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 five of the great teams have been up to…

Tea Dance for Little People

Tea Dance for Little People are working on an idea that supports families in their homes to bring creative solutions to everyday challenges.

“We’re working with two willing families, who mapped out their daily routines, from these, we began to identify some patterns in family behaviour. Each family was then visited by one of our Tea Ladies who identified key areas where we can try to make a difference.

Our first family identified brushing teeth as a big problem. The youngest daughter in particular sometimes had to be swaddled to get a toothbrush anywhere near her teeth. Our challenge was to establish a creative intervention that could have an impact through imaginative and physical play.

This week Tooth fairies visited Grace and Leila, aged 2 and 4, to gift them special individual hand made toothbrush boxes shaped as teeth, toothbrushes and fairy paste. They also shared a tooth brushing song, and illustrations to go with their Tooth fairy story.

On the Tooth fairies return, 3 days later, both girls were more than happy to show off their brushing and singing skills and mum Anna was really excited by the impact.

We have found that using WhatsApp to capture evidence of the families’ progress (videos, audio and text messages) has been really valuable for us, but also for the parents involved to connect and share and learn about each other’s journey. This feedback from the families will shape how these products are developed and designed for the future.”

The People’s Kitchen

The Stockwell Partnership work with migrant families in Lambeth, for the Knee High project they are working with the Brixton People’s Kitchen to bring isolated people together to cook meals while reducing food waste.

“Our idea is to support local migrant parents to run groups that arrange to collect ‘waste’ food from markets or shops and prepare a meal together in a local Children’s Centre. We believe this project could make a real difference to the lives of migrant families, by strengthening support networks and increasing parents’ engagement with their local services.

We presented this idea to a focus group of parents from the Horn of Africa and were met with lots of enthusiasm! One parent was excited about learning to cook food from different cultures, another mum shared that she was already making new friends through this project, in an area she had just moved to.

We have learnt that flexibility is really important, as this helps the group be open and welcoming. Also, many participants were unaware of services that exist locally. We want to explore how the cookery sessions could help parents to identify opportunities and sources of support in their community.”

The Good Enough Mums Club

The Good Enough Mums Club aims to inspire and empower mothers to create their own informal support networks by attending a performance of our new musical ‘The Good Enough Mums Club’. From peeing on sticks to drooping tits, the show toddles through the highs, lows and sleep deprivation of five women thrown together by motherhood.

“We have used these few weeks to discover how to best reach mums and what follow on care or support they would want.

We performed two readings of the show. The first at Clapham Library to an audience of midwives, mental health professionals and health visitors who support mums within the community. The most amazing accolade came from a midwifery matron who told us she could see how we (the show) could make them less busy!

Using the feedback from the Clapham show we made a few tweaks to the script for an evening performance in a Kennington pub for local mums. After the show, we gathered data through an anonymous questionnaire. Of the women who responded more than 60% had suffered from depression, anxiety, loss of identity, guilt and/or loneliness. Amazingly 70% of the women said that after seeing the show they think or feel differently about their experience as a mother with 65% saying it made them consider how much pressure they put on themselves.

We’re now working to better understand the existing services to plug into for referrals and follow on support. The whole process has been eye opening and affirming and we can’t wait to put it all together in our final report.”

An app for Dads

Best Beginnings want to create a free phone app that supports fathers through pregnancy and early parenthood.

“The idea has been very positively received, in fact we have found that there is an even greater need for supporting fathers during pregnancy and parenthood than for mothers. We believe an app would give dads the privacy they want to explore the new world of parenthood.

Through a dad’s focus group at St Michael’s Fellowship in Lambeth, we found that dads want to be involved in their partners’ pregnancy and to share parenting, but are anxious about becoming a father. They worry about how it will change their relationship with their partner and what their role throughout pregnancy will be. They mentioned they can feel isolated and are treated dismissively by healthcare professionals.

We also found many dads would want an interactive app with an element of gaming. 88% of this age group have smartphones and they keep them with them 24/7. For them an app is a familiar, relevant an accessible medium which they prefer to leaflets, books, internet or even face-to-face communication.

We found health visitors, midwives and social workers in Lambeth and Southwark, believe a more engaged dad can provide valuable support for his partner during a time of emotional and physical stress. Knowledgeable dads can provide reassurance and also look out for the danger signs of not coping or post-natal depression. Dads are more likely to remain in the relationship if included, involved and valued from the start.

We are very excited by the initial feedback on our idea and look forward to working with fathers, midwives, health visitors and social workers and the Knee High Challenge community in the coming months to take this project forward.”

High Street Baby Festival

The High Street Baby Festival is a new high-street engagement initiative for bringing families, local businesses and children’s services together.

“To prototype this idea we set up a mini festival last week in Loughborough Junction. Setting up the session proved a little nerve-racking – perhaps in part because we wanted to look at whether we could quickly harness existing local networks to get people to attend.

As the morning progressed people continued to arrive and soon enough, we had a fully engaged group of mums and kids, and even a Council officer and local community representative in the room.

We found, the present name 'High Street Baby Festival' is missing the mark – it sounds to commercial and does not describe the sharing aim. Also parents would most like festivals on Saturdays, but café and shop owners said they’d prefer this sort of event to happen on their less busy days. It is also important that we gain opinions of local families about what they would like to see at the festival. Not many people would be persuaded to run a session or attend from reading a flyer – we will need to link into existing networks, friends, services to spread the word.”

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