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There are legitimate concerns that many parents have about their kids playing video games. For some children, it’s easy to become obsessed with a particular game or gaming in general. Some may find it difficult to take a break from gaming for a day or two (much less a week!). And too much gaming can even have a negative impact on sleep and mood.

Thus, the drawbacks get plenty of attention. But gaming can yield some great benefits for children as well, especially if you approach it carefully and are conscious of the games you choose for your kids. In fact, gaming has become a staple in after-school programs, homeschool curriculums, and remote learning routines across the country.

If you follow our travel blog, Learning to Breathe Abroad, then you know that we are all about finding ways to live life to the fullest. That’s why we wanted to share some information and advice for how video games can be used to benefit child development:

BENEFITS OF PLAYING GAMES

As previously mentioned, there are many ways that video games can foster a child’s development and educational journey. Let’s discuss some of the most significant ones:

Creativity and Imagination

Younger children have plenty of opportunities to be creative and imaginative. In fact, most of their playtime is generally geared towards building those skills. However, older kids, such as tweens and teens, typically don’t get such opportunities. Since playing house and building with Duplo blocks are not as practical at their age, older kids can greatly benefit from the creative and imaginative elements of video games.

Reading

This may come as a surprise, but video games can actually do wonders for fostering reading skills in kids. Along with following text instructions during gameplay, children who are into a particular game are likely to research websites and Internet forums to read information about the game.

Problem-Solving

Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of gaming is that it helps kids develop their problem-solving skills. No matter what type of video game your child is playing, chances are it will revolve around a challenge. The challenge may be to manage a virtual empire, solve a puzzle, or do any number of other tasks that will provide the opportunity to sharpen planning, organization, and flexible thinking skills.

Social Interaction

Another benefit of gaming is that it opens doors for kids to socialize. This is especially advantageous to children who are shy or who struggle to interact with others in a traditional setting. Video games allow kids to have virtual playdates with other kids they’ve never met as well as real-life friends down the street. Plus, gaming is a popular topic in schools across the country, which means that introverted kids can use it as a starting point for conversations in everyday life.

Specialized Skills

Then there are the specialized skills that can be used in particular careers later in life. Consider coding, for instance. Coding is the foundation for every video game out there, and there are even games designed to teach coding to children. The reason this is relevant is because coding is a special skill that can be used in a wide array of career paths. If your child ever becomes interested in pursuing a career in software development, web development, computer systems engineering, business intelligence analysis, computer programming, or database administration, among many other fields, then their gaming could prove to come in quite handy!

TIPS FOR USING GAMES SUCCESSFULLY

Now that you have an idea of some of the benefits offered by gaming, here are a few quick tips for how you can address common concerns and implement healthy gameplay:

Get a Powerful Internet Connection

If you want to avoid a lot of frustration and tension in your household, invest in a good Internet connection. For example, a fiber-optic connection will minimize lag and buffering to make for smooth online gameplay and fast downloading. In other words, everyone in your home will be much happier for it!

Establish Screen Time Limits

No parent wants their kids to play games so much that it becomes a problem or negatively affects their health and well-being. That’s why it’s so important to establish healthy screen time limits. Set aside certain times each day for gaming, and make sure your child doesn’t play games outside of those times. And consider creating device-free zones where no gaming or other use of electronic devices is permitted, such as the living room or dining room table.

Use Parental Controls

Another way you can protect your child is to set parental controls on your electronic devices and Internet networks. That way, you can filter and block unwanted content while your child is playing games or browsing online.

THE BEST (AND WORST) GAMES

Finally, let’s take a look at a few of the most beneficial games available for kids:

Minecraft. Schools use this well-established building game to teach creativity and problem-solving. But be aware: it’s one of the most addicting games out there!

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. This game offers a fun new take on solving puzzles.

Mario Kart 8. Everyone (pretty much) knows Mario Kart. The latest game in the classic franchise is the most inventive and user-friendly yet. Perfect for younger kids, tweens, teens, and adults, the fun of Mario Kart 8 transcends age.

Wordscapes. If you’re looking to expand your child’s vocabulary, this game will do it. The crossword puzzles allow unlimited attempts, and there are a few features that provide just the right amount of challenge for younger children.

National Geographic Challenge. This quiz game will teach your child about geography and historical events and people across the globe. Expect plenty of easy, moderate, and difficult questions.

Games to Avoid for Kids

Many video games on the market contain violent content that simply overshadows any educational benefits for children. Here are a few to be aware of:

  • Naughty Bear
  • Mafia II
  • Halo: Reach
  • Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Dead Space 2

Conclusion

If you use the right approach, allowing your kids to play video games can significantly benefit their educational and social development. Remember to invest in a quality Internet connection, set reasonable screen time limits, and use parental controls on your networks and devices. And always do your research on a game before introducing it to your child.

If you would like to read about some interesting experiences from around the world (and maybe a few travel tips), be sure to stay up to date with Learning to Breathe Abroad!

Jenna Sherman created Parent Leaders to be all about what parents can do to make sure their children grow up to be strong, independent, successful adults. By providing a collection of valuable, up-to-date, authoritative resources, she hopes to help other parents acquire the skills they need to raise future leaders. Jenna is mom to three children -- two girls and a boy.

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