Ashley’s Wonderland: How can toys be designed to encourage healthy childhood development?
Studies indicate that cognitive, social, emotional and physical development during early childhood have a critical impact on later life. Research also suggests that infants and children who have been provided with greater opportunities for stimulating interactions with objects (such as toys) are more likely to develop adequate physical, cognitive, language, and social skills.
This project aims to design a children’s toy that will support cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. The project draws on literature from the field of child psychology to determine key aspects of childhood development. This research highlights that childhood development is an ongoing process that may be fostered through long-term relationships, where objects – such as a favourite toy or stuffed animal – provide the comfort and permanence essential to the child’s mental and emotional wellbeing. In addition to this, it has been shown that playing with pets can provide both the owner and pet with exercise and social interaction, and benefit the owner’s physical and emotional health.
Drawing on this understanding, the research examines current and emerging technology within the existing toy market and domestic environment to develop an innovative product capable of producing long-term engagement throughout the child’s development into adult life. The research engages in design prototyping to develop an educational toy that tests the feasibility of integration into an Internet of Things. The proposed device links to domestic light and sound systems to create a vivid entertainment environment that can also be used as a child monitor with wireless control through mobile apps.
The research finds that by integrating toys into the child’s environment through engagement with an Internet of Things, the toy could ‘grow up’ with the child, adapting its system, functionality and appearance to suit a changing user landscape.