The Huckleberry Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

by Alex Holland

Ramon Middelkoop (left) and Chris Koens (right)

Dutch Designers Chris Koens and Ramon Middelkoop are no strangers to the world of high-end design. Boasting over 20 years in the design industry and training from the prestigious Design Academy Eindhoven, these men know a good idea when they see it. Chris and Ramon work as independent designers as well as together, creating designs that are original, intelligent and playful. They were kind enough to take the time to discuss their latest passion project with Kikkerland Design: Huckleberry.

“Firefly”- 1996

What is your relationship with Kikkerland Design?
Our relationship with Jan and Kikkerland goes way back to the 90’s when Jan had just started in New York and sold Chris’ first design, the “Firefly”. It was a tea light holder that mounted to the wall. It was the first of many designs we created with Kikkerland. We kept in touch through all these years and have done many projects together since. We feel that Kikkerland’s sense of play and wit make it the perfect company to partner with to launch the Huckleberry line.

What inspired you to create Huckleberry?
Having kids. Being a parent makes you remember what you enjoyed in your own childhood and you want your children to experience those things as well. On top of that, we are designers. If we were musicians we would make music for our kids. We are designers so we design for our kids.  It’s no coincidence that our children are the target age group for Huckleberry. They are our first test group for these items. If someone had asked us to design a line like this before we were parents, it might’ve been completely different.

Chris Koens and his daughters explore nature.

With Huckleberry it sprouted out of our minds organically. We know how important it is for kids to play, make friends, be active and have the sun above their heads. They learn and build social and practical skills through play. But nowadays it’s hard to motivate them to go and play out of the house. So we decided to make simple products to entice kids to play outside. Items that are designed to use in nature. Once outside they will have many reasons to stay and explore. 

Huckleberry “Make Your Own Flower Necklace”

The Huckleberry line focuses on nature. What is your relationship with nature?
We both grew up in the countryside and now live in and near the city with our families. Therefore nature is not an everyday thing for us, but it shaped our childhood and we like to experience it in our free time. During summer holidays we like to go to the mountains, or take long walks along the sea side—even the jungle occasionally. It’s amazing how many memories these outdoor trips create.

“You aim for something, and a good design hits what you aim for.”
Huckleberry Fishing Kit

How has being a Dutch designer influenced your approach with Huckleberry?
Some design is more external; focusing on beauty or aesthetic. Huckleberry is a different thing. It’s not about the product so much as what the collection can do to stimulate and motivate kids to go out and explore. We made the Huckleberry line very simple, because we want kids to have to use their imagination and think creatively. Therefore, the design is not about beauty, but about the experience that the product makes possible. This ‘men before product’ approach is commonly associated with Dutch Design— this idealistic approach of
“What can you do as a designer to make a better world?”


Huckleberry Boat Motor

Do you have a favorite item in the Huckleberry collection?
At the moment we like the boat motor the best. It is the most ‘open’ product in the Huckleberry line. It is totally up to the kids to decide what kind of boat to make and what materials to use. You can carve a piece of wood or repurpose a plastic bottle that otherwise would’ve gone to a landfill. That’s very exciting. Currently we are working on some nice new Huckleberry additions, so I’m sure we’ll have another favorite soon.

What do you hope to accomplish with Huckleberry?
You aim for something, and a good design hits what you aim for. With Huckleberry, our aim is to stimulate. We hope that children learn and grow with Huckleberry. We hope they make something on their own and take pride in that. That’s why we keep the designs fairly “open” in concept; so that kids decide for themselves what they want to do or make. Their imagination and creativity is a necessary element. Huckleberry’s own namesake is the story of a boy who loved having adventures in nature. We hope kids today will rediscover the importance of nature and stumble upon their own adventures when they use Huckleberry. Who knows? They may make lifelong memories. 

Huckleberry Dual Magnifier

A portion of all Huckleberry sales goes to Children and Nature Network, providing equitable nature access and education for children and their families.


A Naturalist’s Letter to Parents

A narrow 50-yard creek running along a muddy road next to our house was a passage for fish and other aquatic animals. It ran between a lake and a long canal. The canal once crisscrossed the entire city and its outskirts. The creek held water throughout the year and, though shallow during the dry season, when it rained, the water fed the creek and it swelled on the abundant nutrients of the land. When the clouds cried, Climbing Perch (koi mach) swam there in great numbers.

As a child, I used to wait the entire year for summer vacations, eager for this period of rain, rainbows and races with fish. I would build small dams to trap fish and use plastic nets to catch them. I would take the fish home to put in my aquarium, only to release them the following day. Activities back in those flamboyant days were purely for fun. But as I grew up, I started to realize how much those moments have shaped me. There is no way to measure the outcomes of my childhood adventures but I had learned to focus on things I liked when I was a child and continue to do so.

As a child, I found freedom in the vast untamed fields, fantasy in homestead forests and privacy by the peaceful ponds. To me, those elements of nature were so enticing that I preferred them to watching television or playing video games. I created my own entertainment that involved physical activities and focus. Today, however…Read More

Original Content by | The New Nature Movement – Columns by Guest Writers

“AN INVISIBLE SEPARATION: A Naturalist’s Letter to Parents” reprinted with permission of the Children & Nature Network, © 2018 Sayam Chowdhury

Photo Credit: Sayam U Chowdhury
This post originally appeared in the Daily Star and has been reposted with the permission of the author.

Children and Nature Network: Lessons from Denmark

The Benefits of Reading, Writing and Arithmetic in the Great Outdoors.

Envision a class where the students are released from their desks and other classroom conventions. Instead, they are set loose into the local natural environment around their schools. These children are free to explore, wonder, inquire, play, move, and use bodily gestures and senses to learn and practice school subjects and curriculum.

These students are practicing Scandinavian udeskole – literally translated as “outdoor school”- and they are benefitting from an approach that gets them active while they are learning.

There has never been a time where outdoor learning is more important. Today, children are increasingly sedentary. A trend which has contributed
to declines in mental health, an alarming escalation in obesity rates and arise in non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes later in life. But our research suggests that…Read More…

Original Content by Mikkel Schneller | Mar 22, 2018 | The New Nature Movement 

“Children and Nature Network: Lessons from Denmark” reprinted with permission of the Children & Nature Network, © 2018 Mikkel Schneller

Children and Nature Network: Idle Hands

For a certain demographic (mainly ages 4-14), 2017 was the Year of the Fidget Spinner. This transfixing spinner mesmerized many a good portion of the year, showing up in classrooms, parks and dinner tables alike. One thing seemed clear: kids were satiated by the sensation of this toy spinning in their hands.

Just as nature seems to be an essential input (a nutrient), movement, too, is essential to humans. As a biomechanist studying human movement and how it relates to health and human development, I work to break down all the ways movement moves us—the elements of movement. Just as a diet includes the need for a range of macro and micronutrients, a movement diet requires all parts of the body be moved in various ways. Without well-distributed movements, parts of us can have a movement-nutrition deficiency. A good example of this is our underused hands… Read More..

Original Content by | Feb 8, 2018 | The New Nature Movement

“Children and Nature Network: Idle Hands” reprinted with permission of the Children & Nature Network, © 2018