Dream Toy

Co-design a tangible learning artifact with a child, develop it through iterative prototypes, and then build a final version you will give to the child as a gift. (It could also be a gift for another child.) The artifact might be:

  • A toy or game: board game, interactive game, puzzle.
  • An object: set of blocks for mathematics, scale to learn about mass, microscope, “spirograph”, stacking game, set of disks to learn about the gyroscopic effect.
  • A medium or toolkit: literacy toolkit (with letters etc.), set of gears, robotics kit, set of dolls & clothing, animation kit.

You will draw on your readings and discussions from class to frame the learning for which the artifact was designed.

  • User research: Learning from users to develop new design ideas
  • Prototyping: Creating low-resolution models to test and develop ideas
  • Integrating theory into design for learning: Designing for learning requires a step beyond traditional product design, in that the desired outcomes are grounded in pedagogical theory.
  • 3D Fabrication Practice using CNC, 3D printing or silicon casting to create some aspect of your dream toy. If 3D fabrication is not relevant to your toy, alternatively build an "accessory" for your Omni Animal (or some other small foray into one of the 3d techniques) with your group.

Part 1: Co-design

Conduct an initial interview with the child (20-60 minutes), in which you develop an idea for his or her dream toy.


Compile your notes to write a report on the interview. This report is max 1000 words and should include:

  • Your interview protocol or any other planning you did for the interview
  • A summary of your interviewnotes (possibly including photos, video clips, etc.).
  • Evidence of the brainstorming process your team used to converge on you initial ideas. particularly valuable insights.
  • A description of your initial idea(s) for the dream toy.
    • What toy/toolkit did you and the kid converge on?
    • What are the learning goals of the toy?;
    • What design decisions did you make about the toy/toolkit, and why?
    • Are you going to incorporate 3D fabrication into your toy or in your omni animal? If so, how?
  • Reflective conclusion:
    • How do your decisions for medium (virtual, physical, etc.), format (game, puzzle, free, tutorial, etc.) and interaction possibilities align with the learning goals?
    • What did you learn from the process about the kid, about the process itself, etc?
    • What will you change when you do user research for your final project?


  • ✓ + Meets all requirements described above. The report shows how specific generative insights led to a clear formulation of the goal. The child was a partner in designing solutions. 3D fabrication uses advanced techniques or represents a particularly thoughtful part of the dream toy or part of an Omni Animal accessory.
  • Meets all requirements described above.
  • ✓ - Does not fully meet the requirements described above, or the report lacks detail or coherence.


  • Coordinate with your group members and then contact the child's parent to set up a time for the first interview. Tell the parent what you plan to do, ask about the child, and invite the parent to be present if desired.
  • Plan for the interview.
    • Review the resources on Lab 3 slides.
    • Develop the interview protocol (what possible tasks, what questions, how to organize the group)
    • Plan how you will document the interview.
  • Conduct the interview.
    • This should last from 20 minutes to one hour. Your whole group should attend. Encourage the child to draw and sketch (collect all the materials, and make sure the pens/paper they use are good for scanning!). When you converge on an idea, ask the child to describe the final idea in a minute or two; document that (ideally video).
    • After the interview, schedule a second interview. This could happen any time, but make sure you have enough time between interviews to build a prototype (see Part 2).


  • You are trying to design a learning object, so you should ask questions about things they like to do in school and out of school, topics they might be curious about, courses in which they struggle, etc.
  • You should not simply ask "what do you want" but try extracting interesting ideas from the child, and later validate your initial design with the feedback of the child. Avoid leading questions.
  • A good interview with useful feedback includes creating a relaxed atmosphere in which the child is comfortable making both positive and negative remarks, and allow time for the child and the interviewers to get familiar with each other, exchange ideas, feedback, and insights.
  • Be concrete, avoid abstract or vague questions: If they talk about objects, ask how they would play with it, whether alone or with friends or family, etc.; Remember that you don't just want validation, but useful feedback. If you get no criticism, you're probably doing something wrong...
  • Words are not the only way to express oneself! Play with the kid, have the kid simulate how it would play with an object, have the kid draw, use play-doh, etc.

Part 2: Prototyping and building the toy

Now that you have an idea, it's time to develop it by building and testing a prototype that the child can test out during your second interview. Your prototype should be as quick and cheap as possible, just enough to represent the functionality of the final product in a way that 1) the kid knows what it does and can simulate the interaction with it; 2) you get valuable feedback so you know what you will have to build. It can consist of cardboard, paper, etc.; do whatever you can to fake functionality for the prototype. Practice 3D modeling! Note that 3D fabrication machines are in limited supply and projects can take a long time to finish, so schedule wisely!

At your second meeting, the child will interact with the prototype, and together you will further iterate the design before building the final toy.


You need to have your finished Dream Toy ready to give to the child in lab on Week 7. You will have three minutes to present the child, the research process, and the final Dream Toy during Week 7.

Additionally, extend the Google Doc you submitted for Part 1 with the following:

  • 2-3 paragraphs (max 200 words) about the take away messages from the user testing. Specifically, talk about how the child interacted with and perceived the prototype, whether it was as expected or not, and if not why; explain whether you have to make changes to your design and/or learning outcomes and if so, why. Put in words what the final dream toy design will be, along with the learning goals you are designing for.
  • Continue documenting your product development. Add new pictures, and try to go beyond captions like "this is an image of prototype II" and shortly comment on why you took that specific picture (in terms of whether it forms a milestone in the development and why, failure and success alike).
  • The final product will be presented to the kid! You will likely not see the product again, so make sure you have it documented well, i.e. photos AND videos!
  • Either: Use one of our 3d fabrication technologies (casting, CNC, 3d printing) in your dream toy, or do a small separate project with your group exploring one of these technologies.


We will assess how your product is aligned with your decisions and observations along the way, i.e. how you justify changes (due to theoretical, material or practical restrictions, etc.), how you implement the ideas (not in terms of "genuity" of idea or quality of product, but in terms of alignment with ideas).

  • ✓ + Meets all requirements described above and develops a substantially new technique. Provide a write-up for the website explaining the technique and how to use it.
  • Meets all requirements described above.
  • ✓ - Does not meet the requirements described above.


  • If you have not yet scheduled your second interview, do so right away. Also make sure the parent knows that we will be giving children the Dream Toys the last half-hour/hour of class on Week 7 (3/4, 5:30-6:30pm).
  • Build a prototype to use in the second interview.
  • After the second interview, make a plan for finishing your dream toy!