• Time when you have to play with the kids.

Flower Garden, Port and city Jigsaw Puzzles

Flower Garden, Port and city Jigsaw Puzzles, Caatroland

Make the first few levels pretty easy to ace

Flower Garden, Port and city Jigsaw Puzzles. For games, you should make the first few levels pretty easy to ace. Increase the difficulty, but give kids the feeling of accomplishment and mastery early on. As the levels go up, naturally, you'll make them more difficult, but keep the delta between levels pretty consistent.

For educational sites and apps, it's best to establish patterns of progression early on, so kids know the mechanics of what they need to do on each screen before they get there. This pattern lets them anticipate what they'll come up against as they move through the interface. For example, when designing an interface to teach math, keep the general layout of the math problems the same across screens, but just increase the difficulty of the problems. You can change stuff like colors, icons, and animations on each screen, but make the basic structure consistent so that kids can feel a sense of comfort and familiarity. If users feel like they might not be able to accomplish something at first glance, they'll be less likely to engage.

Life on Allotment

Life on the Allotment, Gibsons

PBS Kids Go! offers a wide variety of games geared toward kids from 2-10, but 6-8s are their sweet spot. Because the developers are committed to building collaborative learning relationships with children, they make sure to feature games that can grow with the kids they're trying to reach. Most of the games on the site, as well as their individual apps, start off with pretty general, easy-to-grasp activities and then get progressively more difficult as the kids are able to master them.
Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere, Gibsons

For example, the Fizzy's Lunch Lab Freestyle Fizz game lets kids collect healthy foods like cheese, bread, and apples while avoiding French fries, hot dogs, and chocolate bars. The game starts off relatively easy, letting users get used to the controls and figure out the best way to move around to collect the foods, but as kids level up, the game gets harder, with more items to collect and more to avoid.

Fizzy's Lunch Lab lets kids level up in interesting ways.


Newcastle, Gibsons

Explain, Explain, and Explain Again

While younger children prefer to explore and learn as they go, 6-8s want all the information up front, to make sure they get it right the first time. Starting at age 6, opinions of others become super-important to kids, even if that other is a digital interface. They don't want the game, or app, or device to think they're dumb or unsophisticated. Having all the rules established before they begin makes these kids feel better prepared to excel.

It's important to note, though, that if you find your interface requires a lot of explanation say, more than a couple of short sentences it's probably too complicated and will likely turn kids away. These youngsters have just started to read, and if the directions make the experience sound too difficult, they won't want to participate.

Steep Hill

Steep Hill, Gibsons

Of course, the best interfaces are those requiring little to no explanation, where kids can figure out what to do without reading instructions. So, similar to designing for adults, try to make the experience easy to figure out. Don't use copy as a crutch for a confusing interface. Poptropica, a virtual world where kids can create their own characters and engage in collaborative play with others, offers a very simple sign up process that gets kids ready to start using the environment.

Although this process is broken up into several steps, it gives users a chance to fully understand what they need to do along the way and sets them up for success. While adults prefer to move through tasks quickly, 6-8s are more concerned with doing the task in the right way, so a greater number of clearly outlined steps works better for them.