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26 September 2013

Spreading, Pinching, and Rotating: Preschoolers’ Challenges for Tablet Game Play

Keywords: experiment, games, iPad, preschoolers, tablet, Western Europe, gaming, interactive media, internet, kids, learning, media, observation, technology,

Tablet apps for kids are hugely popular these days. Not only children value its interactivity, parents do so as well. But how good are kids at performing the finger movements (e.g., spreading, pinching, rotating, sliding etc.) that are required when using interactive apps? According to a study in the International Journal of Computer and Information Technology, preschoolers still struggle with certain required gestures during iPad game play, such as spreading. Children aged four and older are able to master all the required gestures.  

Take aways

  • Children’s ability to master the right finger movements required for tablet game play, depends on their age level. 
  • Children aged four and older, are able to use all the required gestures, whereas children aged two and three still struggle with some (i.e., spreading, pinching, rotating). 
  • For app developers it’s important to know that preschoolers still experience difficulties with some finger movements. Therefore, they must adjust the required gestures to the proper age. 

Study information

  • The question?

    From what age on are children able to use the required finger movements for game applications on the iPad?

  • Who?

    33 2- to 12-year olds (three children for each age) 

  • Where?

    United Kingdom

  • How?

    All children played five different games on an iPad (i.e., Shape Sorter, Buzzle Lite, SquishyFruit, ABC Animals and AlphaBaby Free). Each game required certain finger movements, such as tapping, sliding, dragging, rotating, pinching, spreading, and flicking. In order to test whether the children were able to use these gestures, the researchers observed their play. 

Facts and findings

  • Children’s ability to use certain gestures in order to fully master their iPad game play, depended on their age level:
    • 2-year olds were unable to drag, rotate and spread certain objects, and struggled with sliding, and pinching gestures. However, they were already able to tag and flick on the iPad. In addition, they experienced difficulties with focusing on the game. 
    • 3-year olds showed similar struggles, however they were able to drag objects, and the ability to rotate certain objects improved a bit. 
    • 4- 12 year olds were able to use all the required gestures for iPad game play (i.e., tapping, sliding, dragging, rotating, pinching, spreading, and flicking), however, the young ones (4 y/o) needed more time to drag certain objects. The older ones (7-12 y/o) preferred more fun and challenging apps. 
  • Critical note: The results might not be representative of other children aged 2- to 12-years old, because only 33 children were studied. The study only gives an impression of digital play abilities.