The Play Well Lab centers its research on two core areas: play and well-being, and co-design with children. In terms of play and well-being, an important project is ongoing to support Sofia’s Children’s Hospital in improving their patients’ well-being and integrating children’s perspectives into care organizations. Regarding the domain of co-design with children, we develop tools to support the reciprocal value of co-design with children, including ways to support children’s creativity in 3D building and other prototyping skills.
Play and well-being
This is one of the two main research topics addressed by the Play Well Lab. Under this domain, play is considered from a holistic perspective, emphasizing the impact it can have on the well-being of childrenfrom 0 to 12 years old. Our research on children’s well-being, conducted in collaboration with Sofia’s Children’s Hospital and other healthcare projects, extends beyond traditional play topics to explore how children feel, are heard, and can contribute to shaping care that suits their unique needs.
Projects within the topic of play and well-being often touch upon significant ethical questions and their implications in the healthcare system, such as the rights of children to their data and how this information can be communicated to them.
While our projects occasionally separate play and well-being, we strive to connect these areas, recognizing that play inherently contributes to overall well-being, even when not explicitly linked. In hospital contexts, where play may not always be the primary focus, our child-centered approach remains crucial. Therefore, co-design methods are frequently employed to involve children as much as possible in the design process.
Co-design with children
Co-design is a process where innovation is created in a dialogue between end users and (professional) creators. End users are given an active role in the whole design cycle, from defining what problems need to be solved or what opportunities are to be explored, creatively exploring the solution space, deciding which ideas are worth pursuing, detailing and testing ideas, and then releasing the outcomes to society. In the Play Well Lab, the term co-design is used in a wide sense, covering a range of participatory techniques for involving children in the research and design process.
Why should we co-design with children, rather than designing for them?
Recognizing children’s fundamental right to be included, as stated in the United Nations Declaration of Children’s Rights, is in fact a basic moral obligation. At the Play Well Lab, we believe in tapping into the rich creativity that co-designing with children unlocks, ensuring that their voices shape the world that directly impacts their lives.
While we all have experienced being children, our memories are likely blurred or have been reshaped by time. Moreover, the world today is vastly different from the one we grew up in, making our personal experiences less relevant in the context of contemporary design challenges. Communicating directly with children becomes essential to avoid misrepresentation influenced by our biases. In addition to this, children’s ideas and thought processes can serve as a powerful source of inspiration.