Dogs Jigsaw Puzzles, Vintage city. Some designers believe that, when designing for young children, everything has to make noise. While it's true that these younger users like auditory feedback, there has to be a method to the madness. Sound needs to communicate, inform, and instruct, as opposed to simply entertain. It's better to identify specific conventions for sound types and stick to those rather than to have noises coming from all over the place. This principle is true because kids of this age are only able to associate a single response or action to an element.
You'll need to be strategic when thinking about how to use audio in your interface. First, identify the types of sounds you want to include, and then figure out a single use for each type. Sample inventory chart that may help you plan how to identify your sounds. If you're planning on having lots of sounds, you may want to create a more detailed inventory with columns for characters, elements, specific actions, and so on. Establishing audio conventions relatively early in the design process will help ensure that you use sounds consistently and appropriately, which will in turn help your young users figure out how to use your design.
Gathering on the Couch, Falcon
Sago Mini Sound Box is a phenomenal app designed for toddlers and preschoolers. What makes this app great is that it lets kids interact with the entire device, not just images on the screen. This specific interaction helps improve the child's gross and fine motor skills and teaches some basic physics concepts as well. The premise is simple: kids first select a sound category and then create different sounds by tapping to add multi-colored circles, which, when dragged, crack open to reveal various friendly household animals. Kids can make all sorts of collective noises by shaking, swishing, and rotating their device so that the circles whirl around and ricochet off the sides of the screen.
Another Day on the Farm, Falcon
Mini Sound Box does a great job with its audio cues, which is especially difficult, given that it's a sound-creation toy. The designers created a very clear distinction between system sounds and sounds produced by kids as part of the game. In fact, they limited their system sounds to only the essential pieces of functionality (adding a circle, opening a circle, tapping an animal) and let the kids create the rest of the sounds within the app experience itself. There are no extraneous sounds for selecting a category or navigating back to the landing screen, just little sound files communicating progress to keep kids engaged.
Mini Sound Box features a home screen with no verbal or written instructions, which is an extremely difficult feat. An upbeat song plays when kids open the app, to let them know it's working and ready for them to play. Big pictures with familiar images enable kids to engage with the app immediately, but tapping these images doesn't produce additional noise. It just takes kids to the next screen, which shows an adorable cartoon animal ushering in one of the sound circles
Parcel for Canal Cottage, Falcon
Kids can tap anywhere on the screen to add additional sound circles. Depending on the category initially selected, the sounds can be percussion instruments, piano chords, barks, tweets, meows, or cars and trucks. Any movement of the device itself zooms the circles around the screen, releasing a cacophony of wonderfully discordant sounds
What makes this an all-around great app for preschoolers, in addition to its clear audio cues, is that it promotes exploration and discovery, has a flow but allows for non-linear play, and provides rewarding visual and auditory feedback with every interaction. Another wonderful aspect of this app is that it works for kids around the globe, as the sounds used don't require knowledge of any specific language or culture.