WITH two kids of her own, Georgia Woods has learned a bit about communicating with children.
Books, signs, orders, and catchy slogans might not mean much to a generation surrounded by electronica and mass media messages.
Put a computer game in front of them, though, and the lights turn on behind their square eyes.
So when Ms Woods needed to create a project of community benefit as part of her nutrition studies at the University of the Sunshine Coast, she looked at what her children were looking at.
With the help of a web design student, she has created a computer game that promotes healthy eating to children.
The game, Nutrition Land, is available to play on the Golden Beach State School website as a trial.
Ms Woods said she hoped that children would absorb a message about healthy eating while having fun, as computer games had a huge influence on children.
“I’ve got two children and I know the impact that it has on them, and also, the idea was to put something out there that was interactive, and different, and isn’t already out there,” she said.
The game cleverly copies some of the popular commercially available games by first requiring a player to create a character for themselves.
The player then goes shopping, and is asked to drag and drop items into a trolley, before paying and taking them home to make a meal, where the idea is to come up with a combination that is healthy and well-balanced.
Ms Woods, who sends her kids to school with cinnamon and honey-flavoured Greek yoghurt, knows that other children do not get to experience the same sort of fresh, healthy foods as hers every day.
She said the food habits formed as children could stay with them for life, so it was important to start getting the healthy foods message across early..
“I think it’s the way people are brought up. Some people just don’t know,” she said.
Although she has deferred her studies for a year, she remains passionate about encouraging children to eat well.
The healthy food game, although complete, is still only at a basic stage, as the student web designer involved with the project has moved away to take up paid work.
Ms Woods hopes to develop the project further if she can obtain a grant or funding.
“My aim is to expand the game with a draft plan I have for ideas like the interactive body benefiting from the chosen foods, such as calcium for teeth and bones, vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetable for the skin and body etc, and an area in the kitchen that children can make simple recipes, as well as a section on tips, such as when choosing food at the grocery store, such as fruits – try to pick what is in season, and Australian grown, tinned foods are also good, but try to choose, ones in fruit juice not syrup. Things like that,” she said.
“If a company can offer their services to expand the game design for the benefit of the children and eventually I want to introduce it into every school across the Coast. Grand plans.”
Ms Woods has been encouraged by the words of her tutor and mentor, Selina Tomasich.
“She’s said don’t give up on it – do this, do that – especially when nobody else has done something like it,” Ms Woods said.
You can find Nutrition Land on the homepage of the Golden Beach State School website: www.goldbeacss.eq.edu.au.
If you would like to support the extension of the healthy food game, email firstname.lastname@example.org.