Designing the first range of innovative toddler cutlery

Parents tell us there is something special about doddl. The cutlery itself is obviously special, but that’s all the science, research and testing that went into creating it. The magic really comes from the difference doddl makes to mealtimes with little ones… it creates a certain sparkle..!

“I will never be able to explain how much your cutlery transformed our feeding journey with our son.”

So how did Cat, doddl founder and inventor, go about designing a product that makes it so much easier for children to eat?

How did you start to design doddl?

Having had the idea (you can read my story here) I spent months exploring around the subject to better understand the issue. Once armed with some good knowledge, I then worked alongside child development experts to fully explore the problems that i needed to solve.

  • The long slim handles on standard cutlery forced the continued use of the palmar grip – this is the basic grip a baby has – but makes it very awkward for children to effectively hold and control. Furthermore, long thin handles were not very comfy for a young child to hold.
  • The length was an issue as it relies on good hand eye-coordination, something young children have not yet developed.

What were you trying to achieve?

Having identified what the basic issue was, I then explored the developmental side of cutlery and mealtimes. Both socially and physically they offer young children huge opportunities for development.  There were multiple considerations for me as I started designing.

  1. Think about the ease of use for right now – to make mealtimes easier and more enjoyable for young children
  2. Help prepare children for the transition to adult cutlery, so they could move easily from children’s cutlery straight to adult cutlery when ready.
  3. Consider how best to support a child’s development, including developing their pincer grip and building confidence.

These eventually became my vital ‘tick list’ for the testing.

What did you do next?

I bought tonnes of playdough and made handles of all different varieties and shapes and tested them with as many local children as possible, and as I worked my way through every different iteration you could think of, I continued to build a picture of what children needed, what worked best for them now and what was helping them improve and develop. With the ongoing support of the child development specialist, more extensive testing in nurseries and homes and the careful study of hours of video footage and matrix scoring, eventually we were able to start whittling the designs down.

 

What did you learn about the length of the toddler cutlery?

The research results were clear. The length made a significance difference. The shorter the overall length of the cutlery , the easier it was for a child to get the food from the bowl into their mouths, but there was a clear tipping point where too short became problematic in terms of clearance required (i.e. too short and the kids hands routinely ended up stroking the top of their dinner!)

What about the shape?

It wasn’t so easy with the shape, so this was where I spent the majority of my time.  I made a LOT of different handles. There were many times when I thought I’d done it. For example, one design I created had little a ridge on each of the 4 sides, which created 4 grooves to help with finger placement, I thought I’d nailed it. But when we tested it, it actually wasn’t that comfortable for children to hold and it did not create the natural pincer grip action we were looking for. With this design I also learnt that too chunky (like the picture below) and the handles still sit in the palm – so whilst it was an improvement on standard children’s cutlery, it wasn’t helping children develop the skills they needed to use standard adult cutlery – which they will obviously need for future transition.

 So how did you end up with the final design?

Testing, throwing away, starting again, testing, altering, designing, tweaking, testing, consulting with experts, and testing, testing, testing! Every time I saw a child using one of the designs, I could see something it didn’t offer, or something it did. Eventually I found the perfect shape for the fork and spoon handles and that’s the design we have today. The knife is for another time..! That’s the reason why it took me over 18 months to complete the research, design and testing stage. And it’s why doddl will always be the best on the market – because of the nuances in the design that grew from the time I invested in research. I see other companies in a similar space as us now, which is no surprise, because doddl is a great idea. But it’s obvious that they have skipped the hard graft of primary research, because they don’t really understand the science behind the product and that’s why imitations will never be as good as doddl!

What are you most proud of?

That I had an idea, which I was really passionate about because I thought it could make a difference. I worked incredibly hard to design something that didn’t exist and bring it to market, along with all the blood sweat and tears that went with it, we ended up with a beautifully designed toddler cutlery set that is 5 star rated by parents 😍

 

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