Sam McGerty Bundle

  • Tauira / Student
    Sam McGerty
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Stephen Reay, Anke Nienhuis, Kei Hoshi, Kate Weatherly

Technology-free and sustainable play. A conundrum in the 21st century.

With technology still new in its inception, the longer-term effects of technology on children are not fully known. While technology is rapidly evolving, we have neither historical hindsight nor the ability to keep up with its changing impact. Whilst technology has undeniable benefits, there is mounting evidence of the negative social impacts of overuse. In young adults and children, technology dependence may have adverse effects including obesity, learning difficulties, anxiety, and depression. Despite this, reliance of technology has only accelerated with children.

Existing alternatives to technology for children are increasingly unsustainable. Most ‘mainstream’ toys are made from plastic and are non-recyclable. Toys are a $90.4 billion industry worldwide and consequently, ‘fast toy fashion’ is a serious concern for our environment.

Studies on educational and open-ended play are conclusive. Simply put, children who engage in a balance between educational and open-ended play grow up to be healthier more social adults. Educational play encourages the achievement of an outcome, whereas open play allows exploration and control of play outcomes, with no boundaries. These offer experiences of creativity, imagination, sharing, negotiation, problem-solving, mindfulness and resilience.

An opportunity was identified to generate technology-free play for children that optimises health and education but is also sustainable in materiality and lifetime. My approach explored and adapted different play systems based on the foundation of human-centred design and sustainability. By creating a genuine connection between people and design, this play ensured that the solution will be cherished, and kept out of the landfill.

Interviews and observations conducted between teachers, younger cousins, family, friends and students identified nostalgia as a consistent theme in driving generational bonds. The Bundle was conceptualised on the premise of connecting with nostalgia and encouraging educational, imaginative, open-ended and free play. Inspired by the play that my family, friends and I loved as children, its purpose is to bring adults and children back to the fundamentals of play and co-creating.

The challenge of ensuring the joinery was intuitive and robust without compromising sustainability, was achieved by involving different users during the experimental phase. The final solutions utilised natural and highly tactile materials. Natural wood dowels and vegetable-dyed leather along with male/female joinery was used to provide familiarity and a cohesive design language. The stitching and keyhole shape are used to improve strength, durability, and flexibility. The materials used result in a natural product with reduced impact on the planet and a timeless and minimal aesthetic, encouraging users to treasure and pass the Bundle on to the next generations.

This project was inspired by my young cousins, who, between the ages of 8-12, have a love for video games, Youtube, Instagram, and TikTok.