Most interactive tablet games aimed at pre-kindergarten children do not make full use of their motor skills, according to research published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.
According to Javier Jaén, PhD, from the Universitat Politènica de València (Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain), he and his colleagues aimed to “evaluate both the use and potential of interactive tablets in child education, as well as the characteristics of the interactive game apps currently available on the market.”
The researchers conducted a study in which they analyzed 100 educational apps, finding that all but one required tapping on the screen to interact with the game, and 56% involved dragging objects across the screen. The games did not make use of additional actions such as zooming in and out or rotating objects.
The researchers then conducted an experiment with 32 children (16 boys and 16 girls) aged 2-3 years (24-38 months) and tested whether they could successfully complete the following tasks: tap, double tap, long press (tap and hold), drag, scale up and scale down (zooming in and out), one-finger rotation, and two-finger rotation.
The children were able to complete more actions than current interactive games expect them to: in addition to tapping and dragging objects, the children also had high success rates with scaling objects up and down (zooming in and out) and with rotating objects with one finger.
Tasks that were more difficult included double tap, long press, and two-finger rotation, which had success rates varying between 40% and 60%. Sometimes this was due to their motor skills, but in other cases it was due to needing more time to complete the task than the game allowed. The researchers found no significant differences in success based on gender, and completion time was not affected by gender but was affected by age.
“The conclusion of this study is that apps tend to underestimate the motor skills of young children, who are able to carry out the whole range of touchscreen actions from an early age,” Dr Jaén stated.
“This means that much richer, more complex games can be made for children. Sometimes, and this is the case here, technology lags behind the skills of our youngest members,” he added.
Nacher V, Jaen J, Navarro E, Catala A, González P. Multi-touch gestures for pre-kindergarten children. Int J Hum-Comput Int. 2016; doi:10.1016/j.ijhcs.2014.08.004.