PRODUCT / TOOLKIT / EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL
Mat is a toy that let's kids bridge the gap between the supermarket and where their food comes from.
Play is messy, spontaneous and usually undirected. Mat lets kids learn through play about where their food comes from whether that is from the farm, ocean, or garden. This project looks specifically at fish, but it's intended to become a series to illustrate all types of food!
This project was completed for an sustainability course during my time at OCADu. Project was completed in 1.5 months.
1 Problem Space
With food purchased from grocery stores and delivery services, children are less exposed to the realities of food production and the value of a food product. When conducting interviews with young parents, the topic of food and its origins was a growing concern. These were parents who lived in a city and purchase their food from grocery stores like Loblaws or No Frills. They expressed a desire to teach sustainable eating habits, but they didn't necessarily have the time or resources to do so.
The toy is meant for children between the ages of 2-4 years old. This is due to a variety of factors, like the cognitive, social, and physical milestones they reach during this age. They also continue to actively engage with their parents for a portion of their play routine. Children at this age are still discovering the world, but cataloging and recording everything they see, touch, or hear. Most importantly, they are beginning to see patterns, make connections between past and present experiences, and building new schemas.
2 Project Framing
Simplify complex food chains into a visual, tactile toy
Distill the type and extent of narrative thats communicated
Involve cognitive and motor learning while developing food schemas.
Research began with preliminary conversations with parents who live in the city and their children's relationship with food.
The goal was to make the toy incorporate elements that would seem engaging and relatable to a child between 2-4 years old.
The general concept went through multiple iterations, tested with children and developed based on what seemed to be the most successful in testing.
Every prototype went through a play session to identify elements that were redundant then revised. The toy was then branded and packaged.
An educational toy which communicates narrative in more than one method
Logical plan for expansion for series
Engages demographic with optional for parental involvement
Mat, meaning food in Icelandic, is an interactive toy for toddlers. The toy teaches sustainable food practices through an interactive toy based around the narrative of the life cycle of a food item. The toy has two components, a printed fabric ‘mat’ which folds into an accordion-style book and corresponding wooden objects of the main topic of the narrative. The toy is intended to be able to communicate the life cycle of any food item a child might consume; a carrot, an apple or a fish.
The toy aims to inform kids on the life cycle of a food item through the use of an illustrated fabric book, corresponding stackable pieces and play. The toy relies on storytelling to create an experience that kids can find further points of relation to.
A repeated, vertical stripe pattern allows for a child to be directed in matching the fishes when stacked on top of one another. The print is engraved into the wooden pieces and provide a tactile quality for the child. Various elements were included in the fabric mat to increase connectivity with the child through repetitive and familiar components.
The toy is part of a series where each toy would involve a specific food type, from fruits, grains, meat to dairy. A pattern would emerge where every food had a story the child could relate to when eating it and spark conversation around the dinner table.
Mat emphasizes the narrative but it also helps motor functions. The physical wood pieces are 1/2 think wood allowing a solid base to stack the pieces on top of one another. While the stripe pattern acts as a guiding element for how to stack the pieces, they understand organically how to interact with the pieces.
MAT is meant to be informative, fun, and invite different types of play. The toy was tested with a handful of toddlers ranging from ages 2-5. Overall, the kids knew inherently how to engage with the toy, and organically asked their parents to participate in imaginative play with the pieces. As each parent was provided with an explanatory card outlining each step of the lifestyle, they were able to incorporate this information throughout their play scenarios.