How Gaming Can Help Your Child Enjoy Learning
by Candy Keane @ GeekMamas.com
My son is a typical 4-year-old boy. He would much rather be playing with cars or shooting NERF guns rather than reading books and learning. It's been quite a challenge for me to get him interested in anything beyond counting and basic ABCs.
After many frustrating efforts, I finally realized I was going to have to get very creative with our approach to learning, and that's where gaming come in. We went on an epic quest to save a princess and along the way he managed to learn a surprising amount of "real-world" knowledge.
Using Games to Inspire Sight Words
While my son didn't care how to spell “cat” or “dog,” he did get interested when I suggested he learn words that would help him play games easier without asking me what everything meant. So I made flash cards with words like: New, Game, Jump, Off, On, Play. Now before he plays anything, we go through the cards. Also, as we are playing I point out words and add new ones. I think my proudest moment was when a friend of his was visiting and my son picked up the cards and showed off his reading skills and then challenged his friend to learn them too.
We had other reading breakthroughs as the game progressed as well. Instead of skipping to
the end of conversations with characters, he learned they have important things to say.
This is one of the first times he actually asked me to read to him!
Number Recognition and Understanding
To play a game like Legend of Zelda, you need to know your numbers. Each weapon,
shield and article of clothing is assigned a number based on how strong that item is. You
don't want to drop a sword worth 30 for a level 2 twig. When we started, he was good with
1-10. But after several days of making sure he knew the numbers every time he decided to
drop or pick-up an item, he was soon making his own choices based on number values.
Through this he has expanded not only his number knowledge, but the concepts of
“higher/lower” and “less than/more than” as well.
Another part of the game involves buying and selling. One of my biggest challenges was
to try and teach him the value of things, and that you don't want to sell a diamond, then
spend all your money on fire arrows just so you can waste them shooting at trees. Being
wasteful is a tough concept to get across, but when he's suddenly out of money and arrows,
I do take a certain bit of glee from explaining how he now needs to go out and earn more
money. Just like in real life, you can't buy anything without money in the game!
Relating Gaming to Real World Experiences
It takes an extra effort on the parent's part to use gaming as a learning tool, but the
experience can be very rewarding. I try and apply things he's learned from the game to
other parts of life. I like to find out what letter his class is learning for the week, and then
come up with game-related words for him to practice. Or if I see one of our sight words
while we are out, I ask him to tell me what it is. We even do simple math like “If I have 5
arrows and shoot that goblin with 3, how many arrows do I have left?” All of these things
have led to positive learning experiences.
I urge all parents with kids that enjoy gaming to get involved and make a conscious effort
to channel that attention and focus towards useful real-world skills. You'll see kids can
have fun and learn, even while shooting monsters and saving princesses.
So tell us, what games do you play with your kids?