Bye Bye Meltdown: Mobile mental health application prototype for young children

Tools Used

Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Microsoft PowerPoint, pen & paper

 Roles & Tasks

Wireframing, visual design, branding, interaction design, usability testing scenarios


Over a weekend, I joined a group of a psychiatry resident, programmers and designers at Hacking Health for Kids @ SickKids 2014. The aim was to rapidly develop digital prototypes to address pediatric healthcare issues. We created a mobile app to helping children manage their emotions, adapting an existing child psychology method with beakers.

With our proactive prevention concept, we won the Pivot Award for Best Design at the end of the weekend. The following includes work that extended past the weekend when we worked with Pivot. 


Our application was aimed at children under 10 who are currently attending therapy with a mental health clinician and practicing emotional regulation. The app would supplement the therapy sessions to help the children achieve self-regulation. An environmental scan revealed that most apps for recording a child’s moods were intended for parents. Based on the patient experiences our team’s clinician, this highlighted the need for mobile applications that put emotion management and tracking in the hands of children. We spoke to adults and children at the event about meltdowns and how they managed them. We sought feedback from a team member's child about their tantrums and current coping strategies, such as drawing or listening to music. Every child handles stress differently, and we wanted to enable them to do so through a personalized app. 

Areas of Opportunity

Playful Interactivity
We envisioned an interactive beaker to be filled or emptied on touch using a simple animation, maintaining the original therapeutic principle driving our work. We included interactive, cute and playful elements in the app’s design in order to evoke a positive emotional response from our intended audience.

An onboarding process invites the child to input their stressors and what calms them down to help them to recognize their triggers and warning signs.

Emotional Coach
Based on one's emotion level and inputted calming strategies, the app would provide just-in-time tailored suggestions.

Target Audience
The users of the app would have been young children, aged 7-12. We also wanted to include their parents/guardians as well as their therapists/counsellors if applicable.

First Prototypes

Our first prototype for the Hacking Health weekend aimed to showcase the main functionality of the app: filling and emptying the beaker with "emotion" and displaying a message appropriate for the emotion level. I adapted an icon from the Noun Project into our final logo design. 

After winning the Pivot Award for Best Design, we continued to develop the app with the help of Pivot Design Group.

More Environmental Analysis

To improve our development and marketing strategy, we identified user personas to better define use cases. These included children who could possibly be prescribed the application by a psychiatrist or have consistent access to iPads, parents and therapists.

Next Iteration

We decided to include a friendly on-boarding process to help children set up their BBM account, introducing the face of the application, Erlen. Instead of tapping to increase/decrease the emotion level, a more intuitive sliding action was added. In later iterations, we included animated bubbles and waves and took advantage of the iPhone Gyroscope to create more interesting interactions.

Visual design by Samantha Beekie.
Visual design by Samantha Beekie.

Visual design by Samantha Beekie. Visual design by Samantha Beekie.

Usability Testing

I wrote "quick and dirty" usability testing scenarios and scripts to assess the ease of use and intuitiveness of the next iteration of our app with children under 13. By encouraging thinking aloud, we were able to get detailed reactions of children's thought processes about their own emotions and how they translated that into the app.


We gathered more press and interest throughout the summer. We were invited by the GCI group to speak to a group of mothers/parents about our concept!

What I Learned & Reflections

Working on Bye Bye Meltdown taught me a lot about quick and iterative design with limited resources. Over 48 hours, we stretched our creativity. We researched existing products, checked out what resources we could use freely (such as Noun Project) and used PowerPoint to build our prototype. At the hackathon, we recruited some kids to try out our prototype. We tried our best to make sure we were designing mindfully, and we couldn't have done it without talking to our actual intended users. 

Marketing and making our product marketable were uncharted territory for me. I learned a lot about designing for kids, and keeping an open mind about potential users/workflows.

Using Format