More Video Games to Keep Kids Inside?

I’m all for fun, educational games. And on rainy days, really cold days, or sick days, they’re a great option. They can even be a good option when children need a “wind-down” time– although a book can be a better choice. But over the last few days we’ve talked about the great benefits of children’s outside play. Do we really want to entice them to stay inside more?

As you can imagine, after reading the New York Times article on all the new video games out there for preschool and school-age kids, I’ve got mixed emotions.

Planned for this fall in conjunction with the release of the animated movie “Tinker Bell,” Disney Fairies Pixie Hollow (www.PixieHollow.com) will be aimed at girls aged 6 to 12 who want to turn themselves into fairies…But special powers will be granted to those who buy a fairy bracelet..If you want to get your fairy onto your friend’s buddy list, you will need to buy a certain charm and touch it to your friend’s bracelet.

Play fairies online? What happened to “playing fairies” with a dress-up box, Mom’s old make-up, and the woods or an old tree stump as your back-drop?

Lego Universe (www.legouniverse.com), coming next year, will offer a new way to play: in a world consisting entirely of virtual Legos. “Imagine tens or thousands of people, from all over the world, working together on a single project,” said Mark Hansen, director of business development at Lego and the head of the project, from his studio in Denmark. “They can work together, and build a model of a city like Washington, D.C. Just about anything can be constructed or smashed apart.”

I thought the whole idea of “playing legos” was…well, actually playing with legos. Perhaps I’m starting to sound a bit old fashioned but the development of fine-motor skills is not developed by simply clicking a mouse.

While some of these games do take some kind of critical thinking and an altered way of interacting with others “incognito” from around the world, they take away physical person-to-person interaction (a terrific way to let your imagination soar) and the actual movement it takes to physically play these games. If children are spending time playing these games, what aren’t they doing?

I also wonder about who is on the other side of the game. When we used to “play fairies” when we were little, Mom knew who we were playing with– the children were in plain site. On the computer, your child is making friends with little children from around the world…or at least, that’s who we think they are.

Tips for parents on children’s video game consumption:

  • Check developmental age: Makes sure that the game is developmentally appropriate for your child. Check ratings.
  • Ensure location: Install computer equipment and special games in a common-area computer. This will help you control the amount of time played, what is being played, and with whom.
  • Set limits: Set limits on how often and how long your child is allowed to play video games.
  • Monitor media consumption: Whether it’s video games, TV, movies or the Internet, make sure you know what your children are playing and watching.
  • Supervise: While you don’t need to hover, supervise and be available when your children are online. While the games are for children, remember, the online world opens up your child and your home to all kinds of people.
  • Discuss: Talk about the games your children are playing as well as what appropriate and what’s not appropriate. Ask your children how they feel about what they’re seeing, playing, or watching. Be sure to let your children know that if s/he feels uncomfortable at anytime with anyone who s/he is playing with, that s/he should tell you immediately.
  • Make sure they get outside! Even if these internet games are fun and entertaining, they should not take the place of a child’s exploration and playtime outside.

To continue our discussion from the other day; how do Young Kids Benefit from playing outside?

Babies: There are so many wonderful colors, sounds, shapes and smells that can stimulate the senses.

Toddlers: For toddlers who’ve just learned to walk, playing outside can help them develop their large muscle groups. Toddlers should participate in one to two hours of activity a day that provide “structured” and “unstructured” time. Structured play, (i.e. games, after-school activities like gymnastics or dance) helps toddlers learn to follow directions and cooperation, while unstructured time (i.e. playground play, pretend play) stimulates imagination.

Preschoolers and School-age Children: Outside play allows your preschooler and school-age child to further develop his physical fitness. There’s great playground equipment that helps the development of the many muscles in the body. Nature play can open a whole world of plants and animals and can stimulate creativity, concentration, imagination and learning. Playgrounds have all kinds of equipment from monkey bars to the sandbox to swings and slides. Playground play also gives children the opportunity to make friends, connect, negotiate, and cooperate.

Through Physical Play children learn:

  • The amazing things their bodies can do. They learn to run, climb, or throw—all things that are discouraged indoors.
  • Confidence in their physical and social abilities
  • Leadership skills, taking turns, cooperation, and negotiation
  • How to work in groups
  • The secrets and wonders of nature—their first exposure to science.
  • How to make up their own “outside” games with props and equipment that can only be found outdoors.
  • How to build, shovel, bury and dig using sand and special sandbox tools

As we discussed the other day, as long as equipment is safe and supervision is good, the playground can be a wonderful place to learn and grow.

Whether inside or outside, the world is at your children’s feet. Now it’s up to parents to help their children learn where to spend their time.

Enjoy the weekend!

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4 Responses

  1. I really agree with you that kids needs to get outside more these days and stay off the video games somewhat, but what kills me is when parents blame video games and music and movies for the results of their own bad parenting. It’s really not the fault of the games or the movies when a child grows up acting a certain way. As long as parents stay involved in their childrens’ lives without being too intrusive (I know it’s hard to determine what’s considered “intrusive” these days), they should grow up and become happy, constructive people. There comes a time, though, when a child becomes an adolescent and the level of entertainment they’re allowed to be exposed to should be raised to an appropriate level. Allowing children to make these kinds of decisions early in life will help them prepare to make their own decisions later on… slowly weening children off of their parents making all of their important decisions for them is crucial to developing a responsible adult.

  2. A good point indeed, iloverochester, thank you for saying it. While video games can have harmful messages, it’s up to parents to help their children thrive. Young children need their parents to help them make decisions about how they should spend their time– that’s part of good parenting.

    Teens should have more say in what they do for entertainment– and when parents model and teach positive character and good decision-making, their children (turned teens) are likely to make good choices when it comes to occupying their time– at least, most of the time!

    Best regards,

    Dr. Robyn

  3. It’s definitely up to parents to set limits and remember moderation is the key.

    Great article!

  4. My kids love to go to http://www.k5stars.com/parents1.php when they are on the computer. It allows parents to assign a ‘game’ that is related to their age and subject. My 4 year old loves it and has been learning to add and subtract in the form of a game!

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