This week I was struck by the challenge of designing for children.
The following design is a perfect example of the importance of interacting with
the target population. Without sitting with children during a mealtime and
observing their eating patterns, the issue of children tipping their plates
never would have surfaced.
Unsurprisingly, the designer of the ez-pz Happy Mat is a
mother of 3 boys, thus, has seen her fair share of mealtime mishaps. In
particular, she was frustrated by her toddlers’ insistence on tipping over
their plates and bowls. Even if a toddler doesn’t tip over their food settings
on purpose, their clumsy fingers make it easy for the settings to get knocked
over. Thus, the ez-pz Happy Mat includes the plate with segments into the placemat
The mat is made of a heavy silicone to prevent it from
sliding on the table and it allows it to stick on the surface. Toddlers can’t
tip the plate because it’s built in. There are a number of obvious flaws in the
design. For example, will it work on tables with table clothes? How about folding
tables or picnic benches? What if the child figures out that to release it, you
just have to slide a finger under the edge of the mat? These flaws are a pitfall
of designing solely off of observed or personal experience.