Developing Apps for Kids 101

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It is estimated that 56% of children aged 8-12 and 21% of younger children own a smartphone. On the other hand, 70% of households with children own a tablet. So it’s not a surprise that 70% of the children from these households have access to said tablet. 77% of these children downloaded game apps, while 57% used educational apps for kids. Over 50% of these children are adept in using smartphones and similar devices. With all these statistics, it can’t be denied that this demographic has a lot of untapped potentials.


It is also undeniable that developing apps for kids that grew up with the technology is challenging, especially with the 8-12 demographic. Add several more factors like the educational value of the app, and of course, the kid and parents’ reception. But is it really a monumental task? Nope. Just keep these things in mind:


Tips in Developing Apps for Kids

1.     Define your target audience.

Saying that you want to develop “apps for kids” is quite a generalization. There are apps for toddlers, apps for preteens and then assorted children’s apps considered as “educational”. Defining your target audience is important in terms of marketing, especially in targeting parents searching for age-appropriate apps for their children. Target a two-year age range at the maximum.

2.     Understand their needs and demands.

It’s bad to spoil children or so they say. But if the main goal is to entertain, we should give it all. Though parents refure the rule of mobile devices as “digital babysitters”, it can’t be denied that  a lot of apps can capture a child’s whole attention – longer and better. In order for the app to deliver this desired effect, pay close attention to these details:



A research conducted by the University of Wisconsin found that toddlers are more perceptive to interactive stimulus compared to something they can just stare at. So it stands to reason that animation and audio/visual feedback would immediately catch their attention.


Let children use their creativity by requiring their input. You can turn your app into an interactive story-telling platform or activity-centric like drawing and painting. But be careful with having interactive elements. These elements should be defined as affordances. This is to spare the kids from the frustration of tapping each element.


UI and UX design.

The layout of the app is not a big issue for older children since it is easier for them to learn the inner workings of an app as they go. Younger children, on the other hand, may need step-by-step instructions. Minimal use of textual  instructions is recommended but if it can’t be prevented, break down these textual instructions into parts and pair each part with a visual presentation.


Keep the menu simple with all the menu options just a tap away. Icons and symbols don’t need to be standard since children are more inclined to pictorial representations.


Another issue is the settings option. Make sure that if the child accidentally taps on a setting that there won’t be any drastic changes on the app, like the wiping of cached data. Also, touch target ranges should be wider to anticipate the kids’ clumsy hands. Gestures should also be basic and natural for them like swiping and tapping.


It is also important for the app to have the right “feel”. Aside from using bright and vibrant colors, the layout and character design should be age appropriate. The characters should also express the right personality and are relatable to the kids.



Kids are impatient, especially when asked to wait. App loading times should not exceed 10 seconds. There should be music or animation to keep the kids entertained if a longer loading time is necessary.



Rewards can come in the form of in-app items or positive reinforcement. Progress can also be a reward in of itself. For this to happen, the app should be challenging but not so difficult that kids would lose patience with the app.


3.     Understand the stance of the parents.

Parents actually play a big role in the decision on what apps their children can access. According to a 2014 data, 57% of parents of children below eight years old review media content before their children can have access; on the other hand, 25% of parents allow their children to browse for media content themselves. Nevertheless, parents still have a say (especially with paid apps) if an app gets downloaded or not. Here are some of the common concerns from parents:

  1. The app’s educational value. Apps need not labeled “educational” in order to be of value for parents. It can also help develop certain skill sets (hand-eye coordination being the most common) through an innovative approach.
  2. Responsible use of in-app purchases. Some apps have become the bane of parents for their trap-like approach to in-app purchases. Be upfront on the use of in-app purchases and especially on the way you present them to your young audience. Banners and icons for in-app purchases shouldn’t distract kids from the flow of the app.
  3. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a US federal law regulating the collection of information from kids below thirteen years old. It stipulates that content providers should include a privacy policy with information about content or actions that need parental consent. The law prohibits marketing to children below thirteen years old. Other countries also have similar laws.
  4. Feedback channels. Parents want to know who or where to complain to in case something goes wrong with the app. A lot of parents also want to learn of other parents’ experience/opinion about the app. Online and offline help should be available within the app or app website.

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