“When parents think a child’s interests are ‘stupid’ or worthless, the parent thinks less of the child.

When a child finds something stimulating and fascinating and the parent declares it worthless, the child thinks less of the parent.”

-Sandra Dodd

Video games are often given a bad rap. I know many parents limit their child’s time of playing because they see them as something bad, not educational or a waste of time. Other parents limit what their child is playing and only have “educational” games and the only goal is to make learning boring stuff somewhat fun… (I honestly have not encountered an intentional educational game that I consider fun or very well made)…

In our home, video games are not at all unknown and are not limited. I have a video of Xavier playing one of his first computer games when he was 2, it was a Thomas the Train memory game on the Thomas website… He had understood how to use the mouse long before that…

Xavier can spend his day in front of the computer, playing various games, it is what he loves to do and all we can do is encourage him and provide him with new games and new things to discover.

Colin and Khéna are not the same, they enjoy watching at times, but would rather do other stuff, though Colin does enjoy playing on the Wii and this weekend a new game on the computer has peaked his interest enough that he is learning how to use the mouse, but Xavier is our gamer at heart.

The thing is, Video games are a great way to get the brain working, and yes learning, even for us adults… The games that interest our family are mostly strategy games, Role Playing games,  games that have you creating and playing, Games that give you a challenge. These kinds of games are not at all mindless, you need to use logics and your imagination. We don’t own any “educational” games.

Primary learning, like math, reading etc are not directly addressed, but are learned in the background, without even knowing. And, as I mentioned in a recent post, it is because of Video games that Xavier learned how to read. In order to get the the next level, do the right thing in a strategy, say the right thing in a conversation he had to learn to read in order to play, to get ahead. We didn’t teach him, he taught himself. The game that helped him the most was the D&D games and Zelda Twilight Princess for the Wii.

An argument that we often hear of course, is the argument that if the parent doesn’t limit the child then they would play *all* of their time of video games and would *never* do anything else. So, how is a child supposed to learn to self limit? Xavier does spend a lot of time in front of the computer, but he also plays with his brothers, goes outside, loves to go for walks or go other places with us. He goes through phases of playing more and then doesn’t play for a while after…

Along with not limiting how much time our kids can spend playing, we also don’t limit what they can play. Most of the games are rated for older than Xavier but that doesn’t stop him or us…

Two of the favourites in the home are Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate, Role playing D&D games. They are rated for teens, but I can’t seem to comprehend why… yes there is violence, you may attack goblins and and dire wolves in the forest, fight a dragon or even an evil wizard, what is the difference between that and fairy tales that are told to children every day?

Another favourite is Spore… Xavier actually wrote something on Spore last year for a homeschooling journal (well, he told me what to write and I wrote it) so you can read his review to know more about that one… we have also since gotten the expansion of the game that makes “Space Stage” more interactive. Often, Xavier spends his time, not just playing, but creating new ships and characters, often based on other things he is interested in at the moment. It is amazing what he can create.

Last week Simon discovered two new games that the whole family is enjoying. (One of them, I finished all the levels in a two spurts of playing). That one is called Crayon Physics. Here is a little video of the game:

The other is called World of Goo , I am on Chapter 2 at the moment and it is really addictive!

Video games are far from mindless activities that they are often seen to be. They are fun, innovative, spark the imagination, work the logical mind and even if they are not “educational” it doesn’t meant that nothing is learned.  Just taking an example of the above game, many might think that playing with wooden blocks is “better” than playing a virtual game. But what is being learned in both is the same, physics, hand eye coordination etc… the disadvantage of the wooden blocks is that the physical world has its limits. In the virtual world you are provided with the tools to build structures that are way more complex, to have more challenges and as you get farther in the game the challenges get progressively harder.

Video games are as much a tool for learning and fun than other mediums and I find it amazing what can be learned through them.

I am confident that if there is such an interest,  that there is only positive that will come out of it in the end.