It is common belief that childhood education should place an emphasis on the promotion of academic skills to increase intelligence. All too often, the importance of social and emotional learning are neglected.
One in 8 children experience emotional anxiety disorder. How might we combat emotional distress in children through play?
Preliminary ideation began by drawing from elements familiar to children, mainly animals, creatures with eyes and ears. However we didn't want to over characterize the toy and decided to proceed with a design that was more ambiguous. We then developed a play criteria to pinpoint areas where we could strengthen engagement.
Keep play open-ended, avoid overly specific activities. Allow the child’s imagination to set the tone of play.
Main enjoyment comes from the toy's sensory appeal, illumination, sounds, haptic feedback.
Create a toy that children can personify and build scenarios around.
What distinguishes Tomo is its ability to respond. While it has eyes and ears, Tomo’s physical appearance is left with enough ambiguity for a child to fill in the rest of the story. Tomo will respond to that imagination, through expressions and gestures.
Not Just a Toy
Tomo is programmed to conduct exercises to guide children through their emotional development. These activities are modeled from existing methods of cognitive behavioral therapy.
Building emotional awareness
Learning how to identify, understand and react to different types of feelings is an essential learning process. Tomo introduces this type of learning through simulation. Children are encouraged to ask how Tomo is feeling and provide reassurance if needed. Emotional awareness is practiced through this type of role play and scenario building.
Let children tell the bedtime story for a change.
“Story Time” encourages children to reflect on events throughout their day. Ideally a parent or caretaker accompanies the child through this activity. Tomo doesn’t record the story, it simply creates a platform for children to talk through issues, understand thoughts and feelings.