Saturday, November 6, 2010

Younger Kids and the Ipad

We have been in research mode for the past few months really trying to understand how kids play games on a touch interface.  The last time we were doing some play testing involved some very basic games on the iPad.  Now, I downloaded a few more games from the iTunes App store and let my younger cousins play them. 

The players are Yumna, 2 years old, and Lybah, 4 years old.  Although initially, both of these girls were pressing too hard on the screen, they later learned to use a lighter touch.  Both of these girls preferred the touch interface to the mouse interface of a PC.  Here are a few general things they liked:

  • Easy drag and drop
  • Matching games
  • Colorful characters
  • Fun sound track
  • Characters that made noises
  • Stickers or rewards
  • Fast transitions
Things they generally disliked:
  • Long-winded explanations
  • No sound track
  • Touch that does not have audible feedback
Here are a few games they played:
  • Monkey Pre-School Lunchbox (iPhone and iPad)
  • FirstWords (Sampler) (iPhone and iPad)
  • FirstWords (Deluxe) (iPhone and iPad)
  • Mega Jump (iPhone)
  • Alphabet Fun (iPad)
  • Super Why! (iPad)
  • Cookie Doodle (iPhone and iPad)
The favorites were Monkey Pre-School Lunchbox and FirstWords (Sampler and Deluxe).  Cookie Doodle was more interesting to the older kids, but had no learning content in it.  Here are a few key learning points for each game:

Monkey Pre-School Lunchbox
This is an extremely well done game and I highly recommend it to anyone with kids.  It is very easy to play and it uses a lot of cute sound effects and sound track to keep kids engaged.  The little monkey makes funny sounds that the kids love.  The pace of the game is very fast and rewards the kids through stickers.  Here is a video of Lybah playing the game and watch how she loves the monkey's reactions:

FirstWords (Sampler and Deluxe)
Yumna enjoys this game the most because it helps build her motor skills.  In this game, Yumna drags each letter to the appropriate spot.  Each time she presses on a letter, it pronounces the letter.  Once the word is complete, the word is spelled out, pronounced, and then there is a funny animation.  I don't know how much she is retaining though because she could repeat the same word several times (in the sampler) and still not remember the word.  Perhaps this is because she is so young, but I caught her many times spelling out the word C-A-T, and then giving the Urdu word for Cat as "Billi".  The Deluxe version gets fairly complex, with words up to 8 letters such as "Octagon".  Clearly a two year old doesn't know what an octagon is nor should she care.  I wish there was a way for the parent to filter the word choices down by age range.  In the settings there is a way to control maximum number of letters, but this method is highly unintuitive.  Yumna gets excited every time she completes a word, and surprisingly finds the animations funny even though it is simply a rotation of the object.  It is good that the game authors inserted sound effects for each object.  One strange thing I found is that they are making a differentiation between a plane and a biplane.  I don't know how this matters today in the modern world...

Mega Jump
Mega Jump is very much like the popular Doodle Jump, except it is free for the first level.  You basically tilt the iPhone to make the character jump around.  Yumna liked the sound and the animation of this game but she does not have the motor skills to use the accelerometer properly.  This game is not suitable for little kids.

Alphabet Fun
This game is basically designed to teach handwriting, so the name is a bit misleading.  The interface is just awful.  As an adult I was having issues navigating around.  I didn't know what to press on.  I first gave it to some older kids and they were frustrated and they were also not able to trace the letters properly.  Both Yumna and Lybah saw the game, and immediately pressed the iPad's home button to get back to Monkey Preschool Lunchbox.  A few key things to learn from this poorly made game:
  • No sound
  • No central character
  • Unintuitive interface
  • Limited replay value
  • Feels like homework
  • Dull look and feel
Super Why!
This game is based off of a popular PBS Kids TV show.  The graphics look very good and it is very polished, however there is a lot of narration that caused the kids to lose interest very fast.  The gameplay is not fast like Monkey Preschool Lunchbox so moving through screens was very tedious.  Here are a few key learnings from this game:
  • Great characters, good sound
  • Slow transitions
  • Too much narration
  • Gameplay was a bit complex
  • There are 4 mini-games inside, but they are very dissimilar to each other - I would almost split this game into 4 independent games and sell them for $0.99 each
Cookie Doodle
This game has no learning content in it outside of allowing the kids to be very creative, which is great.  The interface is a bit dull to start with but it gets better as you progress.  Basically it allows kids to make their own virtual cookies.  The older kids liked this a little better, although Lybah was curiously watching.  I would suggest some improvements to the User Interface to make it simpler, especially for younger kids.  I needed to provide a bit of coaching and demonstrating on this game for them to get going.


  1. This is a great post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on kids apps you've used! When you're looking for more of the best kids apps, make sure to visit LunchboxReviews.Com. The site collects, categorizes and rates apps for toddlers, preschoolers and young children. LunchboxReviews.Com. :)

  2. I also have a suggestion for parents, who have kids of 5-10 years old. It is an educational iPhone app Kinder Hangman that is an interesting iPhone game and very useful for development of kids. It allows children to learn new words easily, effectively and quickly. Learning process is organized as an interesting game with graphical themes and animations. It is a good game that kids usually like very much. So, parents can use it to keep kids busy.