I ran into a lady from Motorola in Boston who told me her friend’s 4 year old has been playing our Mobile Bubble Pop game. Obsessively.
I first found this neat. Then somewhat disturbing (especially the obsessive part.) We never expected someone so young to play the game. Not that it’s a bad game for a child. It’s simple. Repetitive. Provides a certain sense of accomplishment. Has some auditory stimuli, but doesn’t over-stimulate. Not sure what a 4-year old thinks of the Einstein and Mark Twain quotations at the end of the game however…
But had we known, could we have done something to make it a more fun or meaningful experience for a 4 year old? A few thoughts below.
- Popping the bubbles reveals an animal. A voice provides additional information (“cat, mouse, bear”)
- Twenty-six bubbles. Each one reveals a letter of the alphabet. A voice provides additional information (“B is for bear”)
- Ten bubbles. Each one reveals a number and a series of objects (“4 bears, 3 fish etc.”)
- Multiple editions of bubble pop could provide even more opportunities. “This mobile bubble pop is brought to you by the letter F” (“frog, family, friend etc.” throughout the game)
- Bubble pop matching game. Basic matching game concept but with the added auditory fun of bubble popping.
- Pop all the bubbles and reveal a pattern or shape below (elephant, fish, happy faceâ€”something easily recognizable ) .
- Different levels allow you to pop bubbles in different ways (using different keys or a different online ‘cursor’ shape.)
The last one seems a bit problematicâ€”especially for someone who can’t read basic instructions to understand differences in functionality or interaction. Still there’s something to be said for a game (or maybe a bunch of games) designed to teach device literacy. The handset equivalent of learning how to use a mouse and basic keyboard inputâ€”through games.
I also haven’t yet decided whether I think we should be encouraging a 4 year old to use a smartphone. Four seems really young. Not that we have much choice. If mum and dad have oneâ€”it’ll inevitably end up in their child’s hands. Why not make it a positive experience. Maybe every smartphone should have at least a few applications pre-installed for younger children (call it a productivity enhancer or ‘time-out’ for tired parents .
“The “pass-back” was first coined by mobile video mongols who see short cartoon kid-like mobile video’s as the perfect thing a mother can use to occupy a cranky kid in the back seat. Mom is driving. Kid in the back seat is crying, cranky, bored, whatever. Mom picks up her cell phone and turns on or tunes into some kind of kid-oriented mobile video and passes it back to her kid. Kid shuts up and is entertained (or throws the mobile phone out the window)…(via moPocket)”
A recent BBC article on cyber-literacy offers these thoughts on computer use by youngsters.
“…by the age of four, 45% of children have used a mouse to point and click, 27% have used a computer on their own at home, rising to 53% for six-year-olds, and 30% have looked at websites for children at home…BBC Cbeebies online producer Olivia Dickinson says: “They use fine motor skills when they use the mouse or keyboard. So they can go up to using the spacebar, to using the arrow keys, to using the mouse.”
“They also learn some gross motor skills, in terms of some of the bigger movements of the mouse, but also in terms of physical development, when we give them activities to do in front of the computer, like dance and music. We’ve got a few games where if you keep hitting the spacebar the Teletubbies appear, and that just gets them into what a computer is.”