Getting healthier : creating interactive cooking tools for kids

M. Spermon, M. Bruns

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    Cooking lessons are believed to be the basis for a healthy lifestyle for both children and adults. However, while children learn their eating habits during childhood, most people only learn to cook from the age of sixteen onwards. Therefore, it is suggested that people should learn to cook during childhood. Current cooking classes aim mainly at the cognitive skills, with children learning about food in a traditional setting, i.e. in class and from books. Children are taught that water boils at a hundred degrees Celsius by using numbers and visualizations of thermometers, instead of what boiling water looks like. This way of teaching contrasts very much with the rich sensorial experience that cooking actually is. Therefore, we argue that learning about cooking should be aimed more at exploiting the perceptual-emotional skills. In the current paper we present the design and development of an interactive learning environment that teaches children how to prepare healthy meals. The project was developed by means of a process referred to as research through design, i.e. by iteratively ideating concepts, making prototypes and evaluating them in context. A key element of this project is the facilitation of learning by doing in the interactive learning environment. It is argued that performing an action is a more effective way of learning than learning on a cognitive level. In addition, principles from tangible interaction have been integrated in the design. Tangible interfaces are believed to engage multiple senses, support natural learning and create playfulness. The Supersous Game supports an interactive feedback loop with five different cooking tools; a knife, a peeler, a masher, a scale and a rasp. The game guides the children through the process of cooking by auditory guides and visual explanations. Various prototype iterations have been evaluated on interaction and experience at an after school day care centre with children in the age group of 7 to 11 years. The experiential results, which were obtained by means of semi-structured interviews, suggest that after playing the game the children have a more positive attitude towards cooking. In addition, children have greater confidence in their ability to cook and have a better understanding of how they can eat healthier. Furthermore, all children indicated that they wanted to play the game more often, and some even mentioned that they would like to involve their parents in the process of cooking as well. Moreover, parents were surprised by the cooking skills of their children, as well as of their willingness to try out new self-prepared dishes. Finally, the evaluation of the interaction suggests possible improvements to the environment such as applying inherent feedback and personalization of guidance. The presented project suggests that interactive games may support a healthier lifestyle for children and that interactive learning environments could offer new opportunities for health promotion programs.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 1st International Conference on Designing Food and Designing For Food, ICDFDFF, June 28-29, 2012, London, UK
    EditorsF. Zampollo, C. Smith
    Place of PublicationLondon
    PublisherLondon Metropolitan University
    ISBN (Print)978-1-907675-18-8
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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