children's smartphones as a tool to explore

The problem

75% of the children in Germany at the age of 9 years own a smartphone. They mostly spend their time consuming videos on streaming platforms and playing games. Typically they spend more than three hours a day doing this, these numbers have grown a lot during the COVID 19 pandemic.

This behaviour has a strong impact on a child‘s development and it often leads to physical and psychological diseases and a damaged child-parent relationship.

Our approach

We worked in a team of three on this project entirely for three months for the Bachelor thesis. We spent a third of our time with research, another third on the concept design and the last third on the realisation of the concept.

To approach the problem we had to break it down into smaller pieces to find a space to develop an effective solution. Instead of locking away entertaining apps or demonizing the smartphone, we decided that we will find a way to use the smartphone as a development furthering tool.

Introducing Walli's World

We created analogue collecting cards and an App. The collecting cards can be purchased in packs of four anywhere where regular collecting cards can be found (e.g. supermarkets, kiosks, etc.). Each of them is different, they can be collected or traded. The children are guided by the squirrel Walli.

The key feature

When scanned by the App, children are encouraged to discover a specific topic in the physical and digital world. This could be an experiment at home, a physical game or the discovery of a complex topic. These experiences are physical but can only be realized with the help of the smartphone.

To make this easier to understand, an example: The course of the sun. Children can scan the card, learn more about the course of the sun and the cardinal points. Afterwards, they‘re instructed by the smartphone to use the compass to find the cardinal points in their room to imitate the course of the sun with the flashlight.

We created a variety of different cards that offer all kinds of experiences. They are categorized by color into four:





The weekly review

To learn something sustainably, it needs to be repeated. So, once a week, children are encouraged to reflect on what they learned so far.

oh, one more thing!

The board game

When the cards are flipped, children can play a board game that is moderated by the smartphone. This encourages social interaction which is, according to experts, the most effective antidote for overconsumption.

The Styleguide

This is an excerpt from our documentation in german with all of our design choices and the reasoning behind them.


Final thoughts

This project offers an alternative to the existing Apps for children that actively encourages physical experiences. It doesn't solve the problem of children‘s overconsumption on smartphones. It combines the tools of the smartphone with development-furthering experiences.

created with the help of Ferdinand Sorg and Joshua Bökle

overlooked by Dr. Prof. Ulrich Barnhöfer and  Ludwig Kannicht

during the 7th semester at the HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd