IXD301 – Cognitive Ability & Benefits of Animation on Children

With the ever-increasing emphasis on motion in kids learning, I sought out to find what psychological benefits it prescribes to children. While browsing the internet looking for a link between motion and education I found two appealing articles by Janelle Vargo titled, “10 Reasons to Use Animation in the Classroom” and “Benefits of Animation on Your Child’s Brain” by CompuChild. Both explain the correlation in the increased interest for a child to learn when motion/animations are thrown into the mix. Compared with static content which fails to grab a kid’s attention in many instances. We will explore and review the world of animation on a child’s brain.


As I have said in previous blogs, kids are constantly changing both physically and mentally, so it is important to find specific information on the range of the age group at hand (8 to 10-year-olds). So before I start looking at how animation affects a child’s brain, we must first look at the learning process of children through the ages. Popular theorist Jean Piaget talks about cognitive development and how the good first step is to understand how children get their knowledge, construct it and use it.

According to Piaget, newborns don’t possess the ability of basic cognitive skills and while constantly growing, they are rapidly adapting to the world around them while constructing an understanding of everything.

There are three components that exist in cognitive development which are:

Function – Refers to the broad characteristics of intellectual activity.

Structure – Refers to the properties of intelligence that cause particular behaviors to occur.

Content – Refers to the knowledge which children do know; raw observable behavioral data.

Stages of development:

Sensory-motor stage – Infancy (0-2 years)

This is the stage of discovery, it provides repetition through the constant occurrence of smells, tastes, seeing and hearing which in turn builds a bigger intellect image inside the child’s brain.

Pre-operational stage – toddler and early childhood (2-7 years)

This is the stage of rapid development, children now have adapted to intellectually configure symbolic images to define elements and develop their language ability. They begin to imitate other people’s behavior and lose thought of egocentrism. Although, children still need concrete physical situations to understand what is going on as they aren’t able to conceptualize abstractly on their own.

Concrete-operational period (7-11 years)

Finally, in my intended age group, the children learn to conceptualize physical situations and form a more logical approach based on their past experiences. They are able to appropriately manifest symbols through logic that is related to concrete objects. Additionally, they can classify objects based on their features and dimensions with the additional ability of abstract problem-solving.

Why animations?

Relate – Animations give the opportunity to relate to characters as they see them as more lively beings instead of a static illustration on a computer screen. This in turn makes the kids more likely to develop relate to fictional characters. Ultimately, this helps them refine their social and critical thinking skills that support real-world relationships.

Empathy РSimilarly to above, kids can form an empathetic relationship with fictional characters that can teach kindness and empathy. This can also reflect their real-world relationships.

Multi-Sensory – Through problem-solving and reflection of their hero’s onscreen, animations can be another form of multi-sensory teaching tool which is highly effective in educating children.

Safeguarding – Animations (especially in applications) can serve as a safeguard to help children when something is going wrong. An example of this would be if a child enters incorrect details into a word search and it responds with “Uh Oh, Try again!” – this acts as a boundary so the fault does not feel personal.

Effective – Animations are powerful and are shown to improve listening amongst children, ultimately providing a better and more efficient learning experience.

Shared Experience – Animations contribute to storytelling, more appropriately they contribute to creating a shared viewing experience especially in the classroom in which all children have a common story to talk/write about.


What have I learned? 

Firstly, it was very crucial for me to identify the cognitive processes of a child both before and at my age group to grasp an understanding of how they learn and what they know, without this I’d be designing blindly (excluding future user research). I also found these articles about the benefits of animation in children were an excellent read. Some benefits that animations can provide are:

  • Problem Solving
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Memory Enhancement and Brain Growth
  • Making Sense of Space
  • Personality Development
  • Auditory and Visual Stimulations




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