Tu, C., (2014, Summer). Assessing the Interactivity of 3-year-old Children with an iPad App: The Carnival of the Animals (COA). Perspectives, Official Journal of Early Childhood Music and Movement Association.

This preliminary study investigates 3-year-old children’s interactivities with an iPad application (App): The Carnival of the Animals (COA). Within a naturalistic setting of the home, it examines the documentation of finger movement and video data of two participating children during four weekly visits of free-play with the iPad App: COA. The purposes of the study were (1) to track and compare finger movement by 3-year-old children, collecting information on children’s preferences of graphic objects and sound categories; (2) to measure children’s learning “flow;” and to document the degree of enjoyment and level of interest during their interaction with the App; and (3) to collect qualitative data regarding children’s various abilities from interviews of parents, including topics on familiarity of the device, reading, listening, language, music, visual, and special interests.

Conclusions: first, based on the interaction with the parents and children during the home visits, it appeared that children enjoyed playing with the iPad App and looked forward to the weekly visits. The FIMA scores are fairly high for each affective indicator and this concurs with the observation during the sessions. They were fully engaged in the 10-12 minutes of free-play of the App and were focused on the screen. Occasionally they laughed at the comical antics of the animals, asked for help turning the pages, or shook their hands in time to the music.

Second, the finger-tracking program, delivered by, was an effective tool for helping the early childhood researchers quantify young children’s finger movement when engaged with the iPad. The results indicated that the assessment tool objectively recorded young children’s finger activity on the iPad. Traditionally, assessment in early childhood has been limited to observation techniques. In “Assessing the developing child musician,” (Brophy, 2000)– the analysis and preference–evaluation music and reactions to music have been done with older ages. He stated that “musical evaluation and critical reactions to music require the responding assessment response mode, most often through having students write while listening.” (Brophy, 2000, p.44). Similarly, Walker reported in “Assessment in Early Childhood” that according to Piaget’s preoperational stage, young children (age 2 to 7) have not yet developed mental structures needed for logical or abstract thought. Objective assessment during this period is rather difficult (Andress & Walker, 1992, p.101). This study demonstrates that by using advanced finger-tracking technology, children, as young as 3, can be assessed on their learning preferences utilizing appropriately designed technology, allowing researchers to gage to a degree children’s acquisition in language and music. With the innovation of finger tracking techniques, quantitative data can be obtained and reported objectively. This technological technique is certainly an alternative tool for assessing younger children. It is attractive, inventive, motivating and fun for young learners.

Third, these findings, like most early exploratory studies, often produce more questions than answers. One concern related to the software was the size and color of the graphics on each page of the App. Larger sized and/or brighter colored figures may have attracted children’s attention over other objects. Further analysis in this area is needed. Another concern was the time that the sessions were conducted. Young children’s social/emotional moods shift dramatically between morning and afternoon. Researchers did not control the times of each visit. Some sessions were scheduled close to naptime. Fatigue could have contributed to unstable data. Another issue was the sitting position of the child during free play. When held on the lap of the mother, the child exhibited better behavior. The sitting position of the children was not consistent throughout the study leading to possible distractions that affected the outcome of the data.

In summation, the rapid advancement of touch interface technology, such as the portable and functional iPad, iPhone, and tablets, have made digital media accessible and practical. This innovation opens up a rich line of new possibilities for research in early childhood music education.


Andress, B. & Walker, L. (Eds.). (1992). Readings in early childhood music education. Reston, VA: Music

Educators National Conference (MENC).

Brophy, T. S. (2000). Assessing the developing child musician: A guide for general music teachers.

Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, Inc.


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