A fun and engaging physical toy that uses animal patterns and colours to tell a story for children 9 months to 2 years. It aims to boost their cognitive and fine motor skills development through physical play.
About the project
This was my final major project for my last semester at university. The aim of the module was to create two deliverables, a prototype and design document. A very open brief allowing me to create something unique to contribute to the design world.
I have always been interested in how a toy can capture the attention of a child engaging them through the form of ‘play’. The toy industry is immense and competitive for all ages but my aim is to focus on the younger generation, specifically babies 9 months to 2 year old toddlers.
Could I create a toy that complements this age range? Tackling this young demographic requires to conduct slightly different user research. I cannot generate user personas on younger children as they are going through brain growth development, therefore cannot assume their user needs. At that point in time, a key theme of ‘engagement’ should be included within the toy.
I researched into brain development in infants and discovered that they go through 10 ‘mental leaps’ between 4 weeks and 75 weeks. I also spoke to a child psychologist where her main research interests is cognitive development of young children’s scientific understanding. She explained to me that from birth within their cognitive development, children are recognising patterns of regularity. For example, if you said to someone “If you happy and you know it”… you know the next part of that rhyme is “clap your hands”. This constant circle outlined as ‘cause and effect’ theory is what children begin to establish.
Further research I conducted was holding a focus group interviewing mummies part of a NCT (National Childbirth Trust) group. They gave me valuable insights for buying toys for their little ones. In summary, any toy with noise and colours will keep a child engaged. We are also in a digital era where we cannot hide from tablet or smartphone technology, so possibly embracing it could fit nicely into that market.
I observed that every child will develop their cognitive development at their own pace. I have a different approach to this project as I am not forced to solve a problem. It would be nice to create a toy that bring the old and new together. Old being traditional wooden toys and new being the smartphone or tablet technology.
My initial concepts varied from putting puzzle pieces together which completes a rhyme to using voice recognition to tell a story. I decided to choose a concept where using patterns and colours of animals tells a story, linking back to cause and effect theory.
Using RFID technology I created a prototype that first asks the child to match the pattern to the animal. The story I had written was to help Zac the Zebra find the watering hole by asking his friends. However, to get to the next part of the story, the child would have to place the correct animal on the platform. This gives an aspect of ‘magic’ to the product, allowing the child to think they are bringing the story to life.
PlonkiiPlay also has longevity within the product. As the child gets older, they can unlock further story editions and expand on their reading capability as they grow older.