Three tips to consider when designing games for pre-schoolers

Pre-schoolers can be a bit difficult to place. No longer are they cute toddlers, nor are they settled school kids. Even though they’ve begun to master a lot more skills, and the tablet is becoming more and more interesting, pre-schoolers constitute a diverse group of kids, and they can be quite tricky to design for. Alongside Maurice, Managing Partner of The Little Big Partnership, we shed light on this fascinating group of kids and explore three tips on how to design games for them.

Curious and eager to learn

Let’s take a quick look at who they are. As Maurice says: “Just like toddlers, pre-schoolers are known to be Copycats as they mimic others in order to learn how to go about social settings and conventions”. Further, pre-schoolers are characterised by being eager to learn and curious about why everything is as it is. They’re gradually learning the rules and are now trying to find ways to bend and break them - so which ‘rules’ will help you design for these wonders?

"Pre-schoolers are curious by nature and want to learn new ideas and skills – but they’re not ready for that to take too much of their time.”

Maurice Wheeler, Managing Partner of The Little Big Partnership

As Maurice points out Pre-schoolers are easily sidetracked - especially if the skills they are trying to adapt take up too much of their time.

This means that it doesn’t take much for them to stop concentrating on your game and start running towards an imaginary unicorn in the living room. Because of this, it’s essential that you make sure to keep tasks short and rewarding to keep the pre-schoolers engaged and entertained.

1) Make simple, short and rewarding tasks

LEGO’s Create & Cruise is one of our own productions and it’s a great example of how to retain kids through short, intensive bursts of fun and rewarding tasks. In Create & Cruise, kids cruise for coins in short levels unlocking rewards on each completion.

Pre-schoolers are still focused on and mimic their immediate caretakers, but as they leave the toddler-stage, they begin to play with others and they’re able to initiate play with peers. They are generally intrigued by and interested in social experiences, so keep that in mind and aim for a social design. It’s not of great importance whether the interaction is real or fictitious, just as long as the pre-schooler’s empathy and need for nurture are supported.

Toca Boca has produced and launched numerous apps and games for kids - one of which is Toca Store. Toca Store lets kids play store (without the mess) alongside a friend, sibling or parent.

2) Support pre-schoolers’ empathic mindset

In Toca Store, two players go on a shopping frenzy using the same device: One being the customer, the other one the cashier. While playing and having fun, kids learn to cooperate, negotiate and interact with others, making the app quite ideal for this target group.

Pre-schoolers are all about playing

Ever wondered what the difference is between games and play? Well - games are somewhat formalised play settings where rules mark the boundaries. Play on the other hand is self-initiated activities performed without having a goal in mind besides enjoyment and exhilaration.

And when it comes to pre-schoolers, they’re all about playing! They are pretty nifty and like to create on their own rather than following strict rules, and that’s why you should make sure to make room for imagination, invention and self-expression.

3) Create room for (wild) imagination

An excellent example of how to let pre-schoolers’ imagination run wild is the app Loopimal by Yatatoy. Loopimal lets kids create and explore sounds, movement and rhythms without boundaries - letting play stand in the spotlight.

Sources: “Design for Kids” by Debra Levin Gelman, The Little Big Partnership and our own research and experience.



Published: 12.12.2016

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