Can Video Games Be Useful For Learning?

Kid playing video games

Video Games as Homeschool Resources: A Primer

Guest Post Written By: The Fabulous Jenna Sherman creator of  http://parent-leaders.com/

In the 21st century, video games have emerged as an engaging, immersive way for kids to learn everything from coding to engineering. They’re an integral part of homeschool lesson plans, remote learning programs and after-school routines. Still, it can be hard to tell where to start or what to play. You know that the latest Grand Theft Auto game isn’t going to teach your kids squat about automobile mechanics, for example, but you also recognize that games have come a long way since Pac-Man stuffed his face with fruit.

Here’s the good news: the video game field is filled with countless brain-boosting titles. You just have to know where to look and why. With that in mind, It’s Cool, MOM offers you these tips:

Benefits of Gaming

The notion that video games are bad for kids is so worn out that it’s become clichéd. In reality, gaming imparts a bounty of benefits for younger players’ cognitive development:

  • Enhanced problem-solving skills
  • Greater hand-eye coordination
  • The ability to multitask
  • Better memory
  • Faster brain function
  • Improved social skills
  • Increased attention span

Best Games for Cognitive Development

Video games can be some of your most valuable homeschool resources, provided you choose wisely. While the virtues of word and puzzle games are readily apparent, two other popular types of games can offer significantly deeper and more diverse enrichment.

In addition to being kid-friendly across almost the entire genre, platforming games are excellent for developing your child’s aptitude for problem-solving and logic, spatial orientation, coordination and design. Standout titles in this genre include the LittleBigPlanet series, Shovel Knight and Psychonauts, but they’re only the tip of the massive iceberg for this classic genre.

Resource management games are another deep well of rich gameplay. Don’t let the dry name fool you! These games are anything but boring and include myriad subgenres such as theme park management, sports management and city-building. Some of the best games in this engrossing genre include the long-running Civilization series, SimCity and its offshoots, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Democracy and Football Manager. Management sims such as these are excellent for critical thinking and problem-solving, as well as reading and math skills.

Worst Games for Cognitive Development

Puzzlers, word games, management sims and platformers all provide challenging gameplay. Clicker games do not, yet they’re one of the most invasive species of video games on mobile phones and tablets today.

These addictive games, such as AdVenture Capitalist and Bit City, reward players with in-game currency for repeatedly clicking the screen… and that’s it. There’s no strategy, no problem-solving. They won’t even improve your child’s hand-eye coordination. Clicker games have virtually no redeeming qualities for players of any age.

Common Concerns and Challenges

Like many other educational resources, video games have their practical hurdles. First, for smooth gameplay, you need an internet connection capable of downloading and displaying games with minimal lag and buffering. For faster load times and fewer glitches, consider fiber optic cable.

Screen time is also a concern for many parents. Most parents set limits; however, Positive Discipline notes these efforts are frequently toppled by real life. When your screen-time schedule is thwarted, try to mitigate that extra time by making sure your children spend plenty of time outside, using devices with your children and enforcing daily device-free time.

For younger children, age-inappropriate content may also be a concern. Before letting your child play any game, take the time to read up on it. Don’t forget about parental controls, either. Virtually every device capable of running games offers some form of parent support system, such as content filters or locks. And if your computer is too outdated to handle the software (for games or parental controls, either one) you can always explore discounts on new machines.

Conclusion

Ultimately, there’s no substitute for real, hands-on learning. That doesn’t mean that video games can’t serve as an engaging supplement to tangible teaching tools, though. Games let students discover new worlds, visit important events from history and explore limitless concepts, both concrete and abstract. They’re immersive, they’re fun, and they’re something that, in many cases, you can enjoy as a whole family.

Look to It’s Cool, MOM for more tips and advice that can help you and your family to thrive!