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Pilot Study | Creative Learning with Toontastic

Alicia Chang / 09.13.2012 /  11

CreativityMetrics1 Pilot Study | Creative Learning with Toontastic

Alicia Chang is a Cognitive & Developmental Psychologist specializing in early language development and cognitive science applications to STEM learning. She’s been working with the Launchpad Toys crew this summer to study how kids are benefiting from play with Toontastic. Her report can be downloaded here.

Having spent the better part of the last year watching wonderfully creative, hilarious, and fun-filled ‘Toons from all over the world on ToonTube and hearing from all of you parents and educators about the amazing ways you’ve used Toontastic to inspire kids of all ages at home and in the classroom, we figured it’s high time we took a more scientific look at how children interact with the app and examine some of the learning processes that happen along the way.

We launched Toontastic last year to help bridge the gap between imaginative play and creative writing while introducing and guiding key storytelling concepts. Kids imagine and tell stories through play – a critical component of their creative development – but until now there’s never been a great tool to capture, scaffold, and share their creations. While recent reports emphasize the importance of creativity and innovative problem solving in 21st century careers (e.g., IBM, 2010), research has shown a significant decline in creative thinking scores since 1990, especially in elementary school aged children (Kim, 2011). Given all this, we set out to measure how creating cartoons with Toontastic might help progress children’s storytelling through three key Common Core State Standards-aligned constructs: Character Development, Emotional Expression, and Descriptive Language.

To start, we paid a couple of visits to seven-year-old Leslie and her parents near San Jose, CA, where we observed play sessions and studied three cartoons she created on Toontastic over the course of a week. We were really excited to see that even over this short timeframe, Leslie showed steady growth in her storytelling: Character Development, Emotional Expression, and Descriptive Language all improved over just three play sessions with Toontastic. It’s a very limited dataset, no doubt, but encouraging nonetheless.

Inspired by Leslie’s progress, we then set out to test a larger sample in a local school, Mrs. Joan Young’s fourth grade classroom in Menlo Park, CA, where students were creating cartoons on Toontastic as part of a unit on social-emotional development. Like Leslie, Mrs. Young’s students created three cartoons over the course of a week – the class of 20 divided into pairs or groups of three.

To view all of the fourth graders’ creative cartoons, check out Mrs. Young’s students’ ToonTube channel!

Following these sessions, we coded Mrs. Young’s videos using the same measures and were quite excited to find similar results: Character Development, Emotional Expression, and Descriptive Language all improved over the three sessions.

ResearchGraphCharacters Pilot Study | Creative Learning with Toontastic

1. Mrs. Young’s students used more characters per story over each session.

2. The number of repeat characters increased in later sessions, suggesting stronger, more coherent narratives and improved character development.

ResearchGraphsEmotions Pilot Study | Creative Learning with Toontastic

1. Students expressed more distinct moods and energy levels in later story sessions, adding greater complexity and depth to character and plot development over time.

2. We were pleased to see the kids explore emotional highs and lows in their stories describing realistic situations about peer relationships.

ResearchGraphsLanguage Pilot Study | Creative Learning with Toontastic

1. We saw a large increase in descriptive language over the course of the three storytelling sessions, especially between the second and third days. Kids used words like “favorite”, “healthy”, “fabulous”, “intense” much more in their last session than in previous sessions.

2. The number of characters voiced increased by session, making the students’ stories more dynamic and engaging.

The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy list our three metrics – Character Development, Emotional Expression, and Descriptive Language – as critical parts of writing, speaking and listening standards for grades K-5. Though we can’t make broad generalizations from this limited dataset, we’re very encouraged by Leslie and Mrs. Young’s class’ creative growth and are quite eager to examine a much larger set of videos on ToonTube to see what kind of patterns exist across all of our users! Stay tuned to this blog to find out more!

Copies of the charts above can be found here. If you have any questions about this (mini) study… or just want to chat about toys, ice cream, or other awesome stuff, please send us an email at!


2010 Chief Executive Officer Study. Retrieved August 1, 2012, from IBM from

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects. Retrieved July 25, 2012, from Common Core State Standards Initiative from

Kim, K.H. (2011). The Creativity Crisis: The Decrease in Creative Thinking Scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, Creativity Research Journal, 23(4), 285-295.

Russ, S.W., & Dillon, J.A. (2011). Changes in Children’s Pretend Play Over Two Decades, Creativity Research Journal, 23(4), 330-338.


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