UPA Kids was born out of a need, we felt as parents, to find furniture that accompanied our children’s growth. We lived in an apartment, with limited space, and realised that most of the furniture, we had bought for our children, quickly ceased to serve.
It didn’t make sense to constantly change furniture, to fit children’s size. Firstly, because of the impact these changes have on the environment and in the intensive use of natural, increasingly scarce, resources. Secondly, because most of us don’t have space at home to store the pieces that no longer fit. Finally, due to the economic impact these accumulated financial expenses represent for the families.
When our eldest son began to write, we decided to look for a desk and a chair that would accompany his growth. We didn’t find a viable alternative to what we were looking for, and that’s what triggered the design of the first UPA Kids’ products.
The goal of designing furniture that is adaptable to children’s growth is to increase the products’ life span, thereby reducing their economic, social and environmental impact.
According to the current European standard, a piece with fixed dimensions, such as a stool or table for a small child, has a life span of one to two years, this product cycle being valid until the age of 10. From then until the age of 14, the life span of pieces, such as chairs and tables, is slightly higher, going to two or three years. If one seeks to achieve the comfort levels defined in the standard, based on pieces of furniture of fixed dimensions, he would have to purchase five to seven different stools and tables, during the period of development of the child!
UPA Kids’ furniture accompanies children’s growth and therefore avoids the purchase of different pieces of furniture over time, thus reducing costs and waste and contributing to the planet’s sustainability.
In order to ensure a good furniture performance, there are fundamental aspects that must be guaranteed.
Designing furniture that is adaptable to children’s growth, and the physical changes that arise over time, means ensuring that it can be transformed by supporting the child at all ages.
Nowadays, children are less active and spend more time sitting, therefore facing posture problems, which might be reflected in headaches, neck and back pain. In this sense, ergonomics has a fundamental contribution in the creation of children’s furniture, by improving the relationship between the child and the equipment.
On the other hand, the chairs, tables, beds and other furniture present in the child’s daily life, influence their behaviour and attitudes. Physical comfort is key to a healthy development and psychological well-being.
The growth of children happens gradually and information about the physical measures of the human body (anthropometry) is fundamental for the design of ergonomic furniture. In the design of UPA Kids’ pieces we follow the current European standards, which define the appropriate furniture parameters, according to the height of the user.
When the child is sitting on a stool and can not rest his feet on the floor, the blood flow to the lower legs and feet is restricted, causing discomfort and numbness and, in the long run, a greater risk of health complications. On the other hand, if the seat is too low, there is a greater risk of adopting a relaxed position when seated, generating short-term discomfort and lack of concentration. In the long run, back pain and musculoskeletal complications may arise.
In the case of tables, it is essential to ensure that the width and depth of the work surface is sufficient to fit all the necessary papers, books, materials and equipment. On the whole, it is important to ensure that the distance between the seat and the work surface is correct so that the child can rest its arms comfortably on the table top, having enough room for the legs.
In particular in design for children, it is essential to ensure their protection and safety. The little ones like to use furniture as an integral part of playing and so it’s important to give preference to forms that ensure comfort and stability. The option for rounded corners, rather than sharp corners, is a good example of UPA Kids’ design choices, not only for safety reasons, but also to ensure the durability of the equipment.
On the other hand, it is very important that children’s furniture does not have loose parts, or small and easily removable elements that can be accidentally ingested by the younger ones. Another important aspect to take into consideration, is the stability of the parts against tipping.
A proposal for furniture that can “grow” with the little ones and remain in families’ life for a long period of time, must have a robust design, that resists an intensive use with good appearance.
The choice of materials is a fundamental factor, in that it determines not only the quality, but also the possibility to make the pieces adaptable through mechanisms of fit, adjustment, etc.
Quality and strength are acquired using durable materials, such as wood. Plywood enables multifunctional and evolutionary solutions, besides being a sustainable material.
In addition, it is essential to choose non-toxic finishes that could endanger the child’s health. This factor is particularly important with younger children, who can put objects in their mouths.
On the other hand, the easiness to clean and maintain the surfaces are other factors to consider, as children are very active and the small ones tend to play and eat in the same place.
Since adaptive furniture needs human intervention to transform, it is important to choose lightweight materials that facilitate not only transportation but also home assembly.
UPA Kids furniture is made of birch plywood, with high strength and coming from sustainable forests. The finish is in high-pressure laminate (HPL), which gives them extra protection and allows for easy cleaning and maintenance. To protect the tops of the plywood, we use a natural product made from vegetable oils, which contains no toxic elements or odors.
In conclusion, the family environment is an important variable for children to grow healthy and, since furniture assists with various children’s activities, it is crucial to ensure the ergonomics, safety and quality of these pieces.
On the other hand, increasing the products’ life cycle helps to conserve the resources of our planet. Design, coupled with the use of durable materials, can extend the life of children’s furniture, reducing environmental impact and promoting reuse.
This concept of ecodesign, applied to children’s furniture, is what’s behind the development of UPA Kids’ products. We believe that designing furniture thinking in the long run will certainly bring us a more sustainable future and that is our contribute to society.
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