If you’re between the ages of 27 and 40 you grew up in an era when video games were huge part of life. Whether it was Atari 2600 and Pac Man or the glory of Super Mario Bros on Nintendo, you likely spent hours working to reach the next level or beating your own high score. Hell, between Baseball Stars and Madden it’s a wonder I ever became a dad.
Now, let’s talk about being a dad; I’ve got less time on my hands, especially little time to sit down and waste hours in front of a television playing videos games. That doesn’t mean I can’t get the occasional game in while still spending quality time with the kids. There is a balance to be found.
It’s for that reason I’m all about playing video games with the kids. Here are five good reasons why…
You’ll Enjoy It
Not in a selfish way but your kids actually like doing things with you- especially things that keep you in a good mood. Kids aren’t dumb, they figure out quickly that dad is much nicer during video game time than when he’s fixing the garage door and cursing like a sailor.
They’ll Enjoy It
It’s not rocket science but kids enjoy the games for their own reasons too. Video games take them into a world of their imagination (where kids should spend some time anyway) as they can become the super hero, the character from the latest Disney movie, or Drew Brees marching down the field in Madden ’11. Games can offer your kids a chance to think big and dream.
It Promotes Creative Thinking and Problem Solving
If you’ve ever played a video game with an open format that allows you to move around in a variety of ways you’ve probably hit that point where you are stuck and have to figure out where you needed to pick up the key for a mysterious door or some other item by backtracking and figuring out what you could do differently. Kids’ games offer the same experience on a simpler level. I spent a couple nights of game time with my daughter on Lego Batman to help her think of how to get past a sticky spot. After thinking about it for a while and running ideas through her head, she figured it out. And, when she did, there was both pride and excitement that she’d found a solution to the problem. It’s awesome to see the “ah ha” moment for your children as they learn something new. Video games can foster that kind of creative problem solving.
Video Games Enhance Skills
The extent of this point is widely debated and studied. Some people believe games are great and others feel that they’re a waste of time at best and detrimental at worst. There are some studies that point to benefits and others that point to potential downsides of too much gaming or violent gaming. I will note a few points here knowing that not everyone will agree.
- Hand eye coordination is a great skill to improve and video games can be helpful in this process. Kids are trying to react with their hands based on visual inputs of the game. This skill is used throughout their life in a lot of different settings based on recognizing inputs and patterns.
- With some games, especially those for the Wii, you also add movement to the game which adds one more element of skill to the games. I’m not sure what it says about me that my daughter can already beat me at some of this style of games.
- Thanks to the popularity of music games like Guitar Hero and Rockband, kids can add an element of appreciation for music and playing instruments. From there, many kids move on to actually learning more about the “real” instrument they’ve played via games.
It’s Time Together
The biggest benefit of this all for dads is time together. Because of the benefits noted in items 1-4, games can be a great way for you to share fun times with your son or daughter. Obviously this means picking the right games for their age, interests, and ability (No Halo with the four year old) but if they have a set amount of time they’re allowed to play and you’re part of it, video games are an awesome way to stay connected with your kids.
Some good games out now for kids/families include: