Design Council's Mollie Courtenay brings together updates from five of the twenty-five teams developing projects to improve children's lives as part of our Knee High Design Challenge.

The Knee High Design Challenge aims to improve the health and wellbeing of children under five in Southwark and Lambeth through great new design solutions.

Phase One of the Challenge requires the 25 teams (selected from 190 applications) to prototype their ideas with local families in the two London boroughs.

We aim to share as much as we can of the momentum and energy that the 25 teams are radiating. Each group is currently working to stretch their thinking, test their ideas and build their teams. Here’s what 5 of the great teams have been up to…

Sara Tilley

Sara Tilley parked a double-decker bus in Brixton Market to learn how they can be made more family-friendly.

“The aim was to understand how traditional bus systems are problematic for families, and invent ways to improve them. Being in the middle of the market, we were able to speak to a variety of different families about the difficulties they face when travelling with their children.

Using a real bus helped families identify the fixtures they would change; they identified these through sticking up post-its. We met some really creative people who had some exciting new ways to really transform the public bus space into an environment that would engage children whilst travelling.

The next steps will be to take the identified issues to develop a suitable service. I have also been busy highlighting these issues and the potential solutions to various stakeholders and potential partners, such as TfL and private transport providers.

There is also now a name! ‘The Leap Frog Bus’ – hopefully coming to the streets of Southwark and Lambeth soon!”

The Play Agency

The Play Agency is looking for new recruits… families in Southwark and Lambeth are being enlisted to explore, invent or play, then share ideas for play with other ‘agents’ to encourage and enable families to play more.

“The Knee High Project research told us that dedicated spaces like parks and soft play offer good opportunities, but getting children ready and travelling, form big barriers. We propose focusing our idea on children aged 3-5 years. At this age their language and social skills are developing rapidly and their curiosity and independence is growing.

We are imagining families capturing anything from big deep puddles, to a game to play in bike racks. We want to help people explore new opportunities for play in their local area. So, we have been interacting with families across the boroughs, encouraging them to play then capture and share what they did through photos, sketching and mapping.

Our project continues to develop, and we’ve discussed sharing play ideas through a newspaper, or a system that uses post boxes as play markers and a post card subscription system. For now follow The Play Agency on Twitter or check out the Flickr set for more research images.”

Lambeth Children’s Services

Lambeth Children’s Services have been working with Volunteer Parent Champions and Early Years and Early Intervention practitioners to explore their idea to distribute boxes full of gifts to parents and children that encourage play and attachment at home.

“We have been running gifting and feedback sessions, then follow up sessions to gain further reactions and comments, after families have had the box at home for a week. A couple of mums we met, said the things inside (and the box itself) were quality and in particular appreciated the branded hand cream.

Our boxes contain a mix of toys, information of local services, gifts for parents, healthy snacks and a book. The box also contained ideas for how the toys could be played with.

We're using a Facebook page to record and share our Knee High Design Challenge journey, please take a look.”

Hannah White and Tracey Gilbert

Hannah White and Tracey Gilbert, two local entrepreneurial mums, are developing a searchable interactive online directory of children’s services that they’re planning to publish as smartphone app called ‘Kids Connect’.

“Our focus in these first weeks is to find ways to really understand what parents and carers want our app to contain and how they would use it.

We had a fantastic morning at Milk Spot, a breastfeeding support group. The new mums were really excited about bringing information together in a very easy to use way; they shared lots of ideas and suggesting how information should be prioritised. We’re really pleased that many of the mums are happy to be part of future user testing groups!

My kids are enjoying the impromptu play dates, as I meet with parents to do some one on one testing. The buzz from the conversations about the Kids Connect App is amazing!”

Blue Elephant Theatre

Blue Elephant Theatre‘s ’Playing Up’ aims to encourage creative educational multi-sensory play for parents and children through music, narration and movement.

“The Design Challenge has enabled us to build relationships with local businesses and spaces. Morrisons have promised to provide food vouchers for all the parents that attend our workshops, and Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre offered a vacant shop to host workshops in (the space was very small and quite dirty – so rubber gloves and a broom is needed!) I also had an interesting discussion about how our project could develop a Time Banking arm that could support safety issues that the Shopping Centre encounters…

We have spent time devising activities that parents are able to replicate at home. So away with the wonderful instruments and out come pots and pans! Our first workshop at an afternoon reception class went very well, children and parents really enjoyed it. We thought it might be a challenge to get parents to stay but with the teachers support, we managed to persuade over half the parents to stay! We had lots of great feedback, and some really useful points for us to think about.

Later that afternoon, and after an hour of simultaneous cleaning and eating, our Shopping Centre workshop was a go. As the children were aged 11-14 months the content was kept informal, allowing the babies to guide what to do and mums making up games around their choices (with advice and support from us, the practitioners).”

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