Why My Children Are Allowed to Play Computer Games

There’s a lot of opinions out there against screen time for kids. I had a friend with a 9 year old who had no idea how to use a computer and I’ve seen many, many people criticizing parents for allowing their children to play computer games.

In our house, we’re gamers. That’s the way it is and I’m not going to apologize for it, for several reasons. First, it’s our decision as parents to let our kids have computer time. Second, we’ve actually found computer games to be beneficial in many ways. I know those are crazy words, but let’s take a look at some of the things my boys have learned from playing games.

1. How to Use a Computer

I think children MUST learn to use the computer these days. Not many jobs exist where you aren’t going to be using a computer at least a little. Not allowing children to gain valuable skills in technology is doing them a disservice in my opinion.

2. Language Skills

Yes, you can learn vocabulary from books and other methods, but I’ve seen quite the jump in vocabulary, thanks to my kids playing games. The in-game stories are often advanced and give them vocabulary you might not hear normally from an 8 and 9 year old.

3. Reading Skills

When my kids were just learning to read, they were reluctant to pick up a book. Give them a game, however, and they were all over it! Dorian looks up information online to read about games he enjoys and reading instructions kept them learning early on.

4. Reasoning and Strategy

There’s no shortage of reasoning and strategy when it comes to computer games. Yes, some are mindless and dumb. My boys find those kinds of games boring for the most part. They do love games where they have to plan out their moves and where they need to strategize.

5. Problem-solving Skills

Have you ever played a computer game where you were required to figure out a combination or assemble a puzzle in order to proceed to the next level? These are simple to an adult, but to a child who has yet to learn problem-solving, they can be incredible learning experiences.

6. Math Experience

When I was learning math, it took me forever. I wanted to know WHY I needed to know it. HOW was I going to use it? Well, my sons never ask those questions because they’re already using math and are fully aware of it. Dorian was multiplying and dividing, as well as skip counting long before he was learning it in school, simply because he needed it to pass his game levels.

7. Play Nicely with Others/Teamwork

Some games that the boys play are online and require them to work with other players. These games can be very challenging because they aren’t in control of everything. Learning to work with others can be a challenge, but it’s a necessary lesson. Dante has built houses with others in Minecraft, while Dorian has organized teams that head out to fight monsters. There are plenty of opportunities for learning in these games.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on these things. I know too much screen time is a bad thing and we do strive to keep something of a balance in our home. The boys have specific times they can play and the rest of their time is spent outdoors or crafting, reading, etc. Balance is key, as it is with everything.

Our favorite games include:

Minecraft: An excellent, open world game where you can collect resources, explore the world above and below ground, fight monsters and build awesome structures. There’s even some basic electricity included so you can wire your home or roller coaster.

Potatoman Seeks the Troof: This is a fun game that involves strategy and planning as you maneuver Potatoman through a series of obstacles. It’s a cute game, but keeps kids figuring out how to move forward.

Limbo: Dorian really likes darker, scarier games and Limbo is the perfect option for a kid who isn’t necessarily ready to play adult games, but wants something a little creepier than the average cartoon. It’s also extremely complicated and requires quite a bit of strategy to move through the various levels, including sequencing, strategy and planning ahead.

Learning to Read: Round Three

We’re about to have three readers in the house. The older boys have been reading for a while, of course, though they’re still not that excited about picking up novels. However, Dominic is now learning.

When a three year old gets mad at you because he can’t read yet, it’s probably time to start teaching him. This kid has been trying to catch up to his brothers from the day he was born and reading is no exception. He asked to read me a book the other day, then sat there and stared at the words and finally asked me how he was supposed to read it. We started lessons that night.

I still love Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for new readers. I dug it out and Dominic and I go over a lesson or two each night. He’s extremely motivated and very quick to catch on. In fact, in just the week or so that he’s been learning, he’s already started to sound out 2-3 letter words.

His excitement level is through the roof! When he successfully reads a word on his own, he jumps up, dances and screams, “I DID IT! I CAN READ IT!” He also frequently proclaims, “I love these letters!”

Soon we’ll have all readers in our house, which will be odd. No note will go unread from here on out!

Kids Say the Darndest Things: Episode 90

Dante was playing Minecraft.
Dante: “This is epic!”
Dorian: “It’s just a couple lines of colored blocks. It’s not really epic.”
Dante: “Well . . . . from THIS angle it’s epic!” Tilts the camera so all you can see are colors stretching away into the distance.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dominic: climbing into a box “This is my box bed!”
Me: “You know, in Finland, all babies sleep in box beds.”
Dominic: “Yes, I know. It says here, ‘Babies are supposed to sleep in boxes.’ I’m gonna sleep here tonight.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dominic: “Mama, do you want to be one or two or three?”
Me: “Um, I guess three?”
Dominic: incredulously “You’re three, like me?”
Me: “Oh, you mean how old am I? I’m 35.”
Dominic: “You’re three AND five? Wow. You staying at three and five. I’m staying three.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dante: Trying a cupcake sweetened with stevia “This tastes like you put a little bit of poison in it.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Irving: “Do you want a long sleeved shirt for sleeping?”
Dominic: tugging on his t-shirt hem. “But my shirt IS long!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dominic: “I’m going to read this book to you.”
Me: “Okay.”
Dominic: opens the book and stares at the words for a bit. “How am I going to read this?!”
Me: “Maybe you have to learn how to read, huh?”
Dominic: “Yes. Teach me.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Me: “Okay, it’s bedtime.”
Dominic: “Okay. . . oh, wait, I need to draw a bear!”
Me: “You can draw a bear, then you go to bed.”
Dominic: draws bear “Okay, I can sleep now. Oh wait! I see my car!” Gets car. “I like this car. It can be a monster and it is able to kill girls. And mans!”
Me: “Really? Well, it’s time for bed.”
Dominic: “Yeah. Wait! This is not my blanket! I need the other blanket.”
Me: “Here’s your blanket.”
Dominic: “The other blanket is still touching my bed!”
Me: “OKAY, I moved it. Nothing is touching your bed.”
Dominic: “Goodnight. WAIT! My car! It’s on the shelf!”
Me: “No, you left it on the floor. Here it is.”
Dominic: “I love you, Mama.”
Me: “I love you, too. Go to sleep.”
Dominic: “WAIT! Fix my blanket, please!”
Me: fixing his blanket.
Dominic: Sticks a foot out. “What about my foot? It needs a blanket, too.”
Me: “GO TO SLEEP!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We were discussing the military on the way home from a Father’s Day lunch.
Dorian: “I was thinking about joining the army, but I could die, so maybe not.”
Me: “It’s a good idea to live your life a little before you commit to something like that.”
Dorian: “I don’t want to live a little. It’s way better to live my WHOLE life!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dorian: “So, you have three problems?”
Me: “I have 99 problems.”
Dorian: “WHAT? That’s a lot.”
Me: “It’s just a funny saying, ‘I have 99 problems, but you aren’t one of them.'”
Dorian: “Except I kinda am, since I’m in here, distracting you.”
Me: “Yeah, you are kinda distracting.”
Dorian: “So, you’re at 100% capacity for problems!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Irving: “Dominic, come out of the room and let Mama work.”
Dominic: “But why? Y-N-Y, WHY?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dante: “I’m going to be making some potions. I’ve drawn up the recipes here, but this one needs a star. So, is it even possible to grab a star? It’s big, right? Like the sun?”
Me: “Yeah, and hot.”
Dante: “Okay, no problem, I’ll just use a cardboard star.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dante: “Today, I’m going to study the body. First, I’m going to read in the body book and learn about the different systems. Then, I’m going to draw a skeleton and what’s inside the body. And then, I’ll make it in plasticine.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dorian: “Um, are we waiting for the eggs to hatch?”
Me: “No, why?”
Dorian: “Well, I saw there’s a box of eggs, so I thought maybe they were for hatching.”
Me: “Nope, they’re for eating.”
Dorian: “Why are they in a box then?”
This is what happens when your kids are used to buying eggs from the neighbor who has free range chickens. Guess we’ve never actually bought a carton before.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dominic: “Mama, I love you.”
Me: “I love you, too.”
Dominic: “Mama, I like you.”
Me: “I like you, too.”
Dominic, bursting into tears: “NO! I said I LIKE you!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Me: “Boys, come see the sky!”
Dominic: “It’s ORANGE!”
Me: “It’s gorgeous.”
Dante: “No, it’s not. It looks like everything is on fire and we’re having a war. It’s not gorgeous, it’s scary.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dante: “Mama, is obsidian real?”
Me: “Yes.”
Dante: “Is the Nether real?”
Me: “No.”
Dante: “Are Nether Dragons real?”
Dorian: “REALLY, Dante? Nether dragons?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dominic: “Mama! My balloon is wet!”
Me: “It’s okay, balloons are waterproof.”
Dominic: shaking his head “He can only blame his-self.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dominic doesn’t quite have the art of negotiating down yet.
Dominic: “Mama. Give me the phone and I’ll give you . . .this!” holds up a crumpled piece of paper.
Me: “You’re supposed to offer me something I actually want.”
Dominic: “Oh. Give me the phone, please?”

Working on the Future

As parents, I think it’s pretty normal to dream of what your child might do when they grow up. When Dorian was a baby, we talked about whether he would be a musician like Irving or maybe a writer like me . . . or maybe he’d be a doctor, since he has so much experience with medical stuff.

With Dante, we discussed the same things. Maybe he’d be a football player, since he loved to kick a soccer ball around. It was his main reason for learning to walk, so he could kick a ball!

As the boys grew, their interests and talents began to flourish. Dante is an extremely active child, great at sports, but he also thrives on art. He could draw and paint all day and never get tired of it. He loves building things and comes up with plans that he sketches out and then he’ll gather materials to build with. His hands are fast and sure and he’s created some stuff that has amazed us, both in wood and in paper.

Dorian runs like the wind and he loves it. He’ll run and time himself on laps, using stopwatches that his grandparents sent him. He thrives on speeding along the track or grass, legs pumping along with arms in the form he learned from his coach. On the other hand, he’s far more obsessed with computers and has been since he was first allowed to use one. He’s better than I am and even fixes issues I run into on the computer.

Dominic is still at the point where he is into everything and hasn’t really settled on any specifics. He loves to paint with Dante and play on the computer with Dorian. He loves music and likes to try playing his papa’s clarinet, but he also likes to spend some alone time designing his houses with blocks and driving cars around. I suspect we’ll see more of his interests later, as they begin to solidify.

Irving and I feel that our job as parents is to help our sons explore their interests as far they would like to take them. That may not be far in some cases, but in others, it might turn into a career. For example, Dorian has recently been telling us that he wants to be a game developer. So, we enrolled him in Khan Academy’s Introduction to Programming class. He’s doing quite well at it and is loving every second. Dante will be taking art from the same site.

I don’t think you ever stop thinking about your children’s future, but it’s interesting to see what was so vague and dreamy now beginning to take shape as they grow and plan for their own futures.

Setting the Table for Six

Since we had Dorian, I’ve felt that we should have four kids. It just felt right. When I set the table for five people, it felt like we were missing one. Why? I don’t know.

Originally, we planned to have another baby shortly after Dominic. The C-section changed that. It was a horrible experience and a very long recovery. Plus, the doctor said at least 18 months before I could get pregnant again (this was after he’d asked if I wanted my tubes tied while he was in there and I said no, we’re having another). On top of this, the possibility of having another C-section was enough to turn me off the idea of having any more kids . . . forever.

So three it is. And it feels like someone is missing still.

However, we’ve lately had Sofia 3 over nearly every day. She is a wonderful, rough and tumble little girl who has completely installed herself into our hearts. She’s completely at home here and will often turn to Irving or me when she’s hurt or upset, instead of her papa. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have this little one in our lives. I didn’t know it was possible to love someone else’s baby this much!

Now, we set our table for six or sometimes seven, if her papa is eating with us. The other day, we sat down with four children at the table and Irving looked at me and said, “This feels right.”

We thought we’d have four children of our own, but maybe the fourth is just borrowed.

What About the Boys?

WARNING: This post is a little heavier than my usual posts.

As I was growing up in a family full of girls, we were taught that our bodies are ours and to say “no” to someone who wanted to touch us inappropriately. We learned about sexual abuse and were taught to be vigilant and to watch out for each other. This is good and certainly something all parents should talk to their children about. However, as a mother of boys, I’ve been noticing something . . . most tips and ides for discussing abuse revolves around girls. While girls are more at risk for sexual abuse, 1 in 6 boys is abused before they turn 18. So it’s important to talk to your boys about this issue, as well.

Today, I’m going to look at a darker side of things, though. Talking to your kids about sexual abuse is very necessary, but with all the information about the Duggars in the news right now, I started thinking. What if your child is the abuser? We talk a lot about preventing abuse, but from the standpoint of protecting our children from other people . . . what about protecting your child from BEING the abuser?

No parent wants to think of their child as being capable of something like this, but 40% of young sexual abuse victims are abused by older children. While it’s easy to skim over this and think that those children have been abused, that isn’t always the case. So, I started thinking about how to talk to children, especially boys, though it is certainly not limited to them, about consent and abuse from the other side of things.

How do you teach children about this subject without going overboard? I started to do some research and with the help of some friends, I found some websites that seem very useful.

The Good Men Project: This site has a lot of great info for raising boys, but this page talks about teaching consent from toddlerhood through the teens. I think this is extremely important! It works both ways. Children should respect other people saying “no” and should also be respected in this way. For example, not forcing children to hug or kiss someone is a way of respecting their consent or lack thereof. You can ASK, but not force. By giving them the power to say no or stop, you teach them that these are important words. The site has a lot more info on how to teach that, age by age.

EveryDay Feminism: This site has an excellent page (linked) that talks about teaching children about consent. There is some very important information there, including teaching them the difference between an enthusiastic yes and a non-response.

If you have any other useful resources, please share them in the comments and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Happy Birthday, Dante

I’m running behind these days! Dante turned 8 on the 16th and I’m just now blogging it. Oops. Things have been a little insane here, but that’s another post.

Dante spent a lot of time planning his birthday. Despite this, his requests were simple! A cake, a piñata, and a cookout at Florencia, as well as macaroni and cheese for dinner were what he wanted. Easily accomplished!

He had a terrific day and even told us that it was the best day of his life! Gotta love it when kids are so easy to please. :)

Here is the cake he requested.

For his gift, we filled a box with all sorts of craft and art supplies, everything from markers, crayons and scissors to fancy papers, a mini stapler and stencils. He was THRILLED!

The trip to Florencia was a fun one, though we thought we’d be rained on. It stayed perfect though, cloudy and cool without rain. We roasted potatoes, made chirmol with grilled tomatoes and onion and grilled some delicious beef with chimichurri sauce while the boys ran around and explored the forest.

Nature Time

One of the things I miss most about living here is the lack of nature around me. Sure the neighbors have banana trees and coffee plants, but my patio is concrete and our bit of land is so small that there’s not really room for much. I miss standing in the middle of the forest and feeling the calmness of living things around me.

Lately, Irving has been taking the boys on hikes so I can get more work done. This has made it easier for me to work, but it also allows the kids to get a taste of nature that they don’t really get at home. They headed up to the piece of land on the mountain where I eventually want to live and they have been having picnics there. It’s a popular place to hang out . . .Melvin and Sofia 3 have been visiting, too!

The best part is that the kids are getting some serious nature time, which is pretty awesome. Now I just need to get away from the computer and head up with them!

Repainting

Over the past week and a half, we’ve been painting the main room of the house. The walls haven’t been painted since we first built the space, so it was definitely time. Kids and furniture had rubbed the paint off in some places, darkened the walls in others.

When I say “we” I actually mean Irving and Melvin, since I had a lot of deadlines to work on. However, they were well supervised.

The entire space took 3 days to paint in bits and pieces, shifting furniture around and painting two coats in each space. The older boys helped some days.

You can see in this photo that the wall was pretty dirty! The wall to the left was already painted here. Which is another thing. I’d asked for golden yellow to match what we already had, since I like that color, but it ended up being a sort of butter yellow! I’m used to it now, but it was annoying at first.