KIDS + FOOD
In response to our growing disconnect with food and nutrition in North America I developed my grad project to address the issue by engaging kids with food at an early age.
“cooking and gardening are great ways to get kids to reorient their relationships to food in a positive way. Kids will eat things that they’ll pick in the garden that they’ll never eat off the plate. Or they’ll eat things that they’ve cooked themselves. Because I think a big issue for them is control. Food is really, I think, a primary political phenomenon. It is the first time you can control what you take into your body, and the first time you can say no to your parents and assert your identity. So I think food and politics are very intertwined (Michael Pollan).”
Children with food allergies, preferences, or developmental issues, are in a vulnerable position that is enhanced by the fact that they are often unable to partake with an active role in their own nutrition. Children with allergies need to know what they can and can’t eat by the age of three. Barriers to understanding and communicating this information include level of education or comprehension about nutrition and cooking, kitchens and utensils being designed for adults use only, safety concerns around cooking and preparation, and their parents’ level of understanding and education around nutrition.
The design opportunity of KIDS + FOOD is to facilitate kids involvement in their own nutrition through a product or system that removes barriers. By involving children in their nutrition at an early age, they will have more capacity to be responsible for themselves when they enter school. This includes developing methodologies, products, and systems that change perception about healthy foods relating to dietary needs (allergies, preferences etc.) so that they are seen as a positive, doable aspect of nutrition that celebrates variety in diets.
The visual elements informing the project include images of children engaging with food, empowerment through knowledge, layout as visual interface, a nostalgic approach to food presentation, and the play between synthetic and natural materials.
KIDS + FOOD is a project that intends to foster healthy childhood development through a strong connection to food.
Encouraging children to develop ownership and responsibility of their nutrition at a young age.
The KIDS + FOOD project is directed at children between the ages of 2 and 8 years old, with an emphasis on collaborative
relationship with their families.
- develop ritual (repeated action) around mealtimes
- create a focal point where the child’s experience with food takes place
- design an object that is engaging to children, while maintaining room for imagination
- support a families exploration of nutrition
Emotive Design Criteria
The KIDS + FOOD project is a platform to involve kids with food. The tray becomes their food hub. Using the tray helps the child to develop a sense of control over the food that enters their body. Use is collaborative between child and parent and encourages cooperation and negotiation between generations.
Experiential Design Criteria
The tray can be used for meals, snacks, and shared experiences. Children are encouraged to experiment and play with their food to further their understanding of nutrition, food combinations, and balanced eating.
Functional Design Criteria
The tray must hold an appropriate portion of food for children from 2-8, must be easy to hold and carry, cups must be secure when in the tray, easily cleaned, durable, and functional for multiple years of childhood.
Co-creation + User Testing
I worked with two families to develop the project, the children involved ranged from 2-8 years old.
They tested out different methods of carrying the tray, and different handle styles. The centered symmetrical handle was easiest to hold, and to comprehend.
The holes act as a puzzle and help to develop motor skills and understanding of perception.
The tray can be used as one child's meal planning platform, allowing them to make decisions around the food they consume. It can also act as an intergenerational interaction object as the family shares snacks and discusses the food, combinations, and amounts. And it can be a shared tool for siblings and friends to eat from and play with.
The properties of the plastic and the wood compliment each other conceptually, physically, and aesthetically. The wood grounds the product by reminding us that products come from the earth, just like food. The silicone represents our contemporary association with food containers, and removes any safety barriers for children, as well as allows for a flexible connection between tray and cup.
The flexibility of the silicone creates a more playful user experience. The bowls can be popped in and out of the tray, and secure in place for meal and snack-times. The bent-wood tray grounds the product reminding the user that food comes from nature. It also provides a durable surface that will age with patina, and allows for easy cleaning.
The evolution of the tray included maquettes in cardboard and styrene, and models in laminated plywood, with tests on thickness, hole size and placement, and depth of the tray.
The cups went through a variety of iterations using modelling clay, vacuum forming, and casting silicones. The balance needed is a cup that is dense enough to hold its form and contents, while flexible enough to pop in and out of the tray, while being food safe.