Wonder Words

Case study:

Behaviour change

Range of experimental interventions to find out what works

Reduce the word gap experienced by poorer children when they start school.

  • Change the way adults interact with children through talking, singing and playing
  • Increase the quantity of words spoken
  • Increase adults' responsiveness to baby - use eye contact when changing, play peekaboo, make noises back at the baby
  • Increase families' usage of 'contingent talk' when interacting with their children
  • Understand 'expansive talk' - repeat back what the child says and expand on their use of words


  • Audience research
  • Evidence review
  • Draft interventions
  • Expert consultation

Ethnographic insight, desk research, academic literature review and consultation with expert advisory group to design a range of four interventions.


  • Rapid Prototype Development
  • Testing in the field

Families across UK test the products in their homes for a short period of time and provide feedback.


  • More sophisticated prototypes
  • Observed testing in the field
  • Scaled up testing

Listening to parents and improving prototypes.

Larger quantities of products were tested amongst more families.

Life Moments

Timely awareness:
Will putting messages on pregnancy scan photo frames drive people to find out more about talking with their child?


Consumer products:
Will motivational messages on baby products such as bibs, changing mats and babygrows encourage parents to talk, sing and play more with their baby?


Harnessing technology:
Can a friendly chatbot – Wendy – get parents talking and interacting more with children as they carry out their household chores?

Design Challenge

Open innovation:
How does the home environment influence a child/parent interaction? Could the design sector be mobilised to pick up the challenge?

Year 1 results

  • Two out of four interventions showed positive signs of increasing the amount that parents talk, sing and play with their children.
  • Demonstrated the power of motivational messaging applied to baby paraphernalia was (a) behaviourally impactful, and (b) popular with parents and the items had the potential to be viable consumer products.
  • Proved chatbots are effective at engaging this audience, content deployed through chatbots can be behaviourally impactful, and worked out how to convert Facebook users into chatbot users.
  • Forged new relationships with strategic partners, for example the Behavioural Insights Team and major players in the design sector.
  • Helped Save the Children’s innovation team adopt a new, agile way of working.
  • Attracted third-party backing for further Wonder Words development with a six-figure donation from Johnson & Johnson and a multi-year partnership with a high street retailer.
More info on this case study?
If you are interested to hear more then drop us a line and we’ll be in touch...
Please tell us your name
Please provide a valid email address