Those little hell raisers feed from chaos :)
Kids respond to sensory overload. Present them with two screens and they'll pick the more colorful chaotic one each and every time.
Sure, design the Stripe.com of children's apps. Or keep chipping away at your kid friendly design until you're left with one button in the middle of the page surrounded by white space....BUT as long as those chaotic alternatives are available, parents (who don't post here) in a pinch will pick them over your app each and every time.
Why? Because kids respond to them better.
With all that being said...sometimes kids will surprise you and play with a unpainted cardboard box for 3 hours.
As a father, I ask myself, why children love sensory overload?
Why shout? Make mess?
Video arcades are my personal hell.
I wonder if this is the natural desire or culture? Can we grow some kind of Zen Buddhist monks if not the kids pop culture?
I completely agree, Ivan! Children's developing minds draw them to colour and patterns and fun, but it doesn't actually aid them in this development at all... It seems strange to put children in a place of sensory overload, almost as if society encourages the "short attention spans" tech-savvy children supposedly have!
In my mind its like sugar. You can put tons of sugar into something and kids will love it but its not good for them. Since the harm here isn't as visible its rampant and will be hard to curb.
"Why does design for children’s websites have to be so chaotic?"
"Honestly, I can’t answer that question, and maybe there is some research out there to explain why bright colours and patterns are a good thing."
Did you find research on the subject?
I feel like the main reason is mirroring the audience's energy levels. As you age your energy levels decline and you start to appreciate slower and more subtle things