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The Belly Bag


Helping kids understand food digestion is a difficult task. 

The Belly Bag strives to illustrate to children ages 4-7 what goes on inside them the moment they take a bite of food. Interacting with these giant stuffed "guts" provides opportunity for open and engaging learning amongst kids and their peers.


Product Designer


Paolo Cardini, Cas Holman


October-December 2018


The inspiration

The Belly Bag was designed for a four week assignment from my Design for Play class at RISD. The goal was to design an object/toy/game that would facilitate playful learning about anatomy.

As a kid, I remember being so perplexed by the fact that our bodies are able to hold so many different bones, tissues and muscles. How is it possible that a 5 foot long tube of intestines can fit inside of us along with all these other vital organs? With this project, I wanted to find a new and exciting way to teach children about their intestines and help them better visualize how it all works.

Brainstorming & prototyping

What better way to help kids visualize the digestive tract than by recreating them at a giant scale in the form of stuffed pillows? I felt it was important to make a rough prototype close to full scale so that I could test it with kids as soon as possible and see how they interacted with it.


User testing

After testing the initial prototype with Petra (age 10) and my classmates, I realized how important it was to make this a self-initiated play experience for kids. I wanted it to be fun and approachable so that they don’t feel like they’re stuck in school—to them, it should feel like a fun toy!


I decided to enclose the giant intestines in a bean bag so that kids would feel compelled to interact with it. The bean bag itself would be a mysterious monster with a giant zipper mouth. When the zipper opens, the intestines are revealed!


I worked on some text transfer explorations before moving onto the final prototype form. I wanted to fill the play experience with as much factual learning as possible. These informational text panels would be interspersed throughout the intestines. By giving this giant soft toy a more explicit narrative, I was hoping to encourage communal engagement amongst kids and their peers.


In order to better contextualize the experience for kids, I wanted to reveal exactly what happens to our food during each phase of the digestive tract journey. The text panels in combination with a window revealing the state of the food would help to give context.


The final project

All stuffed within a fluffy monster cushion, the Belly Bag opens up to a small piece of watermelon. Follow the watermelon on its journey through your body!

Along the way, you will encounter the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and finally the rectum.

Windows to the insides of these parts will reveal the current state of what was once your watermelon. Read along as you follow the tubes to best understand what's going on inside you.


Grab a few friends and dissect these guts together!


These photos are from the final user testing I did for the Belly Bag prototype. This was one of my most memorable projects from my time at RISD. It played a huge role in developing my curiosity for self-initiated learning and play. After this project, I had a whole new approach to designing for play and education.

User testing

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