…Why don’t you?
Many educators have weighed in on the great video game debate of recent years. I know that I’m going against the flow here, but I believe in the positive power of video games. I was a kid once (in the not too distant past) and a part of the first
generation to enjoy handheld video game technology. I remember taking refuge from my daily struggles in Super Mario Brothers, in the same way I would often hide out in the pages of a good book. I also remember my parents getting mad at me for spending too much time on gaming and not enough time running around outside. Sound familiar? Fear not, parents! I turned out just fine and chances are, so will your kids. Video games are a part of life and telling your children that they are evil will not work. In fact, being negative about your child’s favorite device may just create enough space between the two of you to throw them into that ever feared “My parents just don’t get me” mindset. So, how do we embrace the fact that gaming has become an important part of our children’s lives while also keeping them safe, engaged and healthy? Here are a few ideas:
1. Encourage Cooperative Gaming
I don’t like first person shooters (these are the games where it seems like your child is just running around shooting everything that moves). Most parents don’t, but many parents think these are the only games out there. There are a number of games that encourage cooperative, creative play. My kids are currently lost in the world of Minecraft. In Minecraft, you build and explore your own world and occasionally, you kill zombies. My sons will work together for hours, creating their virtual world. The Lego games are also great for collaborative play. These games require players to work together to solve problems and finish levels. Lego Star Wars is a fun one to play with your kids, assuming you have a sense of humor and you love Star Wars.
2. Make Your Kids Move
My kids play video games during home school. You heard me – during school hours. In our 15 minute video game breaks, they run, jump, dance, laugh and sweat. How is that possible? Because we have an Xbox Kinect. The Kinect has a video camera that tracks your movements and turns your body into the controller. It is hilarious when you see your avatar (a graphical representation of you) on the screen dancing with your favorite pop star, throwing the javelin or making your way through an obstacle course. The Wii, Xbox and Playstation all have different versions of the “human controller”, so you can get your kids up and moving with whatever system you already have in your house.
3. Play with your Children
Let’s face it – your kids don’t want to sit at the dinner table and play scrabble with you and you’re probably pretty frustrated about that. Here’s a funny thing, though – put a Scrabble app on your iPhone and suddenly it’s the most exciting game they’ve ever seen! There are so many ways to engage with your children through video games. And, there are even ways that will appeal to you as well. Our family loves to play Risk on the iPad. Yeah, the board is a little bit smaller than the real game, but we never lose any pieces and there are cool animations whenever we attack.