A systematic review of physical–digital play technology and developmentally relevant child behaviour

Pablo E. Torres*, Philip I.N. Ulrich, Veronica Cucuiat, Mutlu Cukurova, María Clara Fercovic De la Presa, Rose Luckin, Amanda Carr, Thomas Dylan, Abigail Durrant, John Vines, Shaun Lawson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


New interactive physical–digital play technologies are shaping the way children play. These technologies refer to digital play technologies that engage children in analogue (non-digital) forms of behaviour, either alone or with others. Current interactive physical–digital play technologies include robots, digital agents, mixed or augmented reality devices, and smart-eye based gaming. Little is known, however, about the ways in which these technologies could promote or damage child development. This systematic review was aimed at understanding if and how these physical–digital play technologies promoted developmentally relevant behaviour (related to transferable skills and physical activity) in typically developing 0 to 12 year-olds. Psychology, Education, and Computer Science databases were searched producing 635 papers. A total of 31 papers met the inclusion criteria, of which 17 were of high enough quality to be included for synthesis. A theoretical framework was developed to guide our review and a thematic analysis was applied to find patterns across empirical studies. Results indicate that these new interactive play technologies could have a positive effect on children's developmentally relevant behaviour. The review identified specific ways in which different behaviours were promoted by the play interactivity. Providing information about own performance promoted self-monitoring. Slowing interactivity, play interdependency, and joint object accessibility promoted collaboration. Offering delimited choices promoted decision making. Problem solving and physical activity were promoted by requiring children to engage in them to keep playing. Four overarching principles underpinned the ways in which phygital play technologies afforded child behaviour. These included social expectations framing play situations, the directiveness of action regulations (i.e., inviting, guiding or forcing behaviours), the technical features of play technologies (digital play mechanics and physical characteristics), and the alignment between play goals, play technology and the play behaviours promoted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100323
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages33
JournalInternational Journal of Child-Computer Interaction
Early online date17 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


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