Munchy Bunny: Combine meal through play without getting messy!
Munchy Bunny aims to tackle the problem of young children’s (3-5 years old) unhealthy eating habits and parental awareness on meal choices for their loved ones.
How might we design a tool that could promote healthier eating habit in young kids (3-5 years old) in a playful context without telling them to abstain from the snacks they like?
My goal is to design a tool that could promote healthier eating habit in young children in a playful context without telling them to abstain from the unhealthy food the like. Munchy Bunny is a learning tool that helps children to identify healthy and unhealthy food in order to combine a balanced meal. At the age of 3-5 years old, young children may not aware that the food they prefer can be unhealthy. Little do they know that eating a lot of unhealthy food without having fruit and vegetable for vitamin and fiber would make them sick and cannot play. Children should aware that healthy and fresh food is needed in order to make them feel strong. Being able to identify the healthy food from unhealthy food and make reasonable eating choices is necessary for the children not only because they can eat better but they could also alarm their parents to prepare them healthier meal. Nevertheless, eating only healthy food is not the objective of Munchy Bunny; there is nothing wrong with a little self-indulgent for children. Unhealthy food is okay to have as long as they learn to eat in a small portion and eat healthy food regularly. There is nothing wrong with having a cupcake as long as they also have the equivalent or more portion fruit and vegetable. Munchy Bunny is design for an informal learning context so that it could enhance play and exploration in one of the most playful places on Earth, playground. It is a 24×24 inches interactive game that is big enough for multiple players. It is designed for a child to play by his or herself, with friends, or with parents. Inspired by Hasbro’s Operation game, the surface of Munchy Bunny has four slots for children to put in various kinds of food into the bunny’s body. The toy food represents actual food that the children eat. If the majority of the food is unhealthy, there will be a beep sound. If the majority or half of the food is healthy, the rainbow LED will light up, indicating that children had made the right eating choice. By having parents to facilitate the play, I hope that Munchy Bunny can promote a conversation about healthy and unhealthy food among the family. Additionally it could remind the parents that the food that they pack for their children may be convenience and time-efficient, children need to eat various kind of food to get the nutrition they need.
High level description of the overall game play
Munchy Bunny comes with 14 options of food. All of them are the kinds of food that the American children are familiar with for example, cookie, donut, cheese, muffin, blueberry, orange, apple, and banana. The food that is non-processed, has high vitamin or fiber, and less carbohydrate is classified as healthy while the processed food with high sugar or fat is categorized as unhealthy. The children have to choose 4 food options and put them in 4 slots on the bunny’s body. If the 3 or 4 of the selections are unhealthy and the beep sound is activated, the children have to try again until they could figure out the set of meal that is healthy so that the rainbow LED light turns on. The children can tinker around with different kind of food while getting an instantaneous feedback from the interactive game.
Since the game is designed to be placed at a playground without any written instruction, the design must be intuitive for children. The rectangle slots is exactly the same size as the food options which makes it obvious for the players to understand right away that 4 food must be placed onto the slots. There is a comic bubble saying “Let’s eat healthier!” which provide them clue to select the healthier options. The children may or may not understand the clue but once they place 4 of the food options to the slots, they will receive either a pleasant or annoying feedback right away. An annoying beep sound can indicate disapproval while the rainbow bright LED gives the children an impression of correctness and joy. Getting the rainbow LED light can be the children’s motivation to keep experimenting and exploring the food options. Munchy Bunny is like a puzzle game, the children need to find out which food options out of the 4 are unhealthy and need to get rid of and which of the four is healthy so that they could keep it. They also have to find the food that they think healthy to replace the unhealthy slot and test it with the machine. They could continue playing with Munchy Bunny by putting new kind of food in the slots and learn whether the food they like is healthy or not.
How the children are likely to approach this game is to first choose four kinds of food that they like the most. If all of the selection happened to be unhealthy, they need to sacrifice 1-2 food that they like and replace with other food. This process can sometimes be frustrated for kids because they do not know how many of their selection is unhealthy and how many should they take out. If they put in muffin, cheese, cookie, and hot dog to the slots and choose to get rid of cookie and put in banana instead, the beep sound will still activate. If they decide to take banana out on the next try and put in a bowl of mac and cheese, they will still get the beep sound. If they take muffin, hotdog, and cheese out and put in cookie, apple and orange instead, the LED light will turn on. Incase, the children are curious which of the food options on Munchy Bunny is unhealthy—mac and cheese, cookie, apple, and orange—they could test each food option by creating new food combination.