• Time when you have to play with the kids.

Double Big Forest Cabin Jigsaw Puzzles

Double Big Forest Cabin Jigsaw Puzzles Castroland

Playing by the Rules, vintage city puzzles

Double Big Forest Cabin, vintage city jigsaw puzzles. Most of the groups decided to play rock band. The most fascinating aspect of this free-play activity was that the groups spent most of the time coming up with roles and rules instead of actually engaging in the role-play. They first decided who everyone on the group was going to be. As is typical with second-graders, one kid stepped up as the leader and started assigning roles. When she told one little girl that she'd be the drummer, the little girl said, I don't want to be the drummer; I want to be a veterinarian.

The game came to a screeching halt. After all, there aren't too many veterinarians in rock bands these days. Kids start really focusing in on rules at around age 7. They are beginning to see how big the world really is, and the concept of rules to govern behavior, interactions, and communication is extremely comforting to them. They develop elaborate rules for how they play, talk, and generally conduct themselves. And they hold others in their social sphere to these same rules.

This presents really interesting implications when designing virtual environments. We know kids like rules, but when the rules for a game become too limiting or too difficult to follow, they'll find something else to do. The trick is to develop a clear set of rules that are easy to understand and follow, but flexible enough for kids to make their own. This is easier for games with specific objectives, and it's more difficult for environments that rely on exploration and self-expression.

Woodland Cottages

Woodland Cottages, Falcon

Let's take a look at what the folks at Club Penguin are doing. Club Penguin is a virtual world for kids and adults. It lets kids create penguin avatars and move through a virtual arctic environment where they can play games, chat, and build their own igloos. The Club Penguin creators developed a robust yet flexible set of rules that help kids (and parents) feel comfortable moving through the interface.
4 Puzzles, Evacuees

4 Puzzles, The Evacuees, Gibsons

This concept of flexible rules may seem to be at odds with what we discussed earlier about providing clear, concrete explanations. The difference here is, rules provide global structure to an overall interface, while instructions provide specific information about individual components. The former needs to be elastic and allow for some interpretation, while the latter needs to be detailed enough to ensure success and accomplishment.

So what happened with our rock band? The young ringleader, who struggled with the idea of a veterinarian in the midst of her musicians, was able to bend her rules to create a compromise. Well .. you can be the VETERINARIAN drummer! The aspiring veterinarian was happy, the leader was happy, and the other players were comforted at the possibility that one could be both a veterinarian and a drummer at the same time.

Saving, Storing, Sharing, and Collecting

Children are able to grasp the concept of permanence at a pretty early age. If you move a toddler's toy from in front of the couch to behind the couch, she'll know that the object still exists, but it's just hidden from view. What's missing from the toddler perspective, however, is the idea of continuity-if a toy is behind the couch when you leave the room, it will still be behind the couch when you come back to the room, not in the toy box where it usually is. Kids figure out the continuity concept at around age 3, but they're not able to apply it to intangible ideas or situations until they turn 6. For example, a 4-year-old will expect a movie or TV show to start from the beginning when he turns it on, while an older child will expect it to pick up where he left off. In fact, this older child will become distressed if the movie does not start up from the point at which he turned it off.

The Haberdashers Shoppe

The Haberdashers Shoppe, Falcon

So, how can you reinforce this continuity in a digital environment? By allowing children to save and store their accomplishments within the experience and letting them easily resume play from the exact point where they left off. Webkinz, a virtual world where kids take care of digital pets, does this really well.

In Webkinz, kids collect and care for virtual pets. (These have an offline component too, which we'll discuss shortly.) They build houses, which they can then furnish and decorate, for their pets, and can take their pets on adventures to play games and compete in contests. There are also a few daily activities, which kids can only play once a day, allowing them to collect rewards and kinzcash, which they can use to buy stuff for their pets.
2 Puzzles, Animals at Home

2 Puzzles, Animals at Home, Falcon

The great thing about Webkinz is that it returns users to where they were when they last logged off. If they logged off from a room in their virtual house, they are returned to that same room. If they logged off from a game, they return to the game. Webkinz also reinforces the concept of continuity in how it treats the pets. If a pet was wearing a baseball hat when the user logged off, that pet will still be wearing the same hat when the user logs back on. This concept of permanence is both rewarding and comforting to kids 6-8. In a world where they feel increasingly out of control, it's nice to have a consistent place to return to, where they can be assured that things will be just as they left them.