Usually, they enjoy throws more than pinnings, because of the action bit - and the way it allows them to show off their agility and daring. Well, this may be more true for boys than for girls.
And they're usually much more openminded to the spiritual aspects of aikido than one might assume.
I find the conclusion at the end of the first paragraph to be, in general, true. Girls often come up with different scenarios than their boy counter-parts in class. They want to know how to deal with boyfriends and brothers who 'playfully', albeit uncomfortably, put them in headlocks, bear-hugs, etc....IOW they are excited when we work with how to deal with guys who are 'showing off' at their expense. Those particular girls (although that isn't All
girls) want to learn techniques from grabs and wrist-locks, initially. For them, that is a good 'hook' into learning aikido.
The boys do love to roll and learn flashy ukemi at first ('flashy' being a relative term, thank you very much
) and they also like to look good in front of each other. This is an interesting place of competition at times. I try to keep the tone down on that aspect, but kids do love to tumble, wrestle and fly.
The place where they come together, IME, is the same for both genders. They want to do strong, practical techniques, that their partner can effectively receive, and look 'good' , which often translates to looking capable of handling themselves in the eyes of others.
By mixing up my approach from class to class I keep them guessing what will happen in class from one session to the next while also managing to address the initial/primary needs of most students. Or at least what they think they need. In the end they get a practical piece of aikido and a fun piece of aikido to put together how they see fit, over time.
I've worked teaching teens aikido in Public and Private schools as my primary occupation for the last 5 years and I've taught young people and teens for about 15 years in dojos. Just like all other aspects of the art, you must blend with your partner, whether that be a collective partner or an individual partner and find the right fit. That, to me, is the joy and challenge of all of our common training. Finding a good fit by applying appropriate technique in the appropriate environment.
I would also like to say that the kids deeply love the spiritual aspects although they would not call them such. They would just say, 'that's the way it is'. I endeavor to support them in maintaining their natural spirit and I notice they appreciate it by their growing trust of me and of the art, whatever their background.