How we design for children

PushCart

Everyone understands that automobile design is a complex process with teams working for years to perfect each part. However I often get raised eyebrows when I tell people that it took three people two months to design our Pushcart. After all, it’s got four wheels and a handle. A week to design they would guess. Why two months?

Early years catalogues are full of little pink prams, plastic wheelbarrows, baby walkers and wagons. Each serves a specific function and not much else. Our challenge was to create one piece of equipment that would serve children from one-year-olds taking their first steps to rambunctious three-year-olds moving a pile of blocks from the construction corner to the role play area.

I will only touch on one aspect of the design.The Pushcart does not have swivelling castors at the front to make it easy to steer like a shopping cart. That might work for a two- or three-year-old, but when a one-year-old wants to use the Pushcart she crawls over and pulls herself up on the sides of the cart. Then her hands ‘walk’ up the handle. If there were castors on the front, the Pushcart would swivel sideways and the child would end up face-down on the floor. On the other hand, an older child needs to steer the cart. The team used anthropometric charts and observed children to figure out the balance of height and weight so that an older child could press down on the handle to steer it while the beginning walker would not tip it. The final Pushcart design looks simple, but there's much more to it than meets the eye.

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