Research Through Design for Anger Co-Emotion Regulation Learning in Young Children: A Soft Toy Design for Deep Breathing
For young children to develop emotional competence skills, they need their parents' support. However, techniques to support parents are critiqued for being resource-intensive, time-consuming, and lacking a focus on the home environment. This research aims to design playful interactions to help parents to teach neurotypical children ages 2-3 effective anger regulation strategies.
For this study, following a pragmatic paradigm, a human-centred design methodology was selected to understand the needs of parents and their children. A range of qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews, were used to determine how to incorporate play into teaching young children emotion regulation skills. Research through design approach was used to experiment and generate design concepts and to evaluate with focus groups. Parents and experts (including child psychologists and occupational therapists) then tested the prototype through a usability study to validate the anticipated learning through play.
Initial findings indicate that some parents' emotion regulation practises may encourage children to avoid their emotions. The study’s design criteria indicate that playful interaction should adopt a range of techniques, including metaphors, sensory regulation strategies, parent involvement, and physical objects. A scheme to teach young children to identify and manage emotions through playful interactions was therefore designed. This scheme incorporated facial expressions and physiological components, along with age-appropriate metaphors. Five strategies were constructed to help future designers develop playful interactions. The design strategies consider any emotion by looking for ways to express it facially and physically, to include a strategy for regulating the senses, to be broken down into simple steps, and to include sensory inputs that help the child engage in the play.
This study provides a unique and innovative contribution to playful learning, emotion regulation research, and design. It follows recent findings confirming the importance of parent's involvement in their children’s emotion regulation learning. It also identifies key strategies for teaching emotional competence skills. The findings of this study have the potential to inform the design of future educational and playful interactions for emotional competence skills, as well as expand their application in the field of interaction design and children.