As families get busier, our time together becomes even more valuable. With school, work, and everything in between, kids and parents have packed schedules, and family time can become yet another stressful event on our calendar. As my kids are getting older, we are finding that a great way to spend time together as a family is by gaming together.
Now, if you’ve read my last blog post on Pixelkin, you’ll know I’m definitely a person who is a bit wary of the amount of time my kids spend in front of a screen…and now I’m telling you we spend our family time gaming? But truly, I think that gaming together is a positive solution to my screen time issues. One of the largest problems I have with my kids’ screen time is too often I find myself giving them TV, tablet or computer time as a way to keep them busy while I complete some other task. But when we spend our gaming time as a family, the screen time is more interactive. They aren’t just staring at a screen, immersed in their own world. Instead they are working together, talking to us and each other, and learning how to play with a group. They get their desired screen time and I get my desired family togetherness. It’s a win-win!
Many parents believe that playing video games could have negative effects on their child’s development, but the truth is that we don’t really know. Our personal experience has been the opposite. Our elementary-aged child has flourished using video games to learn cooperation, problem-solving, persistence, and creative thinking. Our preschool-aged child is a bit young for many multi-player games, but by playing with the family, he is learning how to ask for help, try again, and celebrate when he succeeds. In fact, the Journal of Adolescent Research published a study claiming video game players reported higher levels of family closeness, activity involvement, attachment to school, and positive mental health. Study authors Paul J. C. Adachi and Teena Willoughby concluded, “Video game players also had less risky friendship networks and a more favorable self-concept.”
Our kids span the age range from preschool to mid-elementary school, and the games we play together reflect that. We stay away from violent games, mostly focusing on games that foster play and togetherness. Minecraft, an elementary school favorite, is in constant rotation in our home. In fact, our house became a neighborhood hot spot as my husband set up several laptops and the local kids came over and played against each other in the same world, a big treat for them. Minecraft is praised by parents and teachers alike for the skills it fosters, such as creative thinking, problem-solving, and even science.
Another huge family favorite in our home is Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. At least once a week, we all smoosh together on the couch and play a few rounds of Mario Kart. This game is great, because it works for all the ages in our family, and because it’s a multi-player game, no one is left out! We are big fans of the Wii U, because the format is easy to maneuver for our preschooler, who has a hard time with desktop or controller-based games. The Wii U touchpad is similar to a tablet, and that cuts down on his frustration with the device.
As a busy family, we know we have to make our time together really count. Which is why, for us, gaming is a perfect solution. We get to be with each other, work together, learn, and grow, all while having an awesome time! We know our time spent gaming together will not only bring us closer, but it will give our kids memories they will cherish for a lifetime.