What could be easier than creating playable content for kids? The truth is that the task isn’t as straightforward as people may believe. While games are naturally the realm of the young, younger children tend to understand rules, goals and fun rather differently. True, children learn quite quickly about the basic concepts of life, however they understand them in a different way. Visiting the doctor, for example, is not a routine chore, but an adventure of its own. And things we may think as being exciting, such as going to the movies, can be seen as a tedious and way too long experience for toddlers.
So what is the key for a satisfying experience for young kids?
I believe there are few:
1. Gameplay has to be satisfying in short sessions, however there should be enough depth for further exploration. Levels, modes are good, but even better if each level or mode is playable as a shorter session or a longer one.
2. The gameplay has to revolve around something you can identify with – if not a character – even a concept can do. Creating a world of faeries is great, but remember there needs to be a specific faerie, such as the protagonist, that should be playable, so the experience is not detached.
3. There can a surprise element that can be explored and tested multiple times. For example, an egg which users knock on to see different objects hiding inside.
4. Interaction should happen in a limited number of ways. For example, touch and drag an apple to a basket, then touch and drag a sheep to the yard.
5. Consistency is key when a learning experience is sought after. There are lots of games where kids can touch many things and see what they do, but nothing is learned unless there is some overall theme and ruleset that’s causing things to act as they do.