I think I’ve discovered a hint of what kind of computer games are most enjoyable for little kids.
There is a game on my iPod Touch that our daughters (3 and 5 years old) enjoy most. I would never expect that such a dull thing as maths series could be exciting. All you have to do in the game is to choose a correct number and to insert it in a sequence of numbers.
But I think I know why my girls enjoy the game so much. Each time they choose a correct number, a voice says some kind of praise, and if the answer is wrong, the voice says something comforting, like “It’s OK, you can do it”. But the most important thing is, a reward (a flower, or a star, or a cupcake) appears on the screen for every 5 correct answers. The kids are really happy whenever they get these things.
There are other maths games, which I would like our older daughter to play, but she doesn’t stay with them for long. The only reward she gets in these games is a word “congratulations”, which appears in a blue frame along with other dull words that she never reads. Moreover, this “congratulation” appears only after completion of 50 maths problems!
A hint for game designers: If you design a game for young kids, it’s not enough to make it interesting (from your, adult point of view). Let your game give children a lot of praise and prizes. Congratulate them for every tiny success, lavish them with flowers, stars, and stickers, and they will love your game more than any other.