Meeting with my Advisor: PT
I brought my current 3D prints to show PT in order to look at them with her. Instead of looking at them from the perspective of a designer, it really helped to hear from a physical therapist how she thought the forms might be able to help children with abnormal muscle tone.
In the case of adding a slightly curved area in which the child might be able to sit on, PT suggested that I focus on creating a curve that will subtly add leg support when the child is sitting. By creating a downward slope in the angle of the sitting curve, it increases the amount of flexion in the hip, reducing the potential for the child to slide out of the chair. This is a safety concern since they sometimes lack the control required to hold their body upright on their own. The quick diagram below might make it easier to understand the difference between the two positions:
However, once the child is able to sit in that on their own, they will not necessarily need that section of the design anymore because they will be able to move. This seating position restricts other movements so if it used in the final design, adjustments will be required. The downward angled slope in the seat base might not need to be as drastic nor would the seating curve need to come up very high off the ground. A lower seating area would allow the child to keep their feet touching the floor underneath. This design aspect will need to be used for other activities as well since limiting parts of the form to such a specific function might make using the design at home harder for both the parent and child.
PT told me that babies usually curl up their legs instead of stretching them outright. In order to allow them to sit with their legs upward, the sitting curve must be wide enough to give them the knee room required to do so. If a physical therapist is working with the child in a home environment, the parent might remove a seat cushion from their couch, sit the child in the corner, and put a cushion in front of them between their legs in order to add something to support them from falling forward.
This last bit of information gave me the idea to create a sitting curve wide enough for the child to sit on with their legs comfortably positioned outward. There would be a structure in the middle sticking upright for the child to use to lean on for added support, such as this diagram indicates:
After explaining this new idea to PT, she gave me some incredibly useful advice in which she started off by saying that “at the end of the day, parents should be the toy of the child.” By not adding support pieces, it leaves more room for the parent to help the child. The parent is able to come in and give both mental and physical support to their child during play as opposed to the design doing all of the work itself. It enhances their interaction instead of assuming that the child is able to use the toy on their own. As time passes and the child becomes more independent, the parent being there is no longer a ‘need’ as much as a ‘want’. The parent is able to use the design with their child, thus increasing their quality time together. In the words of PT, “the time you give to your child gives back way beyond your imagination as they get older.”
Less design is more design. Essentially, leaving more room for the parent to help the child allows for an overall greater parent/child interaction during playtime.