From age two through five, kids develop a lot of skills that help them navigate through the world. Games design is possible around age four and up, but from three on, kids can duplicate some of the games they play. This is a marker of the need to feel stability in their lives as the world grows increasingly larger. Like the 0-24 months crowd, kids from two to three are still learning how their bodies function and how to communicate with their parents. They also pass through a few stages that span the transition from purely physical games to conceptual ones that use boards. Some of these younger players may not have yet mastered object permanency and object constancy, which makes some types of games too difficult to play.
Finger plays, nursery rhymes, playfully twisting language into nonsensical words, and the like are part of the activities that many two- and three-year olds enjoy as it combines both the familiarity they need to feel secure as well as the stretching of their sense of agency. These play activities are crucial for development of the child’s imagination and library of experiences that help them move out of a pure sensory world to one that requires reasoning problem solving and logic skills. This accounts for the seemingly uniform design in many of the games kids play. Most of the games available for children from three on focus primarily on simple random events while reinforcing concepts of colors, shapes, numbers, and so on. By the time children are ready for kindergarten, they often are ready for more challenging games, like chess and checkers.
Game design is quite limited for this group and most of the games that they can create require a lot of assistance from caregivers to not only articulate, but also require a bit of pre-fabricated pieces as framework for their expression. This is due in part to the lack of experiences. One of the biggest contributors beyond the child’s memories is the internalization mechanisms needed to make games, which they start to develop by the end of kindergarten.
Imitation games are one of the game types kids of this age enjoy. Part of this can be attributed to the desire to grow up faster, but it is a further attempt to understand the world as it exists. This is the age range where kids go through the “why” phase as well as testing the limits of their autonomy. Kids see their caregivers as being able to do whatever they want and the child wants to do the same. The mimicry exhibited is an attempt to create a sense of authority and power while learning roles in the household, which often is the extent of the child’s world. Kids use this play to internalize behaviors they see. All of this leads this age range to absorb as much information as possible.
As kids in this age range often play board games that work to improve memory skills, counting, matching, and object/color recognition, the types of games they can design will be close facsimiles of the games they play. The types of tools available to help them include:
- Cut-and-paste track pieces
- Pre-made boards
- Track templates of various shapes for tracing out the game’s spaces (also useful for the disabled)