams, a fun webcam tool that allows children to role-play a variety of characters from history and fiction.

The 5 a day leaflet

You might not think that teaching kids about fruit and veg has much to do with design, but one of the aims of the D & T curriculum is to encourage children to eat healthily. To quote from the Programme of Study’s learning objectives, pupils must:

“understand and apply the principles of nutrition and learn how to cook”.

There are several applications to help them achieve this, and a very nice one is the 5 a day leaflet (available free until the 17th of December). In essence, the children have to design a leaflet giving information about the benefits of ‘5 a day’, with examples. So there is much room for discussion amongst the children about what kind of food to include, and what to say about them. The application is, in fact, a leaflet template.

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Once the children have discussed what needs to go into their leaflet, they can fill in both sides of it using the 5 a day leaflet template.

Also explore…

Just type in ‘nutrition’ in the search box, and you’ll discover a wealth of ideas and activities. One especially fun one is all about healthy eating - for a robot! It starts with a video of a chef, and then the children can discuss what ‘food’ a robot would need in order to survive. The application is called, as you might have guessed, Robot Meals.

On the subject of food, for even more activities and ideas, enter ‘cookery’ into the search box. Finally, type ‘food’ into the search box, and then click on the folder third from the right labelled ‘Food’ (or click here) , and you’ll find information about different kinds of food, cooking with a microwave, cake recipes and much more. There’s more than enough in Purple Mash to help you meet the dietary requirements of the National Curriculum!

2Design and Make

What can be more satisfying than designing your own object, and then seeing it come alive? 2Design and Make allows the children to do just that. Fire up the application, and the first thing you’ll see is a selection of templates to get you started.

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You can find more shapes and structures by clicking the large arrows. I’ve decided to design my own bus! Clicking on the picture of a bus brings up a simple drawing of a bus, and the first thing I can do is use the painting tools to colour it in.

The application is more than just another version of 2Paint though. As you can see from the screenshot, as well as the main screen you also have a ‘net’ view and a 3D view. The net view shows you what the shape will look like when printed onto a piece of card. Why would you do that? In order to fold the card into the shape you’ve designed on the screen.

The 3D screen enables you to see what your shape will look like from all different angles.

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2Design and Make gives you three views of your design.

But you can go much further. For example, I decided to give my bus a more sporty shape, by dragging the grey circles. This is what my new improved bus looks like:

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The new sporty bus.

Any changes you make are reflected instantly in the net and 3D views. This is great because there’s no need to try and guess what the object will look like when put together.

Using 2Design and Make can be used to explore several things. For example, will my new sporty design be stable when made into an object? Will it hold as many passengers? Won’t the wheels stop people getting in and out of the bus? And why would anyone want to ride in a sports bus (as opposed to a sports car) anyway?

You can print the net view by clicking on the print icon. This will generate a pdf file, which you can print onto card. Then you just need a pair of scissors, some tape and time to fold the card into the shape you’ve designed.

Also explore…

If you have a 3D printer in your school, you can make the objects you’ve designed in plastic. To do so, you’ll need to generate an STL file, which you can do by clicking on the STL icon at the top left of the screen.

You’ll find plenty of suggestions and instructions in the two pdf documents provided under the heading ‘Support’. Just type ‘2design’ in the search bar, and they’ll appear on your screen.


We’ve really only scratched the surface of the ways in which Purple Mash can help you and your classes meet the aims of the design and technology curriculum. Use the apps suggested here as a starting point, because there are plenty of others, and a lot of support in the form of guidance and instructions for teachers.

While we’re on the subject of design, don’t forget to enter the Festive card competition! You have until November 25th. Good luck!

If you enjoyed this article, then why not have a look at these others in the ‘5 Ways’ series?

5 Ways to magically embed maths across your school with Purple Mash

5 Ways to inspire writing with Purple Mash.

5 ways to engage your pupils in English and Literacy

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant and writer, having had a long career in Education, including teaching, advising schools and inspecting. He publishes the ICT and Computing in Education website at www.ictineducation.org, and the Digital Education newsletter at www.ictineducation.org/diged. You can follow Terry on Twitter if you wish:@terryfreedman.