As a parent of a young one who is starting to game, I have a lot to watch out for. There are ESRB ratings, online interaction and of course, the games themselves. On the other hand, if my oldest truly enjoys gaming, then I am not going to keep him from having a new hobby. When behavior is good and grades are good, moderated gaming is perfectly fine. The other side to it is that gaming can be educational and fun. A parent just needs to know how to make that happen.
Your Own Education is the First Step
An educational game like a LeapFrog game is wonderful for younger children. For a pre-teen, an educational game probably isn’t going to keep their attention. They will want to play the more popular titles that are available.
Every title has an ESRB rating. Those ratings are there for a reason. They tell you what age group the game is appropriate for. If a game is eated “T”, I need to take a look at it first and play through it. If a game is rated “M”, it’s not happening until he’s older.
MMORPGs and online titles like Minecraft are iffy. It is up to you to monitor their chat and who they talk to. Anyone in the world could be talking to your kid in those games. A parent needs to learn how to use parental controls, a chat filter and how to supervise online interaction. In my opinion, if you can’t do this, then your kid should not be playing these games.
Start with Reading
Reading to and with your children is so important. They will learn more about reading with you than they will learn in school. Reading books you choose together is also some good family time. Games can also be a reading tool.
Most games require reading. One has to read abilities, quests, information, item information… I could keep going! With my young one, I keep him occupied by asking him to read something to me. If he can’t figure out a word, I get up and go to his screen. We sit there and break the word down until he’s able to sound it out.
After that, I move onto some reading comprehension. If we are playing an MMO like RIFT together, I will ask him “Hey, what did that quest say again? Can you tell me what we need to do?” This keeps it part of the game and engaging, but requires him to recall what he read. If he can’t recall it, I’ll ask him if he can check the quest again.
Move on to Math
Almost every game a kid can play will require math. For my young one, it’s Minecraft and some MMOs. An auction house is a great place to start for some basic math. I don’t ask him to solve complicated problems, but I will use it to drill him on some basic math.
If he puts an item up on an auction house, I’ll ask him how much it goes for and create a quick problem in my head for him to solve. In Minecraft, we will be working on a build and I’ll ask him how many more blocks of an item I need.
Minecraft has a great way to create some math problems without the kid knowing what you are doing. I will start building a house or a project and lay out my blocks, but only half of them. I call him over and ask him “What other block should we use? How many do we need?” Or, I will put one too many blocks or layers in and ask him “How many do I need to remove?”
Problem Solving and Creativity is Always Present
In RIFT, my young one could spend all day building a dimension. RIFT‘s housing system is very robust. It requires a lot of thought to build a good dimension. When he’s in his dimension building away, I might leave and go quest, but I always keep myself available.
I’ll often pop back in and check on progress. If he’s having an issue, I’ll encourage him to solve it on his own. What’s going on here? How do you think you can fix this problem? What else might fix it? If he’s “stuck” then I’ll help with suggestions. Sometimes, I’m stuck too! I think it’s OK to admit that and call in some outside help from a friend.
When we play World of Warcraft together, he sometimes gets “lost” on a quest. Again, I make sure to ask him to read and recall what he’s read. If he’s still a bit lost, I bring up questions to help him remember. I try my best to leave the problem solving to him.
Every single game we play together encourages some creativity. In RIFT, it’s his dimension build. The two of us decided last December to build a dimension based on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. It took us months to finish the build, but we created our little slice of “Whoville” after the Grinch was “happy again”.
Minecraft adds a huge element of creativity. Even though I try to keep the educational elements going, sometimes I just tell him to go build. It’s amazing what he comes up with in Minecraft.
Games can be educational, but they are also fun. And that’s the main point of playing a game with your kid. Make sure you are educated and that it’s always fun and encourages creativity. If you can manage that, the educational aspect will come along easy.
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