Media Centre

Press releases

Pictured is a child unhappy about eating vegetables.

Psychologist helps develop app that aims to tackle fussy eating in children

A Loughborough University academic has helped develop a novel app for children that aims to get them eating more healthily and trying different vegetables.

According to the latest Health Survey for England data, fewer than one in six children aged between five and 15 years (16%), eat the recommended five or more portions of fruit and vegetables each day – a real issue given these types of food are associated with the prevention of chronic illnesses in later life.

In a bid to get children celebrating carrots, buzzing about broccoli and saying please to peas, Dr Emma Haycraft, of the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, and psychologists from Aston and De Montfort universities have created the ‘Vegetable Maths Masters’ app.

The gaming platform, which was developed in conjunction with the British Psychological Society, is designed to expose children between three and seven-years-old to vegetables as they practise core maths skills developed in Key Stage 1.

It draws on findings from focus groups and interviews with parents, children and teachers who discussed their views on integrating strategies to support vegetable intake within an educational platform.

Pictured is the Vegetable Maths Masters homepage.

From practising counting to developing division skills, there are a range of games on the app that combine learning about numbers and interacting with vegetables.

When children complete problems on Vegetable Maths Masters, they are awarded stars and these can be used to buy props to decorate vegetable characters like ‘Sam the Squash’ and ‘Chloe the Carrot’.

Youngsters play as either a child, rabbit or teddy bear and throughout the game they ‘feed’ their avatars vegetables, which they respond to with positive verbal feedback.

Parents are also able to customise the game by selecting the vegetables (from a choice of 10) they want their children to play with.  

When asked how the app encourages youngsters to eat more healthily, Dr Haycraft said: “Many parents report that their children are fussy eaters and vegetables are a commonly refused food. 

“We know from our research that it can take a while for children to learn to like and become familiar with vegetables, and evidence suggests that we can do things away from the dinner table to help children to learn to like vegetables more. 

“Vegetable Maths Masters was developed as a way to help children to become more familiar with vegetables whilst engaging in fun, maths-based games. 

“By increasing children’s familiarity with foods, we know from research evidence that this will make children much more likely to taste and subsequently eat them, so this game is aimed at helping children to eat a healthier diet.”

Pictured is Chloe the Carrot - a character on the Vegetable Maths Masters game.

Dr Haycraft became involved in the Vegetable Maths Masters project, led by Dr Claire Farrow from Aston University, as she has experience in developing digital resources and has expertise in children’s eating behaviours.

Dr Farrow and Dr Haycraft previously worked together on the development of the Child Feeding Guide website and web app, which provide evidence-based, online support for parents and professionals around feeding children and advice on how to deal with fussy eaters. 

Dr Haycraft says feedback from the initial testers of Vegetable Maths Masters has been “very positive” and the next steps are to test it further with larger numbers of children, parents and teachers.

The British Psychological Society has welcomed the successful launch of the app. 

Professor Emerita Carol McGuiness, Chair of the British Psychological Society’s Education and Public Engagement Board, commented: “This fun mobile technology game for young children combines the best psychological evidence on encouraging children’s healthy eating habits with developing their early maths skills. 

“We are delighted to be associated with funding the project and congratulate the design team for their innovative work.”

Vegetable Maths Masters is available for free and can be downloaded on iTunes and Android.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 18/111

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via www.globelynx.com

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2018 QS World University Rankings, top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey and named University of the Year in the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2018.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2019, 7th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2019. It was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

Vegetable Maths Masters

Vegetable Maths Masters has been developed by Dr Claire Farrow, Dr Lilit Hakobyan, Dr Joanna Lumsden and Dr Jason Thomas (Aston University), Dr Emma Haycraft (Loughborough University) and Dr Helen Coulthard (DeMontfort University). To access more information about the project and its contributors go to the Vegetable Maths Masters website: http://vegetablemathsmasters.co.uk/about-vegetable-maths-masters/

Categories

Categories

ResearchHealth and medicineScienceChildrenEducation

Related expert

Dr Emma Haycraft

Resources

Contacts

Megan Cox

Communications Officer

Telephone: 01509 222224