If you are not creating products that speak to kids and their natural desire to play, you are failing them.Self-directed play allows development of a child’s relationship with the world.Without self-directed play, it is very difficult to form that relationship. If kids can’t have physical territory for self-directed play, let them have digital territory for won-der and exploration. Play is the starting point of this because it is the starting point of learning. Leading developmental psychologists like Peter Gray emphasize this idea. The growth of the homeschooling and schooling movements are evidence that traditional educational models or methods of instruction are failing many of our kids. It is our job to step up and provide ways for all kids to learn the skills they need to succeed.Giving kids self-direction does something else: it creates intrinsic value in your product instead of external or imposed value. An imposed value could be to master fractions in order to pass a test. Intrinsic value offers inner motivation, engaged learning, real retention, growth, joy, and the desire to do and learn more. A great fractions program will offer that.What you’ll know by the end. Within these pages are hundreds of examples of effective interactive designs for children gathered over thousands of iterative cycles of user research and experimentation. Children love playing on playground equipment - didn't you when you were younger?

With highlights gleaned from a wide history of products, this contains the best and most usable design tricks and techniques for creating winning, child-focused experiences.You will learn the best uses of color, animation, sound, character development, and interface design to get attention, support accessibility and usability, and generally empower kids’ interactions. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to understand and use play patterns to make great products that kids will love.Our children are humanity’s future. How we empower them and what we teach them will affect who they are as adults in the world. A child’s job is to learn about the world they have been born into, and they are naturally voracious consumers of experiences and information. The quality, safety, age-appropriateness, and general joy of what we offer those open minds and hearts is very important. As designers of children’s content, we have a responsibility to support and nurture their growing developmental process in the best ways possible. I hope by the end of this you’ll become an advocate of engaged play, and a master of the magic that comes with understanding the art of interactive design for children. Play is not frivolous or trivial in its impact on humans. It is a basic biological and psychological function that supports our health and well-being in countless ways each day, lowering our stress, helping us learn new skills, or facilitating congenial relationships. With exercise being so important nowadays, products such as outdoor fitness equipment would be a welcome find in any Christmas stocking, providing you could fit them in!

When we play, we open ourselves to new possibilities, insight, and creativity. Playfulness helps us view life with optimism, create new options by testing alternatives, and develop social coping skills for a happier life.We have all seen the joy on children’s shining faces when they are deeply en-grossed and engaged in play. Play is what kids do best. It is essential to a joyful life, and it is an instrumental partner in learning. In addition to social skills, children develop motor skills, spatial sense, creativity, organizational and classification skills, observational skills, abstract thinking, and hand–eye coordination through play. This applies to digital play as well as real-world physical play. For example, a game like Tetris involves many of the same spatial and pattern recognition skills as building with wooden blocks.A good dig-ital product will leave room for creativity, open-ended play, and self-direction, the same qualities that make more traditional types of play so important to growth and development.What else does play do? It may surprise you to know that pretend play improves language acquisition and facility with numbers. Social play and collaboration also contribute to literacy. Classification and observation skills employed in many digital games and activities are the same skills useful in learning science. Play is central even to games or products whose primary function is to teach, rather than to entertain. Children master new tasks and abilities through practice and repetition, and we are all more likely to repeat something when we enjoy doing it. Imagine waking up on Christmas day and seeing monkey bars in your back garden?