Digital clothing and dads’ apps among ideas to improve the lives of children

Design Council announces cash grants for 25 radical new ideas to improve the health and wellbeing of youngsters under five years

High-tech digital clothing that encourages play between parents and children, pop-up parks, and a parent-run healthy food take-away service are just three of the innovations awarded funding as part of a drive to improve the health of infants under five.

The Design Council has announced cash grants for 25 radical new ideas that could improve the health and wellbeing of young children.

This sort of collaboration could foster the kind of radical new ideas that will improve the experiences of under-fives. These years are crucial to a child’s development so formulating early interventions is vital

The ideas include apps for dads, park redesigns, wearable technology and musical outreach and will be tested over the coming weeks. Following further rounds of shortlisting, grants of up to £100,000 will be awarded in autumn 2014.

The Design Council launched its Knee High Design Challenge in July 2013 in collaboration with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, which is the sole funder of the programme, and the London Boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth.

The challenge aims to kickstart new products, services or environments that will improve the lives of under-fives in Southwark and Lambeth by combating isolation and stress in families and encouraging play and learning opportunities.

The Design Council’s Call for Ideas went far and wide to ensure a range of applicants. Proposals were received from national charities, design agencies, city farmers, local councils, entrepreneurs, nannies, theatre groups and families. The Design Council shortlisted 25 out of 190 applicants for the challenge and is awarding each of the teams £1,000 for rapid prototyping over the coming weeks.

An example of the interventions includes the Make, Take & Explore Emporium, a project to create new spaces for children to learn through adventure in their own community.

Cook Collective is a parent-run healthy food take-away operated from community and school kitchens. The aim is to provide affordable healthy eating, boost community spirit and offer a new alternative to the local chicken shops.

We are proud that our investment and partnership ensures that great people with great ideas will receive expert support and funding to make a lasting difference to the lives of children and their families, now and into the future

All the teams behind the ideas will receive support from an advisory board of entrepreneurs, designers, psychologists and healthcare professionals convened by the Design Council.

Commenting on the shortlisted teams Mat Hunter, chief design officer at the Design Council, said: “We’re thrilled to have received such a huge and varied response. What’s great is that we will see designers working with families, large charities working with small businesses, and arts organisations working with communities. This sort of collaboration could foster the kind of radical new ideas that will improve the experiences of under-fives. These years are crucial to a child’s development so formulating early interventions is vital.”

Oliver Smith, director of strategy and innovation at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, added: “We are delighted to see such a variety of strong and passionate new approaches for radically improving the health and wellbeing of children under five in Lambeth and Southwark. We are proud that our investment and partnership ensures that great people with great ideas will receive expert support and funding to make a lasting difference to the lives of children and their families, now and into the future.”

The full shortlist is as follows:

  • 1 Make, take & explore emporium: (Explorer HQ, The Geography Collective and City Farmers) - a choose-your-own adventure community centre where young families can relax, learn, and be inspired to explore
  • Apps for dads: (Best Beginnings and St Michael’s Fellowship) - providing information, advice and support throughout pregnancy and the first six months
  • Creative Homes: - a creative play service building families capabilities to use their home for the child’s development
  • Family Time Banking: (Spice Innovations) - using a time banking model to inspire families
  • Co-design bus and service: (Sara Tilley) - redesigning the bus interior and a new service to make it easier for families to access transport services
  • High Street Baby Festival: (Hugh Dames and London Early Years Foundation) - a new high-street engagement initiative to bring families, local businesses and children’s services together
  • Play Box: (Lambeth Council Children’s Services) - a series of gift boxes to engage families in different stages of their child’s development
  • Parent Parties: (Deborah Henderson and Dawn Murphy) – a parent-led networking service for pregnancy and beyond
  • Kids Connect: (Hannah White) - a fully-indexed and interactive online directory of children’s services in Lambeth and Southwark
  • Pop-up parks: (Tom Doust, Intelligent Space) - disrupting urban space and co-creating playful parks to encourage families leave the house
  • The Good Enough Mum’s Musical: (The Good Enough Mum’s Club) - sharing stories of motherhood through musical theatre to inspire, empower and support parents health and wellbeing
  • Fortyfi app: (Sally Walker) - allowing the network around a new parent to pledge their time and support during the first 40 days of a new baby
  • Perinatal parental support: (Southwark Mental Health Team) - transforming the prenatal mental health provision for both parents
  • Nurturing early character: (Save the Children and Character Counts) - creating new tools to help families understand their child’s early character development
  • Pop Out Champions: (The Family and Childcare Trust) - a peer support service helping parents explore the facilities available to them locally
  • Now Moments: (The Mental Health Foundation) - using video interaction guidance to transform early bonding of mother and child
  • Me Time: (Viridian Housing and Innovation Unit) - an online platform that connects families to informal childcare within their housing estate
  • Cook Collective: (Jennie Winhall) - a parent run healthy food take-away
  • Proper dads: (NSPCC) - a better experience of information to support a father’s transition into parenthood
  • Everyday Wonder: (Crown Lane Primary School and Children Centre) - bringing the Children’s Centre to the street
  • Knee High wearables: (Jen Lexmond and Cassie Robinson) - using digital technology in kids’ clothing to encourage play and boost interaction between parent and child
  • Play Agency: (Pan Studio) - making play happen in everyday life
  • Making the invisible visible: (Futurecity) - mapping existing public and private resources for families
  • Playing Up:(Blue Elephant Theatre) - creative educational multi-sensory play for families
  • New Opportunities: (Stockwell Partnership and Brixton People’s Kitchen) - creating opportunities for families who are new to the UK

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