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A Dad’s Plea To Developers Of iPad Apps For Children


I spend a lot of time buying and testing iPad apps for kids. To be more specific, I lovingly do this for a certain two-year-old girl who is currently on a very successful #OccupyiPad mission in my house. Through extensive observational research, I’ve discovered what works and doesn’t work for my daughter, so I’m going to shamelessly generalize my findings to all children and propose four essential guidelines for developers who work on iPad apps for children.

Affordance Is King Link

Most apps for children show a bunch of different things on the screen that you can touch to make stuff happen. Cows moo, windows open and close, honey pots need to be collected, etc. But most of these apps give no indication of which elements are interactive and which are not. This usually results in a frantic and frustrating game of whack-a-mole to find the elements that actually do something.

The solution is simple: affordance1. Give the elements in question a characteristic that indicates they are touchable. The Disney Puzzle Book2 apps do this really well. For example, in the Winnie the Pooh Puzzle Book3 app, the honey pots wiggle around to show the user that they need to touch them in order to collect them.


Pagination Is A Primary Action Link

Pagination is so important to the enjoyment of most children’s apps, but it is often a quagmire. Almost every app does this differently. The most common methods of pagination are touch-based arrows and swipe-based gestures (indicated by a skeuomorphic curled-up page corner). Both of these interactions are valid solutions, but because swipes can be tricky for tiny fingers and the gestures usually require some precision, the arrow approach is much better for kids.

Also, the entire bottom part of the screen is a hot area and needs to be avoided. Kids constantly touch that part of the tablet by accident, which makes accidental pagination inevitable if the controls are placed there. I like how the Old MacDonald5 app implements pagination: clearly marked forward and backward arrows at the top of the screen.


The Menu Is A Distant Secondary Action Link

Speaking of the bottom part of the screen: don’t put any interactive elements in the bottom part of the screen — especially menu actions, which are not important anyway once a child gets going with the app. The number of times I’ve had to stop the car to dismiss a random menu brought on by an accidental touch… well, it’s dangerous. The Mickey Mouse Puzzle Book7 app is a good example of this frustrating practice:


PlayTales9 has a clever implementation of the menu action in many of its books. First, the menu button is placed in the top-right corner, out of accidental reach (although the top middle would be better, in keeping with the top-left and top-right pagination mentioned in the previous point).

More importantly, it uses a two-touch method to bring up the menu. The menu icon is semi-transparent in its normal state. One tap removes the transparency, and a second tap brings up the menu. Although not foolproof, it’s an excellent way to avoid accidental taps.




If You Try To Trick My Kid Into Buying Stuff, You’re Dead To Me Link

I’m looking at you, Talking Tom Cat13. A lot of apps do this, but Talking Tom Cat is the absolute worst. The screen is a landmine of carefully placed icons that lead to accidental purchases — not to mention the random animated banner ads that are designed to draw attention away from the app itself. GoDaddy’s dark patterns14 that try to trick users into buying more domains are one thing, but if you try to use persuasive design15 on my young daughter, all bets are off. Your app will be deleted, and we’ll never do business again.


Conclusion Link

Designing apps for children is extremely hard. Not only is quality, age-appropriate content hard to create, but designing the flow and interaction of these apps is made more difficult because designers must refrain from implementing advanced gestures, which would only confuse and frustrate kids (and, by extension, their parents). Yet all apps can and should adhere to certain basics. Hopefully, the four guidelines discussed here can become fixtures of all children’s apps.

(al, fi, il)

Footnotes Link

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Rian is passionate about designing and building software that people love to use. After spending several years working in Silicon Valley and Cape Town, he is currently Product Design Director at Jive Software in Portland, OR. He also blogs and tweets regularly about user experience and product management.

  1. 1

    PaintByHand for iPad was designed for kids. It does have in-app purchases but no tricks.

  2. 2

    I would like to see a possibility for developers to shut-off notification center while the app is open. Perhaps linked to the statusbar being shown or not.

  3. 4

    Excellent article. I often think of the same things when watching my children use iPad applications.

    Moonbot Studios does a wonderful job with their applications — although they keep the swiping for pagination.

    I feel like there should be a law about the integrated buy-ups in the apps. Just imagine if nickelodeon commercials had a ‘purchase’ button on them — Congress would have flipped out already.

  4. 5

    Awesome article, and some of the tips I never would have figured out without a child user. Thank you!! P.S. I totally want to play the Pooh app.

  5. 6

    Thank you for this. My (two year old) daughter’s favourite app has a scroll bar for pagination at the bottom in addition to the arrows. The number of times I have to move it back to her page because she accidentally touched the wrong place drives me crazy.

    • 7

      I built one of such apps and took extra care to tuck away all menus and settings in a triple-clicked menu, so toddlers can’t access it.

      Interesting article and suggestions. I’ll have to incorporate a few of the ideas.

  6. 9

    I do this same thing for my children, but on my android devices. I agree on many points, especially the last….IntelliJoy is probably the best on android that I’ve found..they even make it so my kids can’t leave the application easily…without that feature, I sometimes find my kids adding 400 character contacts to my contact list. Anyway, good read and I’m glad to see other father’s fighting the good fight :)

  7. 10

    I concur with all of this. The purchase this stuff options kills me every time. I would like to see a free kids app store meant to be used by kids so they can add their own apps. Or allow a balance for kids to buy apps on their own.

    • 11

      My kids use their iPods and my iPad as well…I remember reading that iTunes and the App store allow the creation of “Allowances” for kids purchases, but know nothing more – might be worth checking that out.

      • 12

        I like the allowance idea. I also came across one app that actually allowed me to turn off the purchasing capability from the menu. Great headache and time saver for me and my daughter.

  8. 13

    Interesting. I also like to watch my kid using the iPad.
    While not exactly an app for kids, the most annoying ever is YouTube app with it’s bottom menu.

    • 14

      My four year old amazes me with the speed at which she sussed out the ipad when she was 3. Memory games, YouTube and even angry birds (tho she struggles to actually get very far) keep her entertained on car journeys. She even happily logs into it with the 4 digit passcode and finds what she wants to do/watch herself. It really must ne an intuitive interface with memorable icons etc… I am sure I would not have picked it up like that at 3 or 4 years old!

  9. 15

    A very good advice.

    I am puzzed about the purchases. I was under impression that parental controls will take care of this. And even without enabling them, I am forced to type in my password *all the time* when updating or purchasing something from the app store.

    Maybe your 2 year old has tips how to set up my iPad properly :)

    • 16

      Why on earth would you make purchases an option for anything designed for children under 10 or 12 years old? It makes no sense. I don’t give my kid a wad of cash when we go to Target. What parent would intend their young child to purchase their way through a game? The business model seems scammy as it is dependent on children spending money without understanding and the parent not noticing until the bill shows up later, and perhaps not getting around to disputing it. Or not being allowed to.

      I play games before I give them to my son, cause I know I’ll have to explain him and rescue him from dead ends. If purchase options or ads come up, then I delete, and if I have time, I write a review advising of the issue to help others not make the same mistaken purchase. Admittedly, these sorts of issues usually come up in free or supercheap games. There was a bit of a learning curve to being able to recognize what games are likely to be good despite being cheap or free, and which to skip. websites: MomswithApps and CoolMomPicks are good at vetting games.

  10. 17

    What an awesome post… I dont have children, because I’m still one. But this post is really good! It really focus on what needs to be improved.

    And by the way, try to trick kid… ¬¬’ that’s not good, absolutely not good!

  11. 18

    I agree completely. You nailed all the points that have frustrated me about the apps I buy for my boys.
    I am so tired having to help a “Daddy, it’s stuck!” problem only to find out that the dev put in a link somewhere easy that took them to the app store.

  12. 19

    Completely agree with all of these. Although pagination in swipe form is OK in my book because my kids are used to it from the main iOS screen as they page left/right for icons (apps) they like. I wouldn’t mind in-app purchases if there was a way in the settings to COMPLETELY remove them for my kids. They simply don’t know what they’re doing and have no idea they’re being tricked. I find that tasteless.

    I would add another: multi-touch support. My kid may have his thumb on the screen preventing them from touching a button or other action. Make sure that multi-touch is fully supported and a thumb won’t prevent action from taking place.

  13. 20

    Very well said. As the father of two young boys who enjoy their iPod Touches (and my iPad), I agree completely with your observations – especially the unscrupulous attempts to ‘upsell’ by some of these software vendors. Thanks for publishing this, I hope app companies and their developers are listening. Reputation is important.

  14. 21

    I have an almost-4 year old daughter who loves playing with daddy’s iPad and I can absolutely confirm everything written in this article. Great insights for developers building apps for children!

  15. 22

    I also have a 4yo girl that uses my iPad, and also has her own iPod. I agree with all of these, but ESPECIALLY the in-app purchasing. I don’t know how many times I have caught her about to buy something or already to the point of having to type in a password.

    Possible solution: if an app is for ages 12 and below, in-app purchasing should not be allowed. Period. I know some game developers will not like this, and maybe an < 8yo would be better, but nothing ticks me off than a developer trying to trick my child into purchasing something when they don't understand what they are doing. You are basically trying to steal from me by deceiving my child. These types of developers should be banned!!

  16. 23

    Great post! Would you mind sharing a list of apps you would recommend for a 2-3 year old?

  17. 24

    Great read. Most of the points could also apply to user interface design in general on all platforms. There’s probably not much difference between the above case and me stabbing away at an application after accidentally bringing up a menu or swiping badly to trigger something unexpected.

    Regarding children’s applications, developers should look at the great hardware (technological or otherwise) toys available. Important buttons and dials are usually within clear, but not accidental, reach and the battery compartment, reset button or safety instructions are tucked away at the back.

    The part about hidden interactive elements reminds me of all those point and click adventure games that used to force you to move your mouse over the screen endlessly until the cursor changed. This problem is also often common on even great websites. I recently showed my boss the lovely site and one of the first things she did was try to click the present in the bottom right corner and look disappointed when it didn’t do anything.

  18. 25

    Very interesting, when designing and testing our app for children . Only activating the menu after tapping twice is a very good idea that never occurred to us, I’ll certainly consider that.

    We also found that children tend do push the home button (both on purpose and not) rather often. While every decent app should save state and be able to resume, for children apps it’s imperative.

  19. 26

    Thanks for this review! The in app buying stuff is really anoying and causes frustrations because they only can get as far as they don’t have to buy anything.

  20. 27

    I’m still looking for a children’s iPad app that can read one word at a time (not the full sentence). Does anyone know of any? I have tried many including a Disney one but all of them read full stories which is not what I need.

    Correct comment on the “in app purchase” even though I’ve that completely turned off on my daughter’s iPad. She uses the iPad for communication mainly.

    • 28

      Sean, have you tried any of the Dr. Seuss books available on the iPad? The “read to me” option in them highlights the words as they are read.

      The Silly Sentences apps from Abitalk also have a section where the words in the sentences are read as they are touched.

  21. 29

    Having looked at over 1,000 educational apps for kids 3-6 years old (I run an educational app store for iOS devices called KinderTown, it’s what we do), we have noticed these same mistakes and more (like requiring reading for an app directed at a 4 year old), but there are a lot of developers who just nail it. We recommend checking out apps by Peapod Labs and Toca Boca as a start.

  22. 30

    Could you make it so that the glass on the ipad doesn’t break when my kid drops it.

    Thank you.


  23. 31

    What would be really useful are categories for small kids, or further subcategories of the ‘Education’ category. Perhaps separated by age, so you’d have 2-3yr old categories, 3-4 yrs, 5-6, etc etc.

  24. 32

    Thanks for this article. As a fellow Dad, It illustrates some things that I agree with also, like not using apps that deliberately try and trick kids. As a developer, it has some good points on what to do vs. what not to do. Thanks again.

  25. 33

    As the father of an iPad-loving 2 year old girl myself, I couldn’t agree more. Additionally, it’s really valuable to have a no-ads version of any given app. I’m happy to pay a few bucks to eliminate advertisement banners that pull my daughter out of the app.

  26. 34

    One of the best menu protector I’ve seen so far is from the application “BabyTV” (there’s a free app if you want to try). In order to get out of the video that’s playing, you have to press a bottom on the bottom left corner. The trick is that you have to leave this pressed for 3-5 secs. Then a menu (pause, stop, skip) appears for again 3-5 secs. If you press the stop button, then you can go back to the main menu. But if you don’t this menu disappears again and you need to press for 3-5 secs again. Well throught out.

  27. 35


    I hear you sir. I recently released an iPad app called Aeir Talk ( to help children learn new words and communicate with their parents. What I saw on the app store was a lot of apps that were lacking, and in the case of my two boys who are affected by Autism, the apps specifically for them were difficult to use, and expensive. So I just made one that didn’t suck and was affordable ($4.99).

    We also found that while we were building it, that children would get into the setup menu (where pictures and the recorded voice of the parent were added) and mess a lot of things up. So we made it more difficult to get into that menu by pressing the “Setup” button and the “Please” button on our interface at the same time. This might be too difficult, but we’re working on better ways.

    Anyway, great article. I’ll be blogging about this later because our entire design philosophy revolved around these 4 points in one way or another. :) Thanks!

    Joe Hill | @vintagejoehill

  28. 36

    DuckDuckMoose (creators of the Old McDonald app mentioned in the article) also allows parents to completely hide configuration controls in some apps. For example, in the Wheels on the Bus app you can hide the button to change the music (Male, Female, Instrumental, other languages, even a baby’s babble). This application setting can only be found in iOS Settings, so there’s virtually no way my toddler can disable it. I wish all apps had the ability to hide or customize menu/configuration controls. Hell, I’d even love a way to disable the home button…or require a patterned sequence of presses to exit!

  29. 37

    My niece loves Talking Tom Cat (and Dog) and I’ve purchased both in the hopes that it will eliminate all the ads and popups.

    Unfortunately that’s not the case. Every now and then the app will popup something and obviously my nice (3yrs old) will click it.

    I stll keep the app since she loves it but I figured if I paid for it, I at least deserve something that isn’t intrusive.

  30. 38

    A plea to parents purchasing iPad Apps for children:

    If you see that an app has a $99 in-app berry purchase, don’t download or buy it.

    Do a small bit of research to see if the app was designed with your child’s age in mind. Buy apps from trusted sources

    If you buy more of the good stuff, there will be more good stuff to buy!

  31. 39

    i read, i enjoyed, i agreed.

    I think there is a bigger lesson here. I would say that there is not much of a difference between the way an iPad savvy kid uses the device and a not so savvy adult. Similar design principles apply. Not always but it is a good consideration in design. I even think having two or more complexity profiles is awesome. The new Gmail is really good at this. I love the concepts of comfortable, cozy, and compact. Their purpose was more of space conservation, but the lower amount of artifacts in the window made it more accessible to my Mom. I think the concepts in this article would make iPad stuff more accessible to her too.

  32. 40

    After dealing with a lot of the same issues with apps for my kid, I decided to start writing my own. One problem I ran into is having buttons anywhere on the screen leads to it getting pushed. Still trying to figure out how to hide those, but still offer those features so the adult can exit the app or change settings.

    In case anyone is interested, I’ve released these apps under bluedroidkids on the android market. Check them out and leave me some feedback on how to make them better.

    • 41

      Hi Kent,

      A couple of approaches I’ve seen:
      1) Press and hold a button to get to the settings screen — yep kids can still do this accidentally, but if it’s in a secondary location (top of screen), it’s less likely.
      2) Settings screen outside the app (iOS)
      3) Make it easier to press the button that goes to the game, rather than the settings (make it more attractive, bigger, etc). Some dev’s make the settings/parents stuff almost camouflage by using a simple text link near the very top corner of a main menu.
      4) Multi-touch . Make them touch in two or more places on the screen simultaneously to access settings.

      We’ve mostly stuck with #1 and #3 in our apps, although in one app we went with #2 for resetting player profiles (to make it a little more difficult for bro/sis playing same game to ‘accidentally’ delete each others’ profiles).

    • 43

      One toddler app I downloaded requires you to touch the corners in clockwise order (you can start from any corner) in order to unlock it and access the settings. There’s another idea.

  33. 44

    I’m both an app developer and a father of kids aged 2 and 6. My developer self very much appreciates these tips and my dad self agrees with them wholeheartedly.

    Here are a few more for fellow app developers:

    – Support multi-touch and then ignore the touches that don’t matter. The most frustrating thing for my 2-yo is putting one hand (or palm) on part of the screen and trying to touch something else that doesn’t work.

    – Corollary: allow multiple ways to navigate. The author mentions buttons. I’d really like it if you could navigate via buttons, touch zone along edges, or swipe actions, and then have a setting where we can pick which one works for our kid at that stage in their development.

    – Undo. Unintended actions should be easily reversible.

    – Timers. Allow parents to specify how much time can be spent in the app. Our kids get 20-min a day of iPad time.

    – Ads in kids apps are EVIL! Especially banner ones. Charge extra if you have to. If the app is good I’ll happily pay.

    – Same with in-app purchasing. I totally agree with the author. Any app targeted at small kids with in-app purchasing better have it buried somewhere hard to reach and even then double and triple password protected so only parents can authorize them.

    – Variance: an app gets old really fast unless each time the child touches something, it does something slightly different.

    – Accessibility: support kids with visual or hearing impairment. It’s not that hard to implement and you’ll be expanding your customer base.

    – Please, no splash screens or startup menus. Small kids do not have the patience to sit through a 15-second promo video for the software publisher. Having to start something via a startup menu means a parent has to be involved each and every time the app is launched.

    – Support app backgrounding. Can’t tell you how many times my kids accidentally hit the ‘home’ button and exit the app, then come running over. It’s really not that hard to support backgrounding so the app maintains state and when brought back to the foreground just picks up where it left off.

    – Volume control: please have mercy on the rest of us. Let us set a maximum volume for music and sound-FX.

    – Finally: if you put device rotation or shake input in an app targeted at small children, be prepared to get a bill for the smashed iPad screen :-)

    • 45

      Amen! I was hoping someone would mention the multi-touch issue. My younger kids often grip the device without regard to whether or not they are touching the screen. This leads to frustration with most of the apps I’ve seen out there as the child is no longer able to interact with the app as intended.

    • 46

      A note to the non tech savvy about app backgrounding – Only the last generation or two of Apple devices (the ones that shipped with iOS 4 or later) support this at the device level. In other words, it’s not the app developer’s fault if you have to restart from scratch on your 3rd Gen iPod after accidentally hitting the home button. The iPod itself doesn’t allow it.

      An easy way to see if your Apple device allows it (if it’s not brand new) is to double-click the home button while on one of the home screens. If the quick launch bar slides up and reveals other icons, then your device supports backgrounding. If nothing happens (or if the double click opens an application), then your device doesn’t support it.

  34. 47

    Spot-on analysis, Rian. The iPad is an awesome tool for younger children (and, BTW, for older folks and those not so computerate), so UX for nontraditional users will only become more important. We’re only scratching the surface here… Imagine what can be unleashed when developers start really leveraging the iPad’s features? Going beyond tactile into better use of sound i/o, accelerometer, third-party accessories, multi-screen assemblies, gestures, true interactive video & AR, etc. Exciting times ahead!

    BTW, what did your daughter think of Flying Books? My kids loved it.

    • 48

      Rian van der Merwe

      March 13, 2012 1:26 am

      Flying Books is great, but she might be a little young for it – there’s not consistency in navigation and what can be touched, so it’s a game of find and explore… Keen to try it again once she’s a little older.

  35. 49

    THIS! -> “If You Try To Trick My Kid Into Buying Stuff, You’re Dead To Me”

  36. 50

    Chris Rittersdorf

    March 12, 2012 11:31 am

    Mutually Human recently posted an article which delves into the topic of mobile children’s games:

    Simple Pure Interaction.

  37. 51

    Nice. It never ceases to amaze me how many apps for kids are useful only with adult supervision (and not just because of in-app purchases, which, by the way, are easy to turn off in your settings, as is the option that allows those little fingers to delete apps, pretty useful).

    Do note that I blame Apple for this and other issues (e.g. prohibitively expensive in-app purchases, no “undo sale” option like google market, notifications interrupting game play, home button which closes app, no way to lock a kid into one application unless you jailbreak the device, and last but not least, some form of multi-user features that would allow me to provide a custom home screen to my kid based on the password entered or selection of a name/icon/picture)

    Just a little praise… We love your interactive alphabet. Bought at least 100 children’s apps, but there are very few gems. Yours is one of them. Duck Duck Moose has several. I will immediately check out your other apps and Toca Boca based on your recommendation.

    Our all time #1 app for is Monkey Preschool by THUP Games. My 3yo loves their Monkey Math school title as well.
    Perhaps off-topic, but I also recommend Little Sky Writers by Dano LLC and Montessori Crosswords by By L’Escapadou.
    A good example of titles that look pretty but fail miserably are those by Montessorium (which is ironic, as they are supposed to be used by kids experimentally and by themselves).

    • 52

      Thanks again for the Toca Boca stuff. She’s been tea-partying, cutting hair and cooking dinner all afternoon!

  38. 53

    Christian Larsen

    March 12, 2012 12:29 pm

    Great article. I am a developer of kids apps and think you nailed it on the head. And I must say, I already practice all of your suggestions!

    Check out the “Treble Clef Kids” music series for excellent piano and music theory apps. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

  39. 54

    I just really hope people on here are genuinely upset about apps that trick their kids into spending money, and not instead upset that a decent quality app said “Free”, but then wanted money to allow you to play beyond the demo. In-app purchases are a great way to allow users to try the app before buying it, including apps for kids. This is a much more ethical way to do business, in my opinion, then tricking you into buying the app from the beginning with my polished screenshots (that give no indication of how good the app actually is.)

    • 55

      In my case, I’m not complaining about upgrading to a no ads version, or to get past the sample game. It’s games with add ons (like the costumes in the example) or ads for other products by the designer which toss you out to the app store if you don’t know /aren’t coordinated enough no to tap them.

      If the point to of the game is to acquire bits and pieces, there’d better be plenty of bits and pieces included. If my kid can’t really do more than examine the idea without me needing to spend more money, it’s not happening.

    • 56

      Rian van der Merwe

      March 13, 2012 1:28 am

      All the children’s apps I have are paid apps, so I don’t have a problem with paying and supporting developers. My problem is indeed with tricking kids into buying stuff without knowing what they’re doing…

  40. 57

    Larry Silverman

    March 12, 2012 1:06 pm

    You’ve struck a nerve here, popular post! Congratulations.

    I think we can take Apple to task here for not recognizing the educational potential of the platform. They could make it much easier for parents to safeguard the iPad. Apple used to have such a passion for education.

    I’d like to certainly see in-app purchase lockout, as others have mentioned.

    More importantly, I’d like to be able to lock the iPad in “child mode”, where only those apps I designate are accessible before I hand the iPad over to my two-year old. I’d like to safeguard my email from accidental deletion, among other things.

    • 58

      Sherry Willhoite

      March 16, 2012 9:10 am

      Totally agreed here. I really don’t understand why Apple hasn’t created better parental controls. I see a couple of options here…

      1) A simple locking mechanism – a la passcode – where I can launch an app and lock the device in only that app. If the child clicks the HOME button, nothing happens or it displays a prompt. I can assign a multi-gesture to disable this state or even better, use this gesture to bring up the passcode screen where I can disable this state after entering my code.

      2) Seems a little more complicated, but not by much…setup a parental control app, when I launch that app, the phone is set to only access the apps I’ve designated as available to my kids. Again, have some type of multi-gesture, or go back into the parental app, use my passcode to disable the state and let me use my device as usual.

      Ultimately, I’d love to have both. When my kids were younger, I would have preferred #1 and now that my kids are older, I’m okay with them switching apps as long as they are the ones I’ve designated as okay.

      Finally – PLEASE – make it so that I can put some controls around the YouTube app since I can’t delete it. Seriously, it’s like crack for kids to want to go to that app and watch videos, but I’m certainly not comfortable with them searching around and seeing all of the seedy stuff that’s on the site.

  41. 59

    Great article. I couldn’t agree more. I have had to turn off the ability to swipe to next app and the menu at the bottom of the screen because my 6 month old keeps scrolling to the next app by accident. On an app on my android phone the normal menus and back button are switched off until a specific sequence of actions is performed.

    • 60

      Six month old? Really?

      I’m an old parent! My kids are 27 and 5. Yes, 22 years difference. It didn’t occur to me to hand my 6 month old my cell phone 5 years ago though I saw children with parents younger than I chewing on cell phones and punching buttons on presumably locked phones all the time. We bought a toy phone that we carried as faithfully as our own. He still plays with it in fact.

      If I had a 6 month old now it still wouldn’t seem right to hand them electronics worth several hundred dollars when they are easily entertained or distracted by actual baby toys. My 27 year old is pregnant though. I expect she will do exactly as you do!

      Not until he was three and all the grown ups he knew had upgraded and traded off various gadgets and phones resulting in an unclaimed iTouch was our son given electronics to play with! Even now, that iTouch is mostly a ‘radio’ in the kitchen and only carried along for his entertainment on major travels. We each have games and stories on our phones and the iPad, but he is rarely given those without an adult nearby. Partly because there are few games that don’t require some sort of assistance every few minutes, and partly because I’m old and think of these things as too expensive for a child to be left alone with!

      • 61

        I agree it is not a good idea to give ipad or phone to a 6 months old. My son wanted to play with these when he was 6 months old but we managed to keep it away from him for more than a year. Now at 2 years, he is addicted to angry birds (though not playing well) and you tube. He likes it better than his other toys which is worrying to us. We are now trying to engage him in other ways so that his mind lives more in real world than digital world.

  42. 62

    Jennifer Burroughs

    March 12, 2012 2:14 pm

    I agree with these four simple ways that application designers can make the apps better for our kids. I have two boys (4 & 2). Both have problems with finding the interactive portions, the menus at the bottom lead to me having to intervene and find where they where in an app. And please for the love of god don’t you DARE put a place where my toddler can “accidentally” make a purchase. I will delete and not buy another product from you. Thank you for posting four things that can help my kids and others use applications better.

  43. 63

    I totally agree! And that cat is dead for us too. :D It made my child so frustrated that it was doomed to be deleted. An excellent app worth citing that incorporates all the great features mentioned above and supports multi-touch too is Little Miss Muffet HD. My daughter adores it!

  44. 64

    Thanks for a great article!

    For our Interactive iPad Book to inspire the love of reading in kids ages 4 to 10 – Elfishki and the Giant Cake, we put pagination on the bottom rather than the top, to deal with the Menu being a secondary issue (the home bottom is hidden on the top right).

    Do you think it’s ok, or should we make an effort to move the pagination to the top as suggested?


  45. 65

    Absolutely… spot on… great insight… and thanks for sharing. Do we need an official working group to “officialize” these best practices or can common sense and decency just simply prevail?

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    Sue Drouin M.S., CCC-SLP

    March 12, 2012 4:49 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. As a SLP I find that many apps would be great for my students with special learning needs except for the design flaws you mentioned. These flaws are a deal breaker. Thanks for highlighting them so well, let’s hope developers hear you, Sue

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    Tim from IntuitionHQ

    March 12, 2012 6:21 pm

    Great read. I laughed with “all bets are off” if you tried to make your daughter by something. Designing something for kids is so hard. Especially for young kids. Your article gives a good overview of things that need to be done when designing an interactive book on ipad. Thanks

  48. 68

    I recently wrote a post about thein-app purchases in kid’s apps, it is really important to turn off that option – sadly not everyone knows there is a way to do that.

    About the first point, affordance, I had this insane moment when we first downloaded the new Toca Boca House app (and we usually love the Toca Boca apps), where I was sure that more things should be interactive. There are several little games in a “building”, and I was sure that the porch, the roof and the hills in the background looked like they have a game behind them. But no. Very confusing.

  49. 69

    Great article, I wasn’t expecting to read about this kind of app development, it was refreshing to have something a bit different. This was a delightful surprise as I have been thinking about the exact same thing around how developers and designers are observing the children that are using these apps.

    I’ve got a 2 year old little boy who loves playing with the apps on my iPad and from my observation I wish the apps would:

    1. Only fire one click event when there are animals making noises or dancing so that he can actually see or hear what the animal does, and once the animation sound completes then enable the click/touch event again. (There’s nothing worse than a mooing cow trying to make a noise over and over).

    2. Not sure if an app can control this, but when my little boy plays with apps I have to switch off multi-gestures, because while he interacts and swipes he often uses more than one little finger which means that he flips through different apps, etc.

    3. I agree 100% on selling stuff as it interupts the whole experience and can diminish those valuable iTune credits :)

    Thanks for the awesome article Rian.

  50. 70

    Better yet, don’t get your 2 year old hooked on the iPad at all.

    Run around outside. Play with a wooden train, or a doll. Read real books that don’t hurt your eyes. Talk. Play. There will be MORE than enough time to master all things with screens in the coming years.


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