An interactive experience that encourages a healthy sleep routine for households with young children.
On-going classroom project at Carnegie Mellon University in collaboration with Philips
3 weeks, Fall 2018 continued as an
independent study in Spring 2019
Research, conceptualization, interaction design
Cinema 4D, Illustrator, Rapid Prototyping
Juliet Pusateri, Karan Gugle, Tithi Jasani
Parents with young kids often have irregular sleeping patterns due to erratic schedules. How might we help them meet their needs around healthy sleep?
Lights Out is an interactive game that aims to make a child's bedtime routine more efficient, thereby enacting a behavior change upon the household as a whole, so that everyone is able to get more sleep.
Presentation of our concept at Philips Healthcare, Pittsburgh
A series of interactive lights that are mounted on a wall inside a child’s bedroom. Each light is associated with a bed-time task of the child. The lights would be turned off one by one by the child as he or she would complete the tasks that form his or her bedtime routine.
Tasks cards are a set of cards that contain everyday activities that children generally undergo as part of their bedtime routines, such as bathing, brushing, story time and getting tucked in. These get inserted inside a slot within each tap light.
These cards contain characters from famous cartoons and movies and prompt the child to perform their bedtime routine by role-playing as their favorite character for that night.
Dream ticket and journal
After completing all the tasks, the parent would ask the child what he or she would like to dream about. The parent draws an object from their conversation on the dream ticket and tucks it under the child’s pillow. The next morning, the parent and the child would have a conversation about the child’s dreams and would save the dream ticket inside the dream journal.
As a way to extend the experience into a daily ritual, these dream tickets get collected and preserved inside a dream journal. The journal acts as a medium for the family to talk about what is on the child’s mind every day, a source to look back on for memories and dreams.
The big question that we started with is, "How might we design an experience that helps parents with young kids meet their needs around healthy sleep?"
Transformational game framework
Transformational games are those games developed with the intention of changing players in a specific way that transfers and persists beyond the game.
This framework gave us a set of exploratory questions that helped us through the process right from problem framing to finding a solution-
Why is it important that your game transforms players?
What is the ecosystem in which your game must create change?
What are the barriers?
How should players be different after playing your game?
What is essential in the game to transform your players?
How will you measure the impact?
To understand our user group, we interviewed nine adults with small children and quickly learned that there was still a huge range and variety within this target audience.
Our interviewees included co-workers, friends, acquaintances of friends, and family members. During the interviews, we learned that families had differing numbers of children, differing numbers of adults in the household (single parent, partners, partners with extended family), variety in morning routines and times, and variety in parent schedules. For parents with young children, there were extreme differences in sleep patterns for households with children ages 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6 -12 months, and so on.
We narrowed our focus to households with one or more children ages 3-5 years old. The reason for this is that by this time, children are generally sleeping through the night in their own bed, but child bedtime routines can still be long for the adults, who also tend to put off their own bedtime routine once the child is asleep.
We looked through online forums to understand common issues that are faced by parents with young children, and common recommendations given by other parents for them.
Participation and observation
In an effort to understand kid’s behaviors first hand, we spent time with families to gain insights through observation.
Lack of 'me' time
People do not get healthy sleep because of the lack of enough ‘me’ time. The only time parents get to themselves is after the kids fall asleep, and they prefer using it for leisure activities and end up delaying their sleeping time.
Parents suffer from fewer hours of regular sleep due to disruption of their daily routines by unexpected incidents caused by the presence of a young child.
Affected by child’s schedules
Kids are difficult to handle at times and resist when asked to go to bed. The process of negotiation every night extends the bedtime routine. If the kids have fixed time for play, food, and sleep and stick to those, the parents’ sleep schedules are not affected by the kids.
Young children end up sleeping with their parents, which causes interruptions in healthy sleep.
Multiple children having different schedules
Having more than one child causes parents to undergo the bedtime routine multiple times, which takes up a large chunk of their evening every day.
We conducted multiple playtest sessions with different versions of our prototype to test and build upon the concept.
Consistent bedtime routines
“It is unnecessary to implement a lengthy bedtime ritual. What is important is that the ritual ends in the bed where the child will spend the night and that there is quality time spent with the child. The bedtime ritual will be efficient if there are consistency and regularity.”
Lights Out provides a format or structure as a template to support adults in achieving a consistent, efficient, and regular bedtime routine. In households with more than one child, each child may have their own Lights Out panel by their beds or may use and share one jointly between the two of them, going through the routine together.
Routine for the parents
“Most parents realize that the most effective way to deal with rules and limits is to provide consistency in family life. But that's much easier said than done! It can be an enormous challenge to establish some regularity when each day seems to bring new demands. Out of necessity, many families have had to become somewhat casual about routines. When children and parents can't count on some structure in everyday life, it's harder to know when to give in and when to stay firm.”
Lights Out supports adults in creating and adhering to their routine, as well as streamlining the routine to be more efficient overall. The routine element of the game also reinforces routines that may exist at other times of day for the child (during school or other transition times). Lights Out also supports use in reverse in the morning for a morning routine.
The child's say
“When possible, offer choices. Children test the limits out of their own need for independence. When they’re allowed to make some of the decisions, they're more likely to go along with the decisions that their parents make.”
Lights Out provides the structured routine (which parents can make adjustments to over time); yet, within that, the child can make choices about the role-play for the routine (which animal or character will we pretend to be?) and makes the final choice of the game about going to bed—what do they want on their Dream Ticket? This balances the fixed routine with a voice for the child.
The experience incorporates elements of “cozy games”, including cozy aesthetics, cozy items, and cozy mechanics. Cozy game aesthetics can be described as contented and nostalgic; in Lights Out, this is evident in the warm, night-light glow of the tap lights. Cozy items such as a cup of milk or teddy bear are options to select within a bedtime routine.
Additionally, the culmination of the gameplay for the child is in the intrinsically rewarding activity of choosing "what you would like to dream about'', receiving a “Dream Ticket” fabricated by your loved one, placing it physically close to your body (under your pillow), and enjoying falling asleep.
During playtest sessions, we received a suggestion to let Dream Tickets become a currency of sorts, allowing the child to save or accrue them to make purchases or win TV time. We were averse to this suggestion because it seemed that it would compromise this particular mechanic, turning it into an extrinsically rewarding activity.
Lights Out achieves simplicity through minimal rules and minimal material elements. Lights Out is compelling through the warm glow of the lights, the element of choice for the child in deciding what they will dream about, and the physical connection for the child in resting their cheek on the object their parent created. The game is fun for the child through the industrious action of turning out the lights to signal accomplishment.
The playful element of selecting a character to pretend during the familiar routine also adds humor and engagement. Also, providing the child with choice in what they would like to dream about ends with a playful and meaningful exchange between adult and child.
Lights Out has an explicit goal of condensing a child’s bedtime routine down to a meaningful but efficient experience that can be completed in 30 minutes or less. A recommendation within the game is that the adult participates in the routine with the child (put on their own night clothes, brush teeth) to demonstrate that all members of the household have a bedtime routine.
A delayed revelation within this structure may be that the adult sees their own bedtime as more appealing to pursue, having already put the routine in motion. This obfuscation, or concealing of a persuasive intention up front, may contribute to its success.
Though extremely simplified, Lights Out follows a linear story. In a game design context, this refers to players starting at one point, “and going straight to the end.” This structure does reinforce the mechanics of a story as well as the mechanics of narrative. For children, following a story sequence from left-to-right is a practice for emergent literacy, meaning that this game supports preschoolers in developmentally appropriate practice for building blocks to reading and writing.
Having the child play different cartoon characters might make him or her energized during their bedtime, which might not be ideal. Keeping that in mind, we would like to explore the ways in which role-playing could be used to make the routine more enjoyable but would also prepare the child for sleeping, both physically and mentally.
To further improve Lights Out, we would like to expand upon it to more directly target adults’ behaviors. Creating a version of the narrative tap light module would enable the adults in the household to clearly and tangibly convey to the child(ren) that truly everyone has and needs their bedtime routine, even adults. It would also allow for the adult(s) to take time to hypothesize and conceptualize their own bedtime routine--perhaps prompting conversation and accountability between partners. This time spent in set-up and inception would translate to more buy-in from the adult in practice.