Getting to grips with animation from an early age is a great way to start them on an artistic journey that hopefully will last a lifetime.
By giving your child a piece of animation software you can help them to make better use of their computer time, instead of spending it solely on video games.
What Makes Animation Different?
Animation is a wonderful combination or drawing, design, story-telling, timing and film making.
By getting an early grounding in the animation process your child will easily be able to further develop each of these skillsets as they become more interested in the craft.
The New Media
The rise of what they call the “new media” has meant that creative, artistic, and technical skills are in huge demand. And young people who show a proficiency in these areas are more likely to secure job positions.
Understanding animation and developing a strong visual language is critical to harness the full potential of today’s technology.
Why Animation Software Beats Video Games
As I mentioned earlier, if your child is going to be on the computer they might as well be doing something that develops the creative side of their brains rather than passively playing video games.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with video games – in fact they can develop the left side of the brain in the form of problem solving and hand eye co-ordination.
It’s just that from a creative perspective they inevitably follow the path created by the game designers, instead of creating their own world as is possible in an animation program.
Believe me, once your child creates their first animation they’ll be hooked!
Animation Is A Social Thing
While the classic image of an animator is of somebody hunched over a desk furiously working – the very creative act itself has a social dimension, and this can be of great benefit to your child.
They can work with friends on a small project and then upload it to YouTube or share it on Facebook. The idea of creating something and then showing it to others is a wonderful feeling and gives a tremendous sense of achievement, empowerment, confidence and self-esteem.
Getting your child into animation is a great way to help them develop their creative skills and artistic talents but finding the right piece of software can be tough if you’re unsure of what to look for.
After all, you don’t want to waste time and money on some expensive kit only to find it’s either too complicated or not what your child is interested in.
So, I thought it would be handy to give you some tips and things to think about when considering which is the best animation software for your kids.
How Old Are They?
The first thing you’ll need to consider is the age of your child and the level of their ability.
Young children will be looking for something simple with a strongly visual interface and not too many hidden menus and fancy bells and whistles. Something like Flip Boom or TAB kids might be a great choice in this case.
Older children will naturally be more tech-savvy and may already have some familiarity with cartooning and animation, and so may be ready for a more powerful piece of software like Toon Boom Studio, which is actually a professional level tool…so this could give them a great head start on developing real-world expertise for a future career in the animation industry.
What Kind of Animation Will They Be Doing?
The next important consideration is what kind of animation will they be doing?
Are they more into classical 2d cartoons or the latest whizz-bang 3d techniques? Or is stop-motion plasticine animation like Wallace and Gromit the sort of thing that gets their creative juices flowing?
Deciding this will help you choose the best software the job.
What Hardware Do You Have?
While even the smallest laptop these days is powerful enough to run most softwares, it’s best to check the spec requirements of the animation software you want to purchase first, since some require a decent graphics card. But as I say, most computers these days are powerful enough as standard, and if you can view videos on it fairly well you should be fine.
Also bear in mind that if your child will be doing stop motion animation you’ll need some kind of camera and tripod.
A pen tablet can be a great tool for any 2d drawn animation also.
Mac or PC?
Most animation software for kids is compatible for both Mac and PC computers, but it’s always best to check first to save yourself some grief later.
What Sort of Budget Do You Have?
As with anything in life, marking out a basic budget will help you decide on which piece of kids animation software to go for.
Bear in mind that the animation software available on the market ranges from free to several thousands of dollars.
Don’t take out that second mortgage just yet though…most paid software for kids is nowhere near that price, and most can be purchased for well under 100 bucks.
“Free” Software Comes With A Price
While you can certainly pick up some nifty little free animation software programs, it’s worth noting that you may not receive much support in terms of updates, installations, user guides etc.
Free and open source software is down to the discretion of the creators and community that builds up around them, and since it is voluntary there may not be the support available that you require.
Toon Boom is no stranger to the animation market, with their Studio and Animate programs a firm favourite among the professional and freelance market, and their high-end Harmony software used at big name studios like Klasky Csupo, Nickelodeon, and Disney.
However, their latest software designed specifically for kids and young people has been well received and is becoming one of the market leaders.
In this Flip Boom All Star review, we’ll take a look inside the software to see how it stacks up and whether it’s something you’d like for your child.
Watch this quick video I made which gives you an inside look at Flip Boom All Star
The first thing that strikes you when you open the software is that the interface is very well laid out without any hidden menus or complicated settings.
There’s nothing more off-putting to a young person than software that requires a detailed manual just to get off the starting blocks.
Each button has a “tool tip” which is revealed by hovering the mouse over it, and the user guide is easily accessed by pressing F1, so there’s no need to scroll through lengthy manuals to find what you’re looking for.
Flip Boom All Star is a surprisingly well-rounded piece of software and supports a wide variety of media formats allowing you complete creative freedom.
The drawing tools allow you to do traditional drawn animation, or by importing pictures, photos or videos to animate in a variety of media.
You also have a function called “Auto-Animate” which allows you to do a drawing, and then the software will animate it for you in a variety of crazy styles – which is great for getting a result in a short amount of time.
You also have the ability to import sound into a project – this could be music or some sound or voice your child has recorded. This opens up the ability to do some simple character animation with a story.
Exporting your work is real easy too, as you can save it in a variety of standard formats – iTunes, SWF, Quicktime, YouTube and Facebook formats.
This makes it real easy for your child to upload and share their work with friends and family.
It’s always good to have example scenes or elements that your child can start with or use as examples to show them what’s possible.
The are a few templates that come with Flip Boom All Star, that comprise Easter, Christmas and Manga themes, so can be a great way for your child to make e-cards or greetings message for friends and family on Facebook.
There is an eLearning section on the ToonBoom website which is updated every so often with new templates which be downloaded free of charge.
No review would be complete without a look at the negatives, but thankfully the Flip Boom All Star program doesn’t have many.
I personally think that it could come with more templates as standard. However, the templates it does have are good enough to begin with and to get your child enough familiarity with the software to make their own animations.
Another downside is whether it may be too simple and limited for older children such as teenagers. It really depends on their current level – if they’re a beginning animator then this is a good introduction for them.
On the other hand, if they already have some experience, then I’d recommend upgrading to Toon Boom Studio, which will give them a good grounding in what is a professional-level software – essentially helping them develop real-world skills as early as possible.
Additionally, the fact that you need an Internet connection to activate the software I found to be a bit of a pain. Note that once it’s activated you don’t need an Internet connection afterwards.
Now in most cases this is not an issue, but can be a bit annoying particularly if your connection is down or temporarily out of service. In my opinion it would be better to have a simple activation code that they could email you which would avoid the need for the Internet connection.
Also, a hard copy version of the program can be purchased but you will be charged an extra $30 shipping and handling, which seems a tad steep to me. Save yourself the cash and burn your own copy to CD or DVD.
The Flip Boom All Star program is a great program to give your kids their first steps in the art of animation.
While there are some negatives, the ease of use and simplicity of the tools and features mean that they won’t have to spend ages trying to learn what each button does, and can get straight on with having fun animating.
About this site
As a professional animator myself I often wonder what is the best way to teach animation to young children so they learn to appreciate this wonderful art form from an early age.
As such I've listed what I feel are the best pieces of animation software for kids so you can make an informed choice for your own little artists! :)