Monday, 21 November 2011

Video Games

Now, I can tell that you’re thinking you know what this post will be about …

 “the SportyMummy banging on about the merits of exercise and the evils of video games…. “

Well, I’m going to surprise you by telling you that I love video games and  love the time I spend with my kids playing them!

….As I am typing this, my daughter flash has a friend over for a play, It is a rainy, windy, dark and cold afternoon outside. Inside the girls are playing a dance game on the wii. They are having so much fun! They are singing, dancing, talking and laughing. Even Buster is doing a performance for the giggling girls! They are also puffing and sweating. They will do other things this afternoon, like going through their trinkets precious possessions in the bedroom and making some Christmas craft. But for now they are really having a ball playing a video game!

Muscles, Buster and Flash Performing Eye of the Tiger!

My son, Buster received the wii for his 4th birthday. We have all really enjoyed playing the active sports games. Although I know it doesn’t begin to compare to the real thing, a game of real tennis is extremely difficult with Buster. At 4, he rarely makes contact with the ball ands ends up mostly chasing the balls and getting frustrated. When we play tennis, squash or table tennis on the wii, we can have a great game together and he is actually quite competitive!  It actually makes him more keen to try out the games in real life.

It’s not only the sports games we have enjoyed. The kids have really enjoyed playing Sonic the Hedgehog, Crash Bandicoot and Harry Potter games. I don’t buy games where violence, fighting or shooting are main aspect of the game.  

Honestly, I really love sitting with them and together, playing a game where it is our common focus to beat the game. We discuss strategy, compare characters and options. We figure out puzzles together and we all whoop and cheer if a boss level is defeated or a secret treasure is discovered. It opens up whole new worlds for us to explore. As we are working together, as a team, it seems to generate a real sense of closeness between us.

When the girls are at school, I’ll often play a video game with Buster for an hour or so. At the moment he loves to play with me and doesn’t play the games by himself. He is very verbal when playing the games as we talk about what’s going on in the game and it makes him so happy. I am happy too. Playing video games is something I have previously enjoyed as a teenager (yes, I admit it , and as an adult….I’m a bit of a geek!) and I think Buster can also tell that I am having fun. The time seems to fly by, I am really there in the moment with him. When I play with him on the toy room floor, he likes to drive his cars or play with action figures, build train tracks and play trains, or play play-doh. As poor old buster is the third child, the novelty of spending my day doing these things has well and truly worn off! For busters sake, I do  play with him, but honestly I find that the time can really go very slowly, My mind often wonders, I often have to try stiffeling yawns and force my self not to make excuses to check the computer or my phone, or perhaps even scrub the toilet! (I hope I’m not the only mum who feels like that…).

In my experience, I have found that playing video games has some very positive aspects for my children.

  • My girls spend many hours a week participating in and traveling to organized sport. They do this after a full day at school, and then have to do their homework. A large part of the weekend is devoted to competitions. My kids need some downtime but they soon tire of TV and resort to couch jumping or wrestling. Playing video games seems to give them a bit a downtime, which I think is essential to them to recharge.
  • Video games seem to demonstrate that you can get better at a certain task with practice.
  • Video games give them the opportunity to experiment with  risk taking with no real penalty.
  • Video games often operate in a very sequential fashion. First you need to do ‘this’, and then you can pull that lever and  go ‘there’. This is good practice for problem solving and story telling.
  • You often need to think about how to use the tools you have at your disposal often engaging the kids in lateral thought.
  •  You often need to make decisions on weather to buy upgrades offered now or save your game ‘money’ for better upgrades offered later. Illustrating concepts such as money and savings.
  • I often use examples form video games to help me explain  a concept in real life that the kids are struggling with.
Of course I believe balance and moderation is essential  for playing video games. The girls only usually play video games for an hour or two on weekends or school holidays, as they do not have time during the school week. Often they only want to play the games on rainy, or cold days. I always make a point of doing lots of fun outdoor activities with the kids, like bike riding, bouncing on the trampoline , bush walking and going to the playground.

 I truly believe in the huge benefits of sport and physical activity for kids. But in my opinion there is a place for video games in my family, as long as they are used to complement their physical activity, and not take the pace of it. I believe it is my job as a parent to ensure that this does not happen.

….Actually, The rain has now stopped and the kids have finished their dancing game. Impatient to get outside, they have used a towel to dry the trampoline and they are outside, bouncing, laughing and  having a fantastic time.

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