In this project, I designed an adjustable foot support capable of providing children with posture support during mealtimes. Supporting the feet of children as they sit in chairs designed for adults improves their concentration and ability to engage with the mealtime process. This design process was significantly affected by the emergence of Covid-19, so prototyping and user testing was very restricted.
This project was ran by the Glasgow School of Art in my 4th year. The project was set after we, as a course year group, visited the Food: Bigger than the Plate exhibition at the V&A Museum in London. The exhibition explored the relationship that we humans have with food. The project had a very open brief and encouraged us to explore what ever aspect of food that excited us, with the hope it would lead to the development of a product or a service involved with how we interact with food.
Soon after this project was launched was my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary. The celebration brought together many of their oldest friends and family, and interestingly for me, given the context of the project brief I had just ben given, was that food was the centre of the occasion. Conversations between friends that hadn’t seen each other for many years were being held over a shared, communal lunch. Food is an integral part of our culture, and many cultures around the world. This relationship with eating food as a community, whether this is as a family or a flat share, is changing with the rise of technology, and the arrival of the smart phone, the tablet and Netflix. Throughout this project I investigated how the eating experience is changing, with a specific interest in how one might encourage eating as a community or a family despite the many distractions that are now prevalent.
I was introduced to the work of Katherine Birbalsingh, the headmistress of the Michaela Community School in London. Ms Birbalsingh values social mealtimes as a hugely important aspect of the school’s curriculum, and holds ‘family lunches’ that introduce the children to the supposed benefits of social eating. As presented in a study by the University of Montreal, there is a relationship between the quality of mealtime environment and the general well-being of the children years down the line. The outcome of the project focuses on aiding the development of children by improving the quality of their mealtimes.
“Family meals could be potentially featured in an information campaign that targets child mental and physical health, especially given that it remains a modifiable aspect of the home environment.”Marie-Josée Harbec MSc, Linda S. Pagani PhD
During mealtimes, many children (by choice or otherwise) sit on furniture which is not designed for them, resulting in an uncomfortable seating position. By offering children a more agreeable seating position, this helps them keep their attention focused on the task at hand, which in this case is eating their food and involving themselves in the conversation, and resists the likelihood of distractions.
There are many products on the market that supposedly offer children adequate support when sat on chairs, but very few are popular with children as they often come in the form of booster seats or high chairs. I wanted to design something that was able to grow physically, but also psychologically grow with the child.
The solution, as previously mentioned, was a support for children’s feet whilst sat on adult chairs. The support folds away under the chair when not in use, and can adapt to fit on most chair legs.