When asked ‘If you were to develop an Android app for kids aged 0-5, what would it do?’ I was rather daunted... As a young child I had a very short attention span and a very low boredom threshold, I couldn’t concentrate on anything that was good for me and procrastinated to such an extent that my life consisted of half-finished projects, which to say the least is very unrewarding!
The first thing I needed to do was come up with a list of questions, and one by one fill in the blanks as my ideas filter through the rubbish and become ‘app-worthy’. Below are the main Q’s and A’s.
What genre would the app be?
As much as this sounds like a cliché, I really believe an educational app would work. The app would basically be almost a desktop on its own, a main menu containing a number of different games and activities, a wide choice would be offered and the child would eventually find their favourite activity, all of which would be educational in some way.
What features would the app have?
As mentioned in the previous question, the app would feature numerous activities, I believe reading, writing, basic mathematics and progressive hand-eye co-ordination exercises should be disguised as mini games and very short projects. All progress can easily be stored and reviewed by parents. Some examples of activities on this app are Trace & Write, Tilt Maze, Photo Taking, Paintshop, Listen & Speak, Block Stacking etc...
How would children interact with the app?
The most obvious factor for me here, as Android is synonymous with touch-screen I think touch-navigation will be the main medium of interaction. The marvellous thing about touch screen is the ability to draw, trace and gesture (i.e. swiping & tapping). Most apps would utilise touch-only interaction, but I would also like to see a Speak & Listen game in which a child is required to respond to spoken commands by speaking, for example answering questions, this would use the speech command and recognition functionality. The camera can be utilised for customisation, creating a simple user profile and activities such as Paintshop. A very important feature for child development would be the hand-eye co-ordination features, which would use the accelerometer, compass & other motion sensors, some mini games would use just motion sensors and others would use both motion and touch gestures (i.e. stacking blocks and balancing them) depending on the level of the childs ability.
How will this app be rewarding to the child?
As children tend to have very short attention spans, I sympathise with them as a lot of games are hard to progress in, it feels like ages before you can see your progress, and the horror of seeing ‘You have completed 1% of this game’ is the most frustrating thing of all! As 0-5s have such a wide range of abilities and development levels I feel it would be fair to have many different skill levels within, all with individual achievement ‘score boards’. Individual tasks and games would be very short as to reward progress at shorter intervals and keep children interested. The main reward is when a child shows their parents what they have learned by showing new skills that have been picked up. The praise after, from the parent is the main reward.
How will it look?
I think that customisation is important here. When a user sets up their user profile (or more likely when the parent sets up the user profile) the child will have a number of choices of themes, colours and selectable characters. A lot of age, gender and skill based features will be selectable throughout the experience.
Here is a very rough mocked-up image of what the main menu may look like, the colour, theme and images would be fully customisable to suit the taste/level of the child.
Let me know what you think!