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.