At Creature & Co., we’re all about injecting a dose of fun into the serious stuff, because let’s face it – tackling big problems, like climate change, could use a bit of the creativity we had as kids. We’re not saying using playful language is like a magic wand that’ll instantly solve everything, but it makes complex issues more approachable and solutions more achievable. What’s not to like?
It’s no secret that children have an incredibly open-minded view of the world. They’re full of curiosity, positivity and enthusiasm for life and tend to see it for its best bits. They also have the ability to think and digest information in an extremely straightforward, literal way – free of the constraints of life experience and cynicism.
Perhaps most importantly, they feel and care – perhaps much more deeply than we adults give them credit for. They’re emotionally engaged and inherently compassionate about other people, creatures and places in the world, and when they’re confronted with injustice, they simply want one thing: to fix it.
So why does this matter? Well, if we add a playful approach to our communications, we can get a far more meaningful cut-through with family audiences. After all, if you can make challenging topics easy for children to understand, then you’ve made content that’s comprehensible for all. In fact, the UK government actively advise its content creators to do this, stating to aim “for a 9 year old reading age.”
Are we facing content overload?
Today more than ever, it’s even more important for businesses to find ways to better hook and engage their audiences. In both the digital and real world, we’re bombarded with content, messaging, experiences and distractions, and the same can be said for children, too.
For parents, the responsibility of raising happy, healthy, kind children who feel secure in themselves and their place in the world is becoming increasingly challenging. The list of topics that parents need to teach and safeguard their kids on, is expanding.
Often, parents may feel ill equipped to teach these topics in the first place. Take the ecological crisis, digital safety, diversity, inclusion, body confidence – the list goes on. By simplifying content to a child’s readability level, you make content more accessible, more digestible, more engaging and easier for parents to pass this knowledge on to their children, better yet, they can learn together!
How can we communicate challenging topics
Through our work with National Geographic Kids magazine, we’ve been communicating challenging topics to families for over 16 years. Much of the magazine’s focus is in the realms of science, nature, geography, history and world culture, but despite their challenging nature, the magazine communicates these topics in a way that engages the whole family unit.
As a brand, they find 92% of parents read the magazine either independently, or together with their child(ren). That’s because the content is designed to be engaging for them, too, and learning as a family may well help to ease and facilitate communication on those topics.
So how do you engage families in challenging topics? We’ll show you!
1. Do your research
You can’t explain something to others if you’ve a lack of understanding yourself. Be sure to do thorough research beforehand, ensuring you understand the various nuances, complexities and sensitivities related to the topic. It’s always a good idea to get an expert to check over the content first. Teachers, museums & academics are great sources of fact checking.
2. Keep it concise
In today’s world of time-poor readers, overwhelming your audience with information will only make people switch off, and for children, it makes information particularly inaccessible. Whittle down the information into the absolute essential points you want to convey, and build from there.
Break information up into bite-sized chunks of text, using digestible paragraphs, snappy, clear subheads and headlines. Trim unnecessary words and aim to say what you need in as few words as possible. Always consider, ‘would a child understand that word or concept?’, if the answer’s no, switch it for a shorter, simpler word, or provide a brief explanation of the meaning in brackets.
4. Be positive
You might think it hard to find a positive angle in something like a natural disaster, the climate crisis or a global pandemic. But there are always positive examples to be found, no matter how small. Look for positive angles that will help convert the reader’s feelings of sadness, shock or frustration into passion, drive and action.
5. Tailor your Tone Of Voice
To engage with kids & families, you need to use a warm, friendly & welcoming tone of voice. Remember that children (and grown-ups!) can feel anxious and emotional when confronted with challenging topics, so be sure to be honest (keeping it age appropriate), factual and reassuring.
6. Provide a glossary
Where possible, it’s always best to use words that are already familiar to a family audience. But there may be some topics that require the use of quite technical or high-level terminology that families won’t be familiar with. In these cases, include a glossary or breakdown of the ‘big’ terms, making them more comprehensible & appear a little less scary!
7. Be solutions-focused
We already have solutions to many of today’s crises and world issues, but far too often communications only focus on the problem. Provide families with hope and optimism by including solutions to the problems in the forms of role models, organisations and policies making a difference, plus actions they can take themselves to help.
So, how can we help? If you’re looking to make your content more fun and engaging for kids & families, you’ve come to the right place. Get in touch at [email protected] for a free, informal chat.