Designing Tabletop Environments for Preschool Children's Fantasy Play

  • Evi Mansor

Student thesis: Phd


Fantasy play is when children explore and travel through time and space, to interpret experiences into stories and to act them out. Children love this kind of play and it is really important for developing skills which will be used later in life. Today, computers are increasingly present in children's lives, and the development of technology over recent decades has changed the way children play. This thesis explores the possibility of young children (aged 3-4) enacting their fantasy play in a virtual environment. Three different games were designed and implemented on a Mitsubishi DiamondTouch (DT) multi-touch interactive tabletop. Three evaluation studies were conducted and the performance of the children's fantasy play was examined. In each study, children were recruited from a local preschool class.The first study was designed to compare fantasy play in physical and virtual settings. Children from the preschool class in a state primary school were invited to play with both a real tree house and its virtual implementation on a Mitsubishi DiamondTouch (DT) multi-touch interactive tabletop. Overall, the children played quietly and alone. The results evinced several problems in the interaction with the tabletop as children struggled to drag the objects displayed on the table surface. Therefore, the study did not provide conclusive evidence of a distinction in fantasy in physical and virtual environments.The second study was concentrated on testing solutions for the interaction difficulties evinced in the first study. A new application named The Magic House was developed and implemented on a Mitsubishi DT multi-touch interactive tabletop and tested twice with the preschool children. The results showed that most of the interaction problems from Study 1 were eliminated; evidence of more fantasy play was captured, and children played more confidently in the second evaluation session.The third study was designed to investigate and to compare children's fantasy play in physical and virtual settings. A new physical setting and the virtual implementation on the Mitsubishi DT multi-touch interactive tabletop of materials named The Farm were designed and examined with a group of preschool children. The results revealed that high occurrence of fantasy play was observed in the virtual setting and several similarities and dissimilarities between the two settings was also highlighted. Overall, this thesis produced knowledge on how the application on the multi-touch interactive tabletop environment was designed and evaluated with preschool children.The thesis results demonstrate that appropriate interaction design of virtual environments could stimulate preschool children's fantasy play and the tabletop can be operated by children as young as three. This thesis also specified requirements for designing and facilitating tabletop environments for preschool children's fantasy play.
Date of Award31 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorOscar De Bruijn (Supervisor) & Antonella De Angeli (Supervisor)


  • interactive tabletop
  • preschool children
  • fantasy play

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