Ever since becoming main stream, video games have been controversial parenting topic. Being a kid that grew up desiring a computer so I can play I have participated in this discussion for last 30+ years.
First as a child and now as a parent, I have valued video games very much. For me, they definitely present specific art form. Like a good book, movie, painting or music – games can tickle imagination and add to development of child. I would argue that out of all current art forms video games are the most interactive.
Of course, my view will be opposed by traditionalists. I’ve had few discussions where people found my notion of video games as “art” – preposterous.
Then there is also “staring at the screen” component. For inexperienced observer playing games is often seen as a worse alternative to watching TV. Especially if we talk about addicted gamers that spend 10+ hours daily in front of screen.
I actually agree on lots of negative aspects of gaming. But I think those are overshadowed by positive aspects.
For myself games played huge role in rising from humble background to being MS in IT with well paid job. There is no way I would be where I am if I hadn’t enjoyed Baldur’s Gate, Planescape Torment, Fallout 2, Starcraft and similar titles during my teen years.
Why allow your child to play games?
Video games can have immense positive effect for developing child’s imagination. Unlike reading books or watching cartoons, playing games is extremely interactive experience. I would compare it to drawing – with added benefit of being a guided by narrative. Then there is also development of fine motor skills and coordination. Certain types of games can help a lot with memory and brain development. And finally – relaxation. We all have seen what iPads have done for babies and toddlers lately. You can’t seem to get them off the YouTube… and that’s not even a game, just app with video.
What to avoid?
I would say that most negative aspects of gaming parents point out are absolutely valid. I, as a parent, have a checklist against which I consider games.
Before purchase I always consider if certain game is good investment of time for my child:
- Back-story and artistic qualities – what can my child learn from this game? There should always be a story behind a game child consumes. Sure, you don’t need to look for deep and extensive narrative. But there always should be some basic qualities. Games can teach children a lot on important topics: bravery, sacrifice, effort, right and wrong.
- Online – I have a strong stance against allowing my child to play online games. The core problem is that these games focus immensely on competition. So, when we are talking about toddlers or children under age of 10 – there is simply no benefit for them to play these games. I would separate multiplayer from online. Couch co-op games, for example, are great for toddlers. You get to share some time with your child and interact together in fun activity.
- Grind – I would use games on mobile platforms (iPad/iPhone/Android) as a great example. Don’t get me wrong – some games on mobile platforms are perfect for young children and their development. But, the big problem here is industry focus on free-to-play model. Most games on mobile platforms are what I call “grindy”. You repeat certain action over and over. And while this can be stimulating and addictive, grinding for virtual stuff is definitely not the best use of time for child.
- Difficulty – great games should be easy to get into and enjoy. This is especially true for toddlers – when starting most of them are doing great if they are able to move character on screen correctly. Unfortunately, not many games enable this experience; majority requires somewhat complex hand movement even for most basic actions. Then there are also punishing dynamics – making mistakes often costs you in-game life and requires you to restart from earlier point. If game is too difficult child will quickly become bored. So, any game you are purchasing for your toddler needs to be forgiving and able to guide him toward higher level of play.
Best video games for toddlers to start with?
During the past year I have tried playing variety of games with my child. We experimented with different platforms and while playing I’ve gauged her reaction. Is she engrossed in experience, how well can she play game on her own and so on. But in the end there is one series that completely stood out. It’s Kirby games collection from HAL & Nintendo.
First, on Nintendo – as a gamer I was puzzled on their success. I understood that they had some well known brands like Mario. But to me it never seemed as that big of a deal. I always expected them to fall the same way Sega did, and eventually stop producing hardware. But as soon as I tried their games as a parent – I instantly understood their success.
Nintendo immensely focuses on younger audiences. It is really hard to find anything objectionable in their games. Graphics are very often cartoonish and mechanics, while simple, allow for skilled play.
Finally, most of premier Nintendo games have couch multiplayer component allowing you to play alongside your child. This is invaluable feature since it mimics real life – you accompany and help as needed.
Kirby games especially shine on the “couch multiplayer” front. They seem to be purposefully designed for main player (parent) to lead. Kirby & The Rainbow Curse is the most obvious example, where screen focuses on main player who leads by drawing paths. This is unlike other game series like Super Mario Bros, where one player can block screen or lose life if he is lagging behind.
Also, Kirby games are great from story perspective. There are often cinematic moments in which Kirby gets to shine and save the day. I mean – it’s likely that you as a parent will also become a fan of the cute little pink blob when you see his exploits. Then there are also other subtle positive queues. For example: Kirby restores his health by eating variety of food. He also can propagate health restoring by kissing other players.
Surprisingly our picky eater absorbed both mechanics! She started eating bananas and we parents get lots of kisses. Win-win.
What’s the best way to start enjoying Kirby games?
Now that Wii U is at end of production cycle, it’s probably the best time to buy. I have purchased Refurbished Wii U directly from Nintendo for $200. For practical purposes it is the same as New which sells for $300 at retailers like Target.
As for which game you should start with, it’s definitely – Kirby’s Return to Dreamland. Even though the title was released in 2011, it still retails for $40; that says a lot about its longevity. You can even play it on old Wii console (which you can buy for $70 or less!). But again, if you are buying a new console you are better off with Wii U vs older Wii… there is backwards compatibility, HDMI output and Wii U has other games which are great for toddlers (Super Mario 3D World for example).
Once you have Wii U, you can even opt out to buy your games digitally. In that case you’ll be able to purchase Kirby’s Return to Dreamland on eShop for $20. Nintendo often has special sales where price for Kirby can go below $10. In any case, you will be far removed from $60+ which is what newly released AAA titles sell for these days.
Finally, another great source of Wii U games can be your public library. I was shocked when I discovered how many Wii U games my library had. This is also a huge unintended benefit – my child is now pretty excited to go to library. We get a book on top of each game we rent and then enjoy both when we get home. This gives us something exciting to do every week.
Video games can really enrich childhood. By playing games like Kirby’s Return to Dreamland your child develops hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. He or she will also expand his imagination and character – seeing how Kirby sacrifices and battles in the name of good and saving others. Of course, too much of a good thing can be bad. If child ends up spending hours on couch, that will impair his or hers other areas of development. However, that’s where you as a parent step in. Until your child is able to read books or productively occupy his/ her time in some other manner – use games like Kirby as a valuable development tool.
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I dont think that i will have a problem with video games but i must say i dont want her to play video games the whole day.
That for me is unacceptable.
Kids must play outside and do kids activities.
So many parents asked me do i let my 4 month old baby watch tv??? Yes i do.
I dont see anything wrong with that. She loses interest after the first 2 min anyways.
You are completely right. Playing video games whole day is definitely a problem. But with enough discipline, children can get to enjoy both. I love what Pokemon Go did last summer by motivating young people to go outside and play video game. Even that wasn’t without problems… but all in all – more positives than negatives.
Oh my gosh HowToAddict! Yeah I read about how Pokemon Go went wild last year and I also followed some of the problems that went on, it was completely insane!
I have to agree with you though, it got people outdoors, it got people active didn’t it?
I am interested in getting a gaming device for my family. Not for me, but for my hubby and kids. I have heard there is one that is really interactive and you can play games like say tennis for example but it is more VR… what gaming device is that?
Marisca I totally agree with you, kids should play outside in the dirt most of the time!
But I see nothing wrong with some game playing. My kids just loved my ipad. My daughter loved all the learning games and my son loved all the songs and singing along. Sadly now my ipad needs repairs.
I do agree them sit all day long with an ipad, phone or video game is not going to do them any good… but my daughter learned the entire alphabet song by 18 months from the ipad 🙂 It can’t all be bad!
Rylee has so many games for her Nintendo and we even got her a very pink PlayStation, but she also has an attention span of a gold fish (like her dad) lol
So shes played with them once, 5 minutes and then was over it. Shes still not really interested. She prefers to play pretend with anyone who will play with her 😛
But for some reason, every now and again she will ask for my phone, which has its own folder for her with games in it. Like talking Angela, puzzles, colouring in – things like that. I switch my data off as well as the WiFi and some days she can sit until my battery is completely flat 😛
LOL Yes Tamara turn the internet off. My daughter banned about 40 people from my Facebook page when she got hold of my ipad once!
Each child is different and will take to different games, or devices. My kids favourite was my ipad, which needs to be repaired. My daughter is also trying to get hold of my phone all the time but I don’t let her play with it at all.
I want to get some sort of a gaming device in the next few months. I know my hubby would love to play games with our kids. I am not into gaming really.
I know someone who’s girl is on HER tablet the whole day. For me thats unacceptable!
Its lazy parenting!!! Its the parents escape to tell her – go play on your tablet.
Totally against that.
If your child wants your attention then you give it to her! Have tea time or paint or color in or play outside.
Marisca I totally agree with you that letting your child sit on a tablet/ phone/ computer or in front of the TV with video games all day is just plain lazy. However I do feel that some video games can be really cool, in moderation of course.
It’s a great idea. To let’s the child play sit around playing games all day it’s really not good for there health. Some activities in between will be great
Its a good idea and also good for children to play video games but not the hole day because it will affect the eyes as well.
Cant wait till my boy is old enough to get his games he like and play…we have hubby’s playstation and the remotes is making colours so its attracting our little boys attention.
I dont think I will have a problem with my baby boy on the way playing video games due to daddy playing almost everyday after work. But daddy has a PS3, wanting to buy PS4. I have no idea what games they have, so do you maybe know if they have the Kirby games for Playstation?
I feel that fine motor skills are actually so important from as young as you can implement it. Obviously we will have to have some rules regarding that because playing ball outside is also just as important. I actually never knew that playing video games can be a good thing for toddlers.
Wow this is so interesting! I haven’t even thought about video games for my son when he’s older to develop more. Was a bit against it i must say. But after I have read this I will definitely consider it. I agree that playing to much is unhealthy. Must make it more like one of the activities they do per day.
I love to play Playstation games with by 3 year old boy. We have the added Moove controls which are really awesome. My son gets to stay active while playing games with mommy. We especially love the Dance and party games. Also very good for hand eye coordination.