AssessBlocks: Exploring Toy Block Play Features for Assessing Stress in Young Children after Natural Disasters

Xiyue Wang , Kazuki Takashima , Tomoaki Adachi , Patrick Finn , Ehud Sharlin , Yoshifumi Kitamura



Natural disasters cause long-lasting mental health problems such as PTSD in children. Following the 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, we witnessed a shift of toy block play behavior in young children who suffered from stress after the disaster. The behavior reflected their emotional responses to the traumatic event. In this paper, we explore the feasibility of using data captured from block-play to assess children's stress after a major natural disaster. We prototyped sets of sensor-embedded toy blocks, AssessBlocks, that automate quantitative play data acquisition. During a three-year period, the blocks were dispatched to fifty-two post-disaster children. Within a free play session, we captured block features, a child's playing behavior, and stress evaluated by several methods. The result from our analysis reveal correlations between block play features and stress measurements and show initial promise of using the effectiveness of using AssessBlocks to assess children's stress after a disaster. We provide detailed insights into the potential as well as the challenges of our approach and unique conditions. From these insights we summarize guidelines for future research in automated play assessment systems that support children's mental health.

Keywords:  Well BeingToy BlocksPTSDTangibles For HealthStress AssessmentPlayChildren


Xiyue Wang, Kazuki Takashima, Tomoaki Adachi, Patrick Finn, Ehud Sharlin, Yoshifumi KitamuraAssessBlocks: Exploring Toy Block Play Features for Assessing Stress in Young Children after Natural DisastersIn Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies (IMWUT '20)ACM, New York, NY, USA  Page: 1-29.  DOI: