I am a proud mother of a gamer. Lately, I have realized that a second budding gamer is also growing up in my house. I never planned to raise a gamer but there are a variety of ways in which gaming has been a blessing to us. Here are my top reasons you should consider raising a gamer too.
Balance and Discipline
Like any other electronic, a gaming device requires balance and discipline. I’ve seen the same issues with iPhones and iPads and frankly see very little difference between any of the devices. Will has had a Nintendo 3DS since Christmas and has learned some valuable lessons along the way. By setting ground rules and simply following up on them, I have easily created an atmosphere where he understands I will not be ruled by a 3DS and when I say “off” it better be turned off.
Will tested me around February and two days in a row did not listen to the “off rule”. I sat him down and told him that the 3DS is a privilege and not a right. The next time it happened I simply pretended to throw it out. Lessons are sometimes learned the hard way. After a great semester at his new school, I gave it back to him a few months later. Not surprisingly, we have never had this issue again with any electronic.
Our travel rules for electronics are simple. There is a time and a place. If we are driving into or around a new city, no electronics are allowed within the exploration zone. On flights, we turn them off as soon as we can see our destination through the clouds. Electronics are not allowed in the car in our own city. They also never come out with us while exploring and adventuring.
I saw some kids sitting in strollers playing games on phones, iPads and DSs at Disney. Not in this family. That being said, after a long day of walking or having fun, a reward for my two often exhausted children is to sit quietly after dinner and have some quiet time with their electronics while this tired mom enjoys a chilled glass of wine.
The added bonus to a Nintendo 3Ds is that they are equipped with a digital camera. Will loves taking his own pictures from our vacations and storing them on the SD Card in his 3DS. He often brings it along as a camera and understands the remaining functions must stay off.
Gaming versus Watching TV
I’ve always argued that I would rather my kids spend time on a flight or in the car playing video games than watching television. To me, it just seemed that they were thinking more and not zoning out like they had a tendency to do with cartoons and television shows.
Turns out my observations were probably right. Recently, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus found that playing Super Mario 64 caused increased size in brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation and strategic planning as well as fine motor skills. You can read more about it here.
My son is now entering Grade 1 and last year, his school found that in Senior Kindergarten he was reading at a Grade 4 level. I believe his reading skills are most likely thanks to Pikmin 3. Pikmin are essentially walking plant buds that are born out of something called an onion. I haven’t spent a ton of time playing the game. Will at the age of 4 began playing Pikmin 3 during his one hour of electronic time.
The amazing part of this game is that you can’t get anywhere without being able to read. The missions require reading and without being able to read, the game is virtually impossible to figure out. Will adorably would run over to me, sound out a word he didn’t know and we would discuss the definition. He would then run back re-read the sentence and with a new understanding move forward in the game. His vocabulary grew exponentially during this time period.
Will didn’t wake up one day and decide he wanted to try video games. I actually chose to introduce them to him. Whether you are a gamer parent or like me just a casual player, at some point your kids will find out about video games. I grew up playing Nintendo and knew that if my kids were going to play video games, I would rather they play the “E for everybody” rated games that Nintendo offers over some of the other platforms.
I actually decided to introduce Will to Nintendo when I noticed he didn’t have a lot of male friends. To be fair, he didn’t have a lot of friends to begin with. Will was a very shy kid and only started talking after he turned three and a half. He went to school and really had no way to connect with the other kids. He wasn’t into Lego and had no idea who Spiderman was. We were at a park one day and he asked me who Mario was and said some boys were talking about “Super Mario”. I knew it was time. I dusted off the Nintendo in our basement and turned on Super Mario Brothers. The rest was history.
Will headed back to school and immediately bonded with the two other “gamers” in the class. The boys talked Mario and Kirby all day and by the end of the day, Will had managed to book his first after school play date. What I noticed more than anything was that Will and the boys didn’t just talk about Nintendo, they role played it. In parks, they were always jumping over imaginary turtles and trying to beat some sort of level only they could see.
This week, Will, Charlie and I spent a good 2 hours in a park capturing Pokemon. I must admit, I didn’t even know what I was looking for but seem to have caught three myself. Our imaginary Pokemon then got into imaginary battles in the park and had to go to some sort of restoration centre. I am always impressed when their video games turn into real life adventures.
Girls and Gaming
Frankly, until recently, I never even considered that Charlie would want to play Nintendo. I grew up a slight gamer and two of my best friends from childhood and I still laugh about the fun we had at game nights at my house. I think with the infusion of princesses in Charlie’s life, I just was blinded to the fact that she may actually be drawn to video games.
During my research, I have found some pretty cool games for girls. I find Nintendo games tend to be the most adaptable to any child and your daughter will love Super Mario as much as any boy. That being said the girl market for Nintendo seems to be growing quite quickly. Recently, I picked up a Pet Shelter game for Charlie starring Dora and Kai-Lan from Nickelodeon. It is a good introduction to gaming with characters she is quite familiar with. That being said, she is just as into Pokemon X and Y as Will. Other games I’ve looked at for Charlie include a Lego Friends game which I think she will be really into in the next year or so.
The Roadtrip Fairies
One of the reasons I am so intent on traveling with young children is that I believe there is a magic to youth that they will sadly lose. Charlie is starting school in September and it seems to be the beginning of the end of her innocence. For right now, both my kids still believe in fairies. To be completely truthful, a part of me still believes in them too. Recently, we toured Ann Arbor, Michigan to see the famous Fairy Doors that dot the downtown core. It inspired me to add a little magic to our roadtrip.
The great thing about fairies is that they aren’t limited by conventional rules like Santa is. They don’t only have one night to show up and they come in many forms. A lightning bug to a four year old is just as magical as Santa and can show up anywhere. Thus, on what may be one of my last big trips with two fairy loving kids, I have invited along the roadtrip fairies.
The kids have no idea when the fairies might show up and the fairies can bring things as small as a sticker and something as large as books and electronics. Last night, the first roadtrip fairy visited our house and here is a video of what happened this morning.
Are you raising a gamer? You are not alone! Share tips and tricks below in the comments.