A digital wellness tool for pre-schoolers.
Does a 3-year-old know the rules and boundaries with technology when they are handed an ipad?

The answer is probably no.
Nowadays kids are exposed to digital devices way too early in their lives and parents are inexperienced with dealing with this situation.

design challenge
How can we help young children establish healthy tech habits?

It is already a struggle for adults to maintain a healthy relationship with technologies, let alone the younger and more vulnerable brains. Therefore, we decide to explore the design possibilities that can protect the digital wellbeing of the little ones.

TEam of 3

Cathy Peng
Anya Liu
Tracy Yu


User research
Project management
UI and 3D modeling

2 weeks

We broke down the challenge into 3 parts to research on:

How can we help young children1 establish3 healthy tech habits2

Know who we are designing for
Define what is healthy tech habit for them
Learn how we can best foster these habits

What age group should we target?

# Second hand research      
# Expert interview

We will focused on  3-5 yrs because:

Preschoolers has less interaction with the outside world thus more likely to spend time on devices.

3 years old is usually the time when tech is first introduced.

3-5 is a key stage for kids to develop cognitive skills and actively interact with their surroundings.

What mental and physical capabilities does a 3-5 year-old possess?

# Second hand research      


3-5 year-olds have basic comprehension and counting skills, can follow three part commands, sort shapes and colors. They cannot read analog clocksbut are starting to build a sense of time. They can read and memorize parts of the stories


Has developed greater gross motor skills and fine motor skills. They can kick balls, hold crayons, throw overhand and stacking 8 or more blocks.

What does healthy tech habit mean for 3-5 years olds?

# Second hand research      

Screen time is what we want to focus on

There could be many aspects to healthy online habits, including data safety, anti-cyber-bully, etc. But for 3-5 year-olds, who are less likely to make intentional online choices, we decide to focus on regulating their screen time. It is also what the parents are most concerned with in our interview.

A max screen time of 1 hour is recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for 3-5 yrs.

# User interview

“My boy wouldn’t put the iPad down when it’s time for dinner.”

To better analyze existing problems and identify design opportunities, we interviewed 4 parents of 3-5 year olds and mapped out a typical scenarioof the tech habits that troubles caregivers.

Key take-aways

Unsupervised tech-time is of greatest concern for parents

Parents are most concerned when devices are given to kids when they are not present.

Kids have poor sense of time and needs external reminders

3-5 Kids don’t understand  time very well and don’t have the count-down mechanism.

Immediate cut-off without any transition time leads to tantrum

Suddenly taking an enjoyable thing away is hard for kids and leads to outburst.

What are some strategies to help kids foster a good habit?

# Expert interview via phone     

Reinforcement of the same concept will help kids to learn.

Dr. Morris
Cognitive scientist | Ph.D. in psychology

Point, prize, music  or other game aspects are all sorts of rewarding aspect for children. Kids start to identify emotion at 3 yrs;  at 4 yrs they may start to have  imaginary friends , some have entity and some is created by the kid.

Dr. Van Reet
Associate professor in Psychology

2 weeks
We summarized our research findings into 4 design guidelines.
How about we use physical play as a transition between digital and real world?

During our brain storm session, one eye-catching idea is to introduce a physical game before and after each time kids interact with the digital device as a nice warm-up and cool-down ritual.

we used storyboard to roughly illustrate the idea
further development
Introduce characters and reward system to keep the little ones engaged

Each time before they want to interact with the tablet, a  character has to be successfully built to unlock the device. Once time is up, dissembling and putting back the toy in time will unlock new characters and storyline that motivates them to clean up and cool down.

A digital wellness tool for pre-schoolers.

     Step 1     

Caregiver sets a limited play time

Each time the kid wants to play, add a play time, set a time limit and their tablet will automatically initiate the program. Their total daily screen time is shown on the home screen.

     Step 2     

Build to unlock!

Once caregiver initiates the program, a random character will appear on the tablet that children has to build up to unlock the device. Clear step-by step-visual and audio Instructions will be given.

     Step 3     

Enjoy the screen time
with a buddy by their side

During their play-time, buddy will visually show how much time has passed at certain points for kids to learn about time. It will also pop up as a reminder a few minutes before screen time is up.

     Step 4     

Clean up and cool down

When screen time is up, Buddy is tired and need to rest. Children are encouraged to take apart the building blocks and put them back to recharge. Their buddy will wake up again for the next round of play time!

     Step 5     

Reward upon completion

Once everything is properly put away, new character will be unlocked randomly. Meanwhile, a new chapter of a storyline will be unlocked that care-givers can read to children as bedtime stories and enjoy extra off-line time with their kid.


Digital wellness is a concept I've always wanted to explore. Through talking to parents and scientists in the realm we found that there is very little research and guidelines available around this topic with kids. Observing toddlers interacting with devices usually put me into deep thoughts: Do we have full control of technology or is it more like they've invaded our lives? What kind of relationships are we envisioning human to have with technology in the future? Even though it's just a quick conceptual exploration, this project has shown me a rabbit hole that I would like to slide down as a human-centered designer.

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