Flower Garden Big Jigsaw Puzzles, Animals, Birds. It's important for us as designers to have a basic understanding of our users' cognitive abilities. When designing for adults who fall on the normal spectrum, we can be pretty confident that they're able to use deductive reasoning, think abstractly, understand common symbols and icons, and anticipate the outcome of their actions, and we can design accordingly. With kids, this is all up for grabs, especially given how rapidly kids develop. Let's take a quick look into the developmental and cognitive skills of kids in different age groups so we can have a common frame of reference when we start talking about design and research.
Spring Garden Birds, Falcon
The World According to Piaget Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist born in the late 19th century. While completing his post-doctoral work in Paris, Piaget took a job at an elementary school where he analyzed the results of intelligence tests. He noticed that younger kids repeatedly struggled with certain types of questions that older kids and adults had no trouble answering. Based on these observations, he decided that younger children weren't necessarily less intelligent than older kids or adults; they just thought about things differently. Piaget focused his research on these cognitive differences and ultimately developed a theory of cognitive stages of development, based on age.
The Quilt Shop, Falcon
According to Piaget, when kids are born, they are in the sensorimotor stage. Sensorimotor, which means to function with physical senses and movement, refers to the stage when kids begin to build up direct knowledge of the world around [them], by relating physical actions to perceived results of those actions. They progress through several other stages until they arrive at the formal operational stage, where they can think logically, use abstract reasoning, and see things from perspectives other than their own. Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development, based on extensive research with children, details the differences in these stages.
Country Conservatory, Falcon
Schemata refer to the behaviors that help very young children understand and interpret the world around them. These schemata are actions that a child takes upon an object, to determine its use and purpose. The most basic example of how a schema is formed is the sucking reflex. If an infant picks up an unfamiliar object, he'll immediately put it in his mouth to see how it responds when he sucks on it.
This is how he tries to figure out what that object is if it doesn't fit into his schema for breast or bottle, it's not important to him. As he gains experience, his schemata will progress in development from sucking, to shaking, to dropping, and so forth. And his understanding and classification of the objects that make up his world will expand as well.
In a virtual environment, we have the opportunity to further develop a child's digital schemata by creating lots of cool elements for him to interact with items that promote clicking, shaking, tapping, and dragging. These behaviors will help the child learn the gestures and interactions he'll use in the future.