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Video Games: Build Your Child’s Skills

March 26, 2014

By Amanda Gebhardt

A child sits in front of a television, playing a strategic video game.

Since I first started dating my husband, a life-long gamer, I’ve grown to love video games and respect the art and craft that go into building such complex systems. While not all video games are appropriate for children, there is much to love and learn about age-appropriate games.

If your child has found that love and seems to spend countless hours immersed in one digital world or another, recognize the skills that are being built automatically, and work with your child to apply those skills outside of games. Here are just some of the skills your child learns while playing games:

  • Critical Thinking. Video games are puzzles set inside mazes. In order to make it through each level, you have to think quickly and plan. Those who truly succeed are practicing critical thinking every step of the way.
  • Map Reading Skills. Learning how to navigate where you are and where you want to go is a key social studies skill that most gamers can benefit from strengthening. From radar maps to land maps you can pull up in most role-playing games, maps are key features of the gaming world.
  • Story. Non-gamers may not realize that every game out there has a plot, setting, and characters with distinct motivations. Even multi-player online games almost always have a “story mode” where players can advance through the story line, defeating the bad guys and saving the world (or taking over the world, depending on the game). This narrative ignites the player’s imagination.
  • Teamwork. In most multiplayer and cooperative games, players have specific roles within their teams and must stick to those roles if they want their teams to succeed. Each role is specific and necessary, teaching players valuable lessons.
  • Economics. Most large-scale games have some sort of built-in economy that allows players to earn credits or money in order to buy items that help them perform better. Auction houses inside the games are great places to see supply and demand theories in action. If your child’s game has a strong economic component, you can use it to encourage your child to learn more about basic economics that can help him or her succeed in the game.

If you want to reinforce these skills or even just share something your child loves, the best thing you can do is to pick up a controller and jump into the game yourself. Learn the ins and outs. Get good. Have fun. You’ll be leveling up more than just your character.

If your child loves playing video games, consider teaching them code. Find out more in the companion piece here. 

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