Why did we create Splash The Starfish AR Edutainment?

In November 2019, APPA (Australian Primary Principal Association) worked with one of Australia’s leading child behaviour experts, Michael Hawton, to develop a survey exploring the reported high levels of childhood anxiety being observed in primary schools.

In 2021, data shows children anxiety spike in COVID crisis. One in four children were experiencing higher than average levels of anxiety symptoms.

"3/4 anxiety in children is learned.

Most often than not, children don't know what they're feeling, but name them by the words they often hear e.g. "I'm anxious". They would experience a cluster of feelings at a time without understanding what they are feeling, therefore unable to go 'back-to-calm'." - Michael Hawton, MAPS

On the brightside, courses and resources are now available for parents and primary school teachers to help kids manage anxiety by using 'name it to tame it' approach and creative practitioners had collaborated with psychologists to create helpful tools in forms of story books and interactive cards to help kids manage anxiety, e.g. 'Hey Warrior' book by Karen Young and 'The Bears' card.

Although it is inspired by real-life child anxiety challenges Australia is facing today and the creator's passion in encouraging the next generation to dream big and life their life to the fullest potential in this era of comparison-driven society so they can have confidence in themselves to make a difference in the world today regardless of big or small, seen or unseen, Splash The Starfish is NOT a tool to solve these problems, rather, it is a tool designed for children entertainment and educational experience to improve cognitive behaviour while create a space for parents, carers and or daycare teachers to interact with the children using the storybook in one-on-one and group settings.

Based on 'The 6 Stages of Play' by Pathways, in early years, children are gain experiences and learn by playing. As seen on the table, children naturally has to undergo a journey of play to discover their own body function, environments, build their social interactions then play with others.

Splash The Starfish interaction is staged based on the 6 Stages of Play so children can interact with the same book with different experiences throghout their different stages of play. Thus, for parents or day care fascilities, investing in Splash The Starfish is a wise decision educationally; kids learn new things by repetition and having the same book to interact throughout their childhood span and not just a one-year-thing means it's more likely for them to unconsciously absorb the moral values and educational elements of the story, and financially; this means parents or carers may not have to buy as much storybooks, toys and or games.

Therefore, the general target audience of Splash the Starfish is for children of 2-12 years old, parents from middle class economy background, pre-school, primary school and daycare, with specific features for different age groups as follows...

Age 0-2: Waterproof play-mat

Age 2+: Sing-along storybook, musical interactive e-book, 3D starfish toy collections

  • Children of 2-5 years old: sing-along with parents at home or in a group setting at a preschool or daycare.

  • 3D starfish toy collections of different starfish characters, can be used to play. with waterproof play-mat to splash the starfish 'back to the sea'.

  • Children of 4-5 years old: watch and sing-along on TV, flip the e-book on an ipad with musical cue and animated content.

  • Later stage development, production of kids TV program/cartoon series.

Age 4+: Augmented Reality edutainment

  • Children to play and learn with special interactive elements tailored to each page of the book, including the 'Splash the Starfish' game and 3D aquarium with underwater mode.

Age 4+: Augmented Virtuality

  • Children to play and learn with special interactive elements tailored to each page of the book, including the 'Splash the Starfish' game and 3D aquarium with underwater mode.

Most children just like anyone really, would experience more than one feeling in a given situation, this is called feeling clusters. However, during their development stages, most children are not yet able to identify what feelings they are having and got mixed up with 'naming them wrong' thus not helping them to manage their feelings and may end up building anxiety. One of the most effective approach to reduce anxiety is to 'name it to tame it' and in order to do so, we need to introduce and teach children what they may be feeling at the right time.

Embedding moral values into AR playbook:

  • Disabled, but lovable main character: Splash (the main starfish character) had lost one of his legs due to severe thunderstorm, but he is the most joyful starfish character in the storybook despite of his condition. He is the one who inspires other starfishes to see the bright side of life within their shared circumstances.

  • Compassion: Zac (the boy) saw the standed starfishes and have compassion for them, his compassion drives him to action, trying his best to save them by splashing the starfishes back to the sea.

  • What you do matter: While Zac is trying his best to save as much starfish as possible, Zac's grandpa comes by the shore and advised him to stop what he is doing because it is just pointless as there is too many to save. But, instead of stopping, Zac realises the value of what he is doing and why he is doing it and inspires his grandpa to help him splash the satfish.

An interview with child behaviour specialist & psychologist, Michael Hawton:

MH Q1 V2.mp4