Advancing childcare product development
Fashion and price have always been the major driving force when it comes to purchasing children's products. However, parents are increasingly interested in comfort, health and usability as well as the features, characteristics and science information related to these products. Children's needs differ significantly from those of adults and they evolve as the child develops. Apart from the physical parameters, when designing children's products one should also bear in mind comfort and motor aspects as well as the cognitive impact these products have on children. The key objective of the EU-funded DESIGN4CHILDREN initiative was to advance the field of children's products through the development of knowledge-based tools. The consortium consisted of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the scope was to offer children's products companies innovative knowledge about ergonomics and comfort. For this purpose, a set of three tools was designed to implement this knowledge in the product development and market launch processes. Considerable research and development effort was put into understanding the biomechanical, ergonomic and physiological interactions between children's products and their users. Through focus group conversations and children-relevant blogs, published studies and anthropometric databases as well as experimentation with users, the consortium collected all the necessary knowledge to develop a design-support application. This knowledge was used to define a set of fitting and usability criteria to enable manufacturers to incorporate all necessary features as well as introduce enhanced functionalities to children's products. Additionally, a virtual tester was constructed for evaluating the performance of a particular product design without being manufactured. This system is destined for designers of childcare products and could benefit manufacturers by reducing production costs. Finally, the consortium generated a web-based interactive purchase adviser accessible via the internet. The scope of this platform was to help both customers and retailers to select the products that better match the children's needs. With a number of press releases and participation in innovation-related events, the DESIGN4CHILDREN project disseminated its electronic design platform. Apart from the nearly 1 000 participating SMEs, this virtual design system is expected to benefit the entire European sector of SMEs that are associated with manufacturing and selling children's products. Last but not least, this novel tool boasts the ability to improve the quality, comfort and usability of childcare products in Europe.
Childcare products, design platform, ergonomics, comfort, children's needs, manufacturing