Research shows video games can have a positive impact on kids—but they can also be a fun way to enjoy screens as a family.
There’s no denying it—gaming is fun. There’s a seemingly endless number of games for kids to play, catering to a diverse range of interests and ages. They can allow kids to exercise their creativity and problem solving abilities, and encourage active engagement over passive consumption during screen time. And according to the data, time spent gaming could be time well spent: researchers from Yale University found that kids who spent just five minutes with a video game performed better in math class, and there’s even some evidence that video games may improve children’s social skills.
Despite the encouraging evidence, parents may still have questions about how to include gaming as part of healthy screen time. Below, we explore three strategies to help families get the most out of gaming.
Enjoy games together
While this is a good strategy for any kind of screen time, this can be particularly fun activity to enjoy with your kids. And you don’t necessarily need to be playing multiplayer games together, either.
If your kids are too young to play a game themselves, they might enjoy watching you control fun, colourful characters on a screen—and you can decide together what your next move will be. Older kids may be able to get in on the action—and there’s a number of games you can play in tandem. Working cooperatively can be a good way to help kids develop teamwork skills—and competing against one another gives you the opportunity to show them what healthy competition looks like. As kids begin playing games on their own, it’s also a good idea to check in periodically so you’re in the loop on their gameplay: get them to show you how they solved a puzzle or beat a level, and you may just learn a thing or two in the process!
Match games to your kid’s age and ability
Finding an age-appropriate game for your kids helps ensure that their gaming experience is positive. Certain content can be scary for younger kids, and some games require a bit more motor skill, so it’s important to find the right fit for your kid. When they are three or four, kids might not be capable of mastering more complex games, but they’ll likely enjoy something more exploratory where they can simply swipe or tap a screen. Something like Metamorphabet is colourful, interactive and educational—and doesn’t require too much focus or coordination.
Some five- and six-year-olds might be getting more comfortable with a controller, which opens up a new world of video games. Many also feature an easier mode of play, like Super Mario Odyssey’s assist mode. When activated, it offers extra health points, hints to players, and prevents them from plummeting off cliffs. (You can think of it like bumpers in bowling.) A lot of games now offer an easier mode of play—sometimes called “narrative mode,” and this can be a great way for younger kids to explore without becoming frustrated or scared by combat.
Kids seven and up, might be ready for cooperative or competitive games. Racing games like Mario Kart can be a lot of fun for the family—and you may be surprised at how quickly your kids master the controller. You might not even need to “let them win” for long before they’re beating you on their own!
Most games will come with an age rating, which can be a helpful guide when you’re deciding which ones to allow during screen time. It’s important, though, to assess each game on a case-by-case basis. Some content might be disturbing, even though it’s rated for children—and on the flip side—some younger kids will be able to enjoy a more complex game, so long as they have some oversight.
Get creative with your gaming
While playing games can be beneficial in its own right, there are opportunities to make the experience even richer for you and your kids. Games like Minecraft can be modified by players—and it can be a fun family challenge to create your own worlds together. YouTube videos abound with tutorials on how to code modification into the game, and companies like Udemy offer online courses for coding.
Working together, you can shape new worlds in the game—and your kids can learn valuable skills along the way. Adding this kind of long-term goal into gaming brings a new kind of challenge into the mix, and offers an even greater reward for children.
Gaming can certainly be a fun and positive screen activity for kids. Instead of passively sitting and watching content, gaming provides the opportunity to get creative and build valuable skills. And, it can be a fun way for families to enjoy screens together.
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