Lina Krüger

Lina Krüger

Lina Krüger has been writing stories since her elementary school days. She performed improvisational theater for ten years with a focus on long-form development, further deepening her storytelling and character development skills. In her bachelor's and master's studies in speech science, she learned everything about voice, speech and communication and specialized more and more in the field of speech arts. In her master's thesis, she then researched child-friendly information processing and audio guides for children. Today she works as a freelance voice artist and produces together with her colleague Lisa Pitt under the name Lautspiel Audio content for children.

February 22, 2018

How to create an audio guide for children

Nubart's blog - how to create an audio guide for children

Audio guides for children need to be designed quite differently than audio guides for adults. Here are some tips.

Children perceive the world differently from us adults. They have different interests, bring different prior knowledge, have a different understanding of what is exciting and important and, depending on their age, learn differently than we do. That's why it's important to prepare information for children in a different way than for adults.

This is especially important when creating an audio guide for children - a product that has to convey a lot of information to children in a short amount of time. The more you consider the special needs of children, the more they will get out of their visit.

Children listening to the audioguide at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin
Children listening to the audioguide at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin (Pio3)

The wish to offer an audio guide for children

Here is a common situation: a museum already has an audio guide for adults and now wants to expand its exhibition with a product for children. The existing audio guide has a certain number of stations, usually one for each theme, with a high density of information spread over a few minutes. If you want to create an audio guide for children, it is not advisable to simply take the same stations, reduce the information and have it read by a narrator with a storyteller's voice. The audio guide should be rethought from the ground up.

Everything starts with the choice of content

The choice of themes is also important. Children are often interested in different things from adults, so other exhibits in the same exhibition may attract their attention much more. Once you have made a selection of stations for the audio guide, look at each one carefully and ask yourself: what would have interested me most as a child?

Even if you choose the same station for children and adults, each group may be interested in different information on the same topic. For example, adults may be interested in the political context of the time, dates and important personalities, while children may be more fascinated by unusual numbers and sizes and personal stories. They will also have very different background knowledge to adults. Think about what aspects of their own lives they might be familiar with and link them in.

But be careful: not all children are the same. Pre-school children, for example, have a completely different level of knowledge to 13-year-olds, and their interests and perceptiveness also vary widely. It is therefore important to be clear about which age group the audio guide is intended for. In order to be accessible to as many children as possible, it is a good idea to set the age range between eight and twelve. Once you have decided on an age range, consider whether you know a child of that age and use this as a guide for all the steps involved in producing the audio guide.

The framework that holds everything together

Once you have a rough idea of the stations and topics, you need to think about a framework for your audio guide. Firstly, determine whether the stations are to work independently or in a specific order. Then you need to decide who the children will listen to in the audio guide. For example, it is obvious to think of one or more characters with a thematic connection to the exhibition. These characters will be introduced to the children at the beginning of the audio guide and will then guide them through the museum.

This can take place in the present day in the actual exhibition space or, for example, in the form of a story that transports the children to the place and time of the event. The audio tour can also be offered in the form of a riddle that leads the children from one station to the next and can only be solved at the end of the tour. The possibilities are endless. The most important thing is that the audio guide engages children from the start, arousing their curiosity and making them want to visit the exhibition.

When it comes to information density, less is often more

As with adult audio guides, the length of the finished audio tour should be no more than two minutes. The challenge is to keep the text for each audio station short and to include all the important information.

Keep the information to a minimum and present it in a way that is clear and, above all, interesting to the children. Fill in the information gaps with something fun, let the characters in your audio guide do the occasional prank, and incorporate the information into the story in a playful way. Simply delivering information through a number of listening points, as is often done with adult audio guides, can quickly overwhelm or bore children, who may not be able to take in the information properly or may even tune out completely.

The texts are made for listening

Once you have roughly planned the audio guide, you can start writing the scripts for the texts that will be recorded. When writing the texts, remember that they will not be read, but heard in the audio guide. Writing for listening is very different from writing for reading because what is heard is more fleeting and therefore needs to be much more precise than written language. This is particularly important when the listeners are children.

This means: using simple and descriptive language, with a simple sentence structure and no long nested sentences, using active language with lots of verbs instead of nouns, and using plenty of repetition. For each point, ask yourself: how would you explain this orally to someone else? It is very helpful to speak out loud to yourself and write down what you say. And if you can't avoid using jargon or big numbers, explain them.

Finally, there is the most important part: the sound recording. Voices, sounds and music are what bring the audio guide to life. This is what the children will end up listening to, so put a lot of love into the audio design.

Think of distinctive voices for your characters and find great voice actors to portray them. Also, work with professional sound designers who can integrate what is being said into a given situation. Sound design can be minimal - the clatter of hooves here, the chirping of birds there, or the echo of a cellar vault - but it's very important to help children immerse themselves in the story. It also makes the audio more interesting. Music can also take the listener back in time or make the work of the artists featured more tangible.

Basic principles that you should always follow

Ultimately, the design of the audio guide for children depends on the creativity of its creators. But some basic principles should always be respected: Take children seriously! Tell them what you are going to say and how you are going to say it, at eye level, rather than lecturing them. Trust children. Do not hide difficult subjects from them, but present them with due care. Always start from the children's point of view. Think about what questions children would ask, what they already know, and what they might find particularly fun or exciting.

The more child-friendly the audio guide and the more involved they feel, the more they will listen, understand and remember it.