Toy Lab


As part of IDEO, a human-centered design and innovation firm, the Toy Lab believes that design needs to stem from real people, real needs, and real desires. Because of this, we constantly talk to kids and parents, keeping our eyes open for what’s new and important in their lives.

In 2008, we couldn’t help but notice a new phenomenon in play: the iPhone. We found it compelling that adults weren’t the only ones loving this new toy and decided to explore the apps for kids space.

While kids were interacting with a number of different iPhone apps every day, surprisingly few of these applications were designed with this precocious demographic in mind. We put together a team consisting of child development experts, veteran toy designers, and interaction designers to uncover the real potential of iPhone apps for the preschool set, ages 2 through 6. Through interviews and observations, we discovered compelling insights that left little doubt that there was fun to be had in this field.

Since that early start, our app portfolio has grown to include IDEO-branded Kids apps as well as apps created in partnership with Sesame Workshop, Fisher-Price and Leapfrog. Our first app, Balloonimals, continues to be a favorite while Elmo Calls has consistently sat at the top of the Kids 5 and Under list since its introduction in 2011. Recently, we’ve added Lifestyle apps with ChitChat voice messaging and Spark Camera, a video capture and editing app that’s been selected by Apple as an App Store Best of 2013.

Whether it be by allowing amateur videographers to create beautiful movies on their iPhones or giving kids the chance to FaceTime with their favorite Sesame characters, our mission is to instill creative confidence and foster play through awe-inspiring interactions.

We hope that you enjoy our apps. Now, go play!


  • Brendan Boyle

    Brendan Boyle

    Brendan, a Partner at IDEO, passionately promotes entrepreneurial thinking and doing at all of our locations worldwide.

  • Adam Skaates

    Adam Skaates

    Adam Skaates is a Senior Designer and business lead at IDEO. Adam’s a toy inventor at heart, leading a team that has licensed over a…

  • Michelle Lee

    Michelle Lee

    Michelle Lee is tasked with Mobile App Strategy and Design at IDEO, growing and marketing the play-centric iPhone/iPod touch/iPad and Android apps developed in the…