Early moments matter and need parents' special attention. Evidence indicates that children that are given good nutrition, adequate care and especially stimulation in a timely manner, will develop fully both intellectually, physically and emotionally.
ALO is a system based on co-creation and engagement with families. It explores how can we build healthier and more sustainable futures by stimulating individuals at early stages and promoting social caring actions that transform the collective mindset. ALO reduces inequalities and offers learning opportunities for all kids. Finding commonalities globally and honoring diversity locally.
Inspiration and Method
Every child has the right to play, learn and develop, and we "creators" have the chance to create opportunities for all kids no matter their context. This objective as a designer is inspired by my own childhood. Where, despite the limitations of the context, my parents made big efforts to help me thrive by educating me at really early stages. That is far from reality for many other kids. The world context is complex, and the contrast of social situations huge.
To come up with an adaptive solution for those "universes", I embarked on an intense journey to Spain and Colombia. To embrace the contrast by respecting and honoring diversity. We co-created and co- ideated hand to hand with the experts: teachers, families, and kids!In these workshops, we ideated a systemic solution around:
How to generate awareness – Empower families – Stimulate by playing.
ALO is a strategic design proposal that aims for social impact. It is composed by:
1. Online open portal - To inform the masses, using social media, public healthcare system and schools. It is an info-hub for all. There, families can find content (posts/videos/schools/...) about ECD, how to get started with ALO Toys and sharing results with other families and get feedback. It consists of a website to redirect parents into the information they need at any stage and other social media platforms.
2. Weekly DIY challenges - Engaging family activities subscription to educate from home. Low-cost materials will be sent weekly to your post. Simple upgrades to build together and expand the fun of ALO toys.
3. Stimulating Toys - Stimulating the development of children. These tangible interactive toys represent the 3 steps of exploration: Observe - Seek - Capture memories. Each of them focuses on 2 of the 6 sensorial and function areas coming from the developmental profiles from Glenn Doman. Through light, sound, movement, and touch, these toys cover: Visual and manual competence - Mobility and Audition - Tactile and Language. These three objects as a trigger for imagination and creativity. Being smart enough to evolve it will have technology hidden to create some touches of magic. With these tangible interactions that simplify intelligence.
ALO Stimulates children's development and empowers parents with the tools and guidance to enjoy together these important moments. No matter the location, no matter the context, every child has the right to develop and thrive opportunities for a better future.
ALO CoverAlejandro Mandrion
ALO ToysAlejandro Mandrion
ALO OverviewAlejandro Mandrion
ALO ObserveAlejandro Mandrion
ALO ObserveAlejandro Mandrion
ALO SeekAlejandro Mandrion
ALO SeekAlejandro Mandrion
ALO CaptureAlejandro Mandrion
ALO CaptureAlejandro Mandrion
ALO ChallengesAlejandro Mandrion
ALO PosterAlejandro Mandrion
ALO SystemAlejandro Mandrion
EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT
What is the most important thing a baby or child has? Their brains! And yet we are not caring for children's brains as much as we care for their bodies, especially when talking about early childhood, when what we do – or miss – has an impact on children's futures and the futures of their economies and their societies.
For the individual, Early Learning is crucial because it is the time they develop both physical and sensorial, building their brain connections and giving them opportunities to improve attention span, memory, curiosity, and nervous system development preventing learning difficulties in future stages.
Building brains not only helps the individual but also helps to build healthy societies. Reduced inequalities, access to education and more are the impacts that action in ECD would have in the long run. (SDG agenda from the UN)
ALO is the result of this project. It is a strategic design proposal consisting of products and services that aims for social innovation/ impact through motivating and empowering the individual change that leads to caring actions that will transform the context.
During the process, it was challenging to work without a sponsor but gave much more freedom. Meaning that I didn't have to respond to a set agenda or 3rd party interests but only driven to make the best for people. For this kind of projects, having the support and resources is key, interacting with as many people as possible is crucial to come up with a non-colonizing solution that adapts to kids all around the world.
That was the motivation for my project. Personally, I had a family that, despite their possibilities were limited, they made big efforts to educate me at an early stage and provide me with what any parents would want for their child: a good future, freedom, and independence in mind.
I got all the opportunities possible, and never felt inferior. Unfortunately, this commitment my parents made is something extremely singular in my world and in modern times' families. That is the main driver why I personally wanted to finish my studies by closing the cycle my parents started, giving something in return. Bringing those values to as many people as possible. Making a difference through design. So…
It all started with my own awareness by attending courses in Early Stimulation in Barcelona. In the school where I started my life journey. There I could see the profile of families and teachers that are currently into this topic and started to wonder:
A. How to increase parent's participation in the education/ development of their kids at early stages? (Especially in vulnerable situations)
B. How can we help babies to reach the development goals? Helping to build their brains from the start.
C. How to avoid "negative stimulus" due to the misuse of technology? Good ways of interaction.
To answer those questions, I started deeper research with an HCD (human-centered design) approach focused on the background and successful cases around the world proposed by official institutions around the globe like UNICEF. Then more than 30x1h interviews (in 4 continents) to users and experts around the topics of neurology, education, family, social context…
From that I got the key formula:
POTENTIAL CONTEXT – STIMULATION = DEVELOPMENT
- Early Childhood Development is the period on your child's life from conception to 8yo- Then 6yo and 8yo. And it needs Parents' special attention... Even more from 0-3 that is when they are home and many do not attend daycare or kinder.
- ECD is a special and crucial period during which the brain develops fastest (+1000 synapses/second) and it is most responsive to changes. Being then build the 80% brain and with it, the foundation for our life as adults...
- Contextual influences such as nutrition, nurturing, love&care and stimulation, have a major impact in the developing brain at this stage. Helping them fully develop both intellectually and physically. A lack of those can result in problems with complex learnings at later stages.
- Affective is effective. Building a connection with the baby and showing love is key for good communication. By this, you can understand his/her needs and help to their development like no one else.
To get there, the conclusions were that it is needed stimulation in a timely manner, touch upon all three - motor, senses, and emotions and having affection as a way of effective engagement.
**Check full report for more UNICEF and SDG reports.
CHALLENGES TO SOLVE
Knowing about the importance of ECD and how crucial is to give the child opportunities and guide them, raises the question: Why isn't every family fulfilling those needs?
After asking many experts and families with different backgrounds around the world, and getting all the opinions... The answer was clear:
a. Lack of awareness: "We do not know about this!"
b. Lack of time: "We do not have the time!"
c. Lack of materials: "We have no access tools/schools like those!"
Issues that in some countries like Sweden are not that obvious but that strongly affect families mid-low working class worldwide. Making also visible that there were some connections between different contexts.
A systemic solution for early child development that will impact kids, families, and schools from the kid to the society was needed. For such a topic, it would not make sense to implement a product solution nor a basic service. From that conclusion, I set the new 3 questions that were the pillars for the ideation and co-creation phase.
1. INFORM PARENTS of the importance of Stimulation in ECD. - Platform
2. ENGAGE PARENTS to actively participate in ECD routines. - Services
3. STIMULATE BABIES' developmental profiles through play. – Products
The problem was common but the ways of solving the problem were different depending on context and situation according to the interviews. Then I understood that the differentiation point for families is not money but other criteria such as time, awareness and tools…
With the need of finding commonalities and also deal with that diversity I wanted to include/integrate the community in the design process: Co-creating and Co-Designing
I went to Sweden, Spain, and Colombia to engage with the community, to generate relationships with the society, to find these common solutions together and to honor the differences. * See video and project website for TRIP and IDEATION videos
The trip consisted of 21 days of traveling to 5 locations in 3 different countries. During the journey I was able to:
- Visit 8 schools, both private, public and rural.
- Present Keynotes about ECD
- Run workshops with more than +100 children from 2-5yo, +60 teachers, +12 designers, and 7 families. Workshops with "How might we..." sessions and hands-on work with sketching, LEGO blocks, and PlayDoh.
As you will see, it was a trip full of activities and life takeaways. But most important for the project... really cool and original ideas! In this wide variety of ideation cocreation workshops I got many different kinds of information:
Sketches (family touchpoints, kids' interests, games, toys...); Service ideas (info channels, journey maps, engaging activities, stimulating activities...); Product Concepts (Physical educating materials to stimulate children with tangible interactions).
I took all that information and made it into 5 big different concept directions. Trying to cover all the spectrum of concepts that all participants came up with. Considering at the same time, both service and products.
After validating with users and design experts, I went into the development of the final concept idea. User testing with parents, kids and babies... mockups, prototypes and from sketching to CAD and building semi-functional prototypes and final models. Along with the development phase I explored:
Shape (Rounded corners, primary shapes that represent: direction = tube; movement = ball; cube = stability.)
CMF (soft colors and textures. Let the imagination start without defining it too much. Toys should be stimulating but not overwhelming with too many colors... they are the canvas for creativity!)
Technology (Tangible interactions and NFC technology for updating and upgrading all three toys with cheap accessories. Moving parts with simple motors, teardowns or products for benchmarking...)
Family impression (unified image and design language for all products. Subtle colors for main areas, accent colors in interactive buttons and white interactive parts)
The ALO system focuses on, on one side, the attention to the development of a child. Having an eye on each of the six sensory and functional competences. On the other, the interaction with the parents in the family environment. Having a weekly challenge to keep the excitement alive during time, building and playing. ALO is a system aimed to help mid-class families with kids 0-3yo who want to aid their child fully develop intellectually and physically while playing. Consists of stimulating toys and a set of weekly challenges with more activities for ECD and empowering parents to educate their child exploring and creating together.