More on buggies
March 2, 2009
Not the kind that require whips this time; baby buggies in this case.
New York Times brought to my attention the work of psychologist M. Suzanne Zeedyk of the University of Dundee, Scotland. Her recent study looked at two different types of baby stroller, those that face backwards toward the mother and those that face forward toward the environment:
What difference does it make, right?
Which type of stroller a baby is in may influence their language development.
Dr. Zeedyk writes:
[W]e gave 20 mothers and infants aged 9 to 24 months a chance to try out both stroller types, and recorded their conversations. Mothers talked to their children twice as much during the 15-minute toward-facing journey, and they also laughed more. The babies laughed more, too.
Of course, infants do not spend all their time in strollers, but anecdotal evidence suggests that babies can easily spend a couple of hours a day in them. And research tells us that children’s vocabulary development is governed almost entirely by the daily conversations parents have with them. When a stroller pusher can’t easily see the things that attract a baby’s attention, valuable opportunities for interaction can be missed.
Important to note that they didn’t correlate any of this to actual language development, but they did measure differences in how adults pushing certain types of strollers interact with the babies. And there is considerably less joint attention and interaction when the stroller is designed such that the adult and baby cannot see one another’s faces.
Lessons learned: When we make design decisions about items for babies and children, we need to think about how the children are experiencing the use of these items. (Also, note to parents everywhere: Don’t feel guilty about your stroller choice. Your kid turned out just fine.)
Questions raised: Wheelchairs also face away from the pusher. If we have a child (or adult for that matter) who is at an early, presymbolic stage of language learning, is time spent in the wheelchair (which often lasts years after their peers are language users and amulatory) potential language learning time that is lost due to lack of joint attention?
What would a design look like that would facilitate joint attention with a caregiver that is also functional for transportation? (Time to break out my sketchbook.)