In defense of video games
Chances are your child is already engaged with games like Mario Cart or Tomb Raider -- if not in your living room then at a friend's house. Learn how to make video games work for you.
"If a game lacks the sensation of play, then it isn't achieving its true potential. Play is observable throughout the animal kingdom, it is the fundamental way we learn." — Gail Matthews-DeNatale
By GreatSchools Staff
In his February 2009 address to a joint session of Congress, President Barack Obama advised parents to help their kids in school and "put away the video games." But despite what the president says, gaming doesn't have to interfere with learning. In fact, some video games teach valuable skills, helping kids form hypotheses and make decisions wisely and quickly. The key to avoiding overstimulation and computer addiction is finding age-appropriate, educational video games and setting limits on the amount of time spent playing them.
Video games can teach important skills
Just as you might replace white bread with a whole-wheat variety, you can help your child by choosing a "healthier" video game with instructional value. Interactive games are natural teachers. They immerse kids in collaborative environments, allowing for rapid decision-making and instant feedback. "If a game lacks the sensation of play, then it isn't achieving its true potential," writes Gail Matthews-DeNatale, associate director of academic technology at Simmons College in Boston, in her 2008 study, "Learning From Video Games: Designing Digital Curriculums." "Play is observable throughout the animal kingdom; it is the fundamental way we learn." Studies of the brain have proven that repeated exposure to video games reinforces the ability to create mental maps, formulate hypotheses and focus on several things at once.
Playing an educational game should be an exercise in "constructing the proper hierarchy of tasks and moving through the tasks in the correct sequence," writes Steven Johnson in his 2005 book, Everything Bad Is Good for You. "It's about finding order and meaning in the world, and making decisions that help create that order."
With the help of Common Sense Media, we've compiled a short list of age-appropriate video games that will help your child develop these important skills.
Recommended games for learning
Has your preschooler discovered your computer? Perhaps pressing sticky fingers on your keyboard to see what happens? With the Fisher-Price Fun-2-Learn Computer Cool School, you can encourage young kids to play on your computer with no risk to your personal or business files. This game comes with a brightly colored, kid-friendly QWERTY keyboard; an attached writing and drawing tablet; and a stylus pen. Housed on the keyboard are five buttons to launch the five learning centers featured in the Leo's Classroom software. For ages 3 and up. Read the complete review at Common Sense Media.
For young readers
In Mia's Reading Adventure: The Bugaboo Bugs, kids go on a learning adventure with an adorable little mouse. Mia's house has been invaded by the Bugaboo Bugs, careless insects that leave messes. Fearing that the humans sharing the house with her family will notice the pests and call an exterminator, Mia decides to do something to convince the bugs to move on. As kids play with Mia, they'll encounter 12 educational games that reinforce reading and writing skills taught in kindergarten through third grade. For ages 5 and up. Read the complete review at Common Sense Media.