Anna Ly and José Lizárraga
For our dream toy, we decided to interview Ruby, a rambunctious 3 year old girl whose father is a Knight Fellow here at Stanford University. Considering that she is of a young age, we thought that it would make the most sense to have her show us her favorite toys rather than us sit with her at a table asking a bunch of questions. So when we went over their house, Ruby eagerly showed us to her room and explained all of her different toys including her purple talking dog, her neat color/shape/animal books, her collection of dolls, random toys that she got from her brothers including an old boat, etc. She was very eager to show us her entire collection of items to the point where she even took us to the bathroom and handed us her mermaid Dora! It was actually this trip to the bathroom that peaked our interest because she demonstrated her use of everyday household items that she turned into toys. For example, she would regularly clean the bathroom door with the squeegee during her bath time.
Figure 1.0 Ruby showing us her squeegee
When asked what she liked best about her bath toys, she said with a smile: "I love just splashing around with water!" Other toys she pointed out in the bathroom included these sponge like objects that would stick to the wall. When we asked her to clarify, she said she used them to help with her ABCs. Although Ruby was enthusiastic throughout the whole tour of her toy collection, we found that she was most demonstrative and excited when showing us her bath toys. When we talked to her parents afterwards, they mentioned that she was not a very picky person and likes a lot of different toys and random objects. We found this as a positive thing since she can probably use the toy we build for many different play experiences.
After we left, we decided to expand on the idea of doing a bath toy and sketch out several ideas.
Figure 2.0 Sketch 1
Figure 3.0 Sketch 2
We explored different ways the bath toy could be placed in the bath tub including toys that stuck on the tiles and toys that hung from different parts of the tub (railing, ceramic ledge, showerhead or the faucet). We decided on doing the bath toy that has movement in it since Ruby likes things that move and splash. The bath toy would (ideally) attach to the faucet spout in the bath tub and allow water to flow through the toy via valves, that we would install, and then out onto these shapes and letters, making them spin. We also put her name on it to help identify it as her personalized toy, and she mentioned earlier that she liked the dog because it says her name.
In order for us to create the toy, we needed to sketch it through illustrator, then in corel to laser cut all the parts. We had several types of parts: the main frame, the valves, and the letters/numbers.
Figure 6.0 The knobs that Ruby can turn to stop the water flow
What surprised us?
For our project, one surprising thing we discovered was how different materials worked together. For example, we had to figure out how to make our toy waterproof and so we decided on using epoxy glue, which turned out to be great to glue non-acrylic to acrylic. We also realized how useful press-fitting was when putting together the rods with the rest of the structure. It took a bit of time to actually figure out how to cut the acrylic to the point where it fit really tightly so very little water escaped through the cracks. Another thing that surprised us was how many pieces it took to create our toy. As we were drawing and building, we kept bringing up different issues like the pieces moving across the rod in ways that we didn’t want to and how to adjust it. Specifically, we had some heart shapes that were a bit top heavy so they wouldn’t rotate properly so we figured out that we could glue several pieces to make the bottom weigh down and we also had to adjust the backing that hung the heart on the rod so that it would sit a bit higher on the heart and thus, wouldn’t flip it upside down. Lastly, from the interview, we were surprised about how our client described her toys and how she used them! She would pick up a random round shape and call it a sour cookie. Her parents also mentioned she liked to pick up dirt and throw it in the air and call it magic! It was fun and surprising to see how children take simple objects and turn them into so much more.
Figure 7.0 Force fitting acrylic pieces
Figure 8.0 Gluing plastic/acrylic together & waterproofing via epoxy glue
What did we learn?
Both of us don’t usually interview such young children about their play habits. Usually we interview the parents or older kids. We decided this would be an interesting challenge and it was! We had to structure our questions to make sure that they were answerable. It was easy to get her to show us around her room and identify things that she did like. When we asked her to explain what she likes in general, it was harder for her to really express it. Most of them time, she would just point out something in front of her and use her surroundings to help her answer the questions. This was a big learning experience for us because we had to be careful what we were asking and also make sure we were asking questions that she would be able to pick up on and respond in such a way that would help us really figure out what we could make. Also, it made us reflect on how Piaget worked with very young children and saw how at different stages, they react and respond in similar ways.
Another thing we learned was testing and iterating the product. We both do interviewing and user testing frequently but each time we learn more and more about how important it is to do it because it really does capture things that we didn’t consider. For example, we wanted to make the toy hanging from the shower head but then Ruby’s mom told us that parents tend not to like their young kids standing in the shower and so having a toy that hangs from the shower head wasn’t preferred. Also, when we showed Ruby the toy, she gave the suggestion of using it outside in the garden and using one of her 2 hoses!
Figure 9.0 Ruby taking it outside to use with the hose
One of the design changes that we decided to carry out based on the child’s feedback/interview is changing the knobs to be larger and easier to turn using a small thumb. The knobs we initially had were a bit tough to turn (e.g. they stuck a little and one would have to put some pressure on them) and she struggled with them a bit. However, when her mom asked her if it was hard to turn them, she said that it was just a LITTLE hard and then proudly pointed out which one she did turn. At first we were about to outfit the valves with bigger knobs but then figured out a way to make them move much more smoothly by using some soap and turning it several times to loosen the plastic. We also decided to switch it from being attached to a faucet to being attached to a bathtub wall. To do this, we got suction cups to put on the back of the toy. We had to make sure that the suction cups would be far enough from the wall so that the pieces could turn normally without hitting the tiles. Since the toy would be attachable to the wall, we had to cut a couple of pieces off from the toy to make sure that it doesn’t sit on a weird angle against the wall.
Figure 10.0 Ruby's toy!
Figure 11.0 Placing acrylic so the toy rests well against the bath wall
Figure 12.0 Suction cups with hangers for the toy
We also decided to purchase a siphon pump to help pump water into the toy from different sources. Since Ruby likes spraying and splashing, we thought this would help enhance that experience!
Figure 13.0 Anna having fun pumping air
If we had more time, we would have explored a whole set of bathroom toys. So other items that can be placed on the wall such as 3d shapes (animals, different colors, etc). We also spoke about having shapes with holes in them and they also would be able to connect to each other so the child could make her own fountain to see how the water can flow differently and can make really neat patterns. She also likes things that squirt/fly/spray, so we thought about possibly adding some items that she could use to make a bigger splash!
Figure 11.0 Dream team for the Dream toy
Watch our video to see how user testing went!