Liz leads me toTim Burke:
Why is so much children's software so bad? Is it the need to appeal to parents with the proposition that it's "educational", which usually results in insincere, uninvolving, hack-design work in children's culture as a whole? Anybody got any ideas?
The problem is twofold. Childrens 'culture' in games or TV is triply disintermediated - by parents, publishers and producers. Most staff actually working in this business are too young to have children, and are ready prey for poorly justified ideology about learning from the second-rate academics they hire as consultants.
I've been there. I helped make forgettable software for small children that did not engage or teach them.
Software in these fields goes through storyboards, linearizing it to the point of dullness; the children often end up with the equivalent of watching a PowerPoint marketing presentation.
The key is, as Liz and Tim imply, is build model worlds for the children to explore and create in, not linearized presentations. The best children's software - Zoombinis, Zap!, SockWorks and Cocoa do this.