Zoë Perez is a pretty typical two-year-old girl. Like many two-year-old girls, she loves fairies and princesses, but she's just as likely to cross the pink aisle to fight a dragon or plunder some booty with pirates. A talented singer, dancer, and chatterbox, Zoë is also a triple threat.
But one thing Zoë isn't great at—yet—is the alphabet. So to help her along, her father Tommy Perez decided to teach her ABCs with the aid of her favorite treats: apple sauce, frosting, hummus, kale, pretzels, and more.
The project is called A to Zoë. In it, Perez has used his considerable graphic design chops to fashion every letter of the alphabet out of a food that Zoë knows or likes. In A to Zoë, a platter of nachos hides the letter N in negative space; the letter D is traced out in a line of Dots. In many of the photographs, posted to Perez's Instagram account, you can see Zoë's pudgy little hand entering the frame to score a snack.
Kids have been learning their ABCs through food associations long before Cookie Monster taught us all the important lesson that a cookie sort of looks like a "C" when you take a bite out of it. But Perez wanted to do more than teach his daughter his ABCs: a freelance designer from California who only recently became a stay-at-home dad, he wanted something that would help bring him closer to his daughter through typography and design.
"Zoë has always had an interest in helping or contributing to whatever I was working on," Perez tells Co.Design. "Whether it be building something or sketching, Zoë always wanted to be doing the same. So when I shifted to freelancing from home, I wanted to make sure she had something fun and creative that was just her own."
Outside of letting her spend time with her dad, there's another obvious perk: when it's done, Zoë gets to eat the finished product. But although Zoë, like many little girls, has a sweet tooth, Perez says her favorites are actually the letters made up of healthier snacks: eggs, hummus, macaroni, olives, and sunflower seeds.
"Let's be honest, she loves the candy too," laughs Perez. "But it's all in moderation. We believe in a balance of healthy food and sweets."
With the letters U through Z outstanding, the A to Zoë series isn't quite complete. But already, it has helped Zoë with concepts like letter and word association, Perez says. To him, the more tangible result of A to Zoë has been in helping her develop a series of creative skills that will help her in life going forward.
"It's helped teach her how to follow directions, to see a project all the way through, and enjoy the benefits of completing a task," Perez says. "She's also learned a lot of patience doing these—holding your hand still over a sea of quinoa while your Dad takes a picture of you is a lot for a two-year-old!"
In that sense, maybe the value of the A to Zoë project isn't as frivolous as it first appears. Most of us learn our ABCs eventually, but too few of us learn to be creative, to follow things through, and learn about the importance of good typography and design.
So Zoë Perez has a big leg up over most two-year-olds. She's not just a singer, a dancer, a princess, a dragon-slayer, and a friend-to-fairies. She's now a typographer and designer as well.