Childrearing

Twinning: I’ve Become Less Anti-Video Games As My Kids Have Gotten Older

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While the kids played the Number Board game, I jumped into the big wide world of kid apps to do some research. I was incredibly impressed with what I found, and I bought “Teach Me Kindergarten” and “Mathmateer,” (then known as “Rocket Math.”) Nick and Allie went crazy over both apps, and for a long time, that was all we had. Mathmateer was particularly impressive, because its combination of math questions and rocket building had my son doing multiplication in the first grade and asking me to teach him division. It was such a great app that I downloaded three others by the same designer, Dan Russell-Pinson: Monster Physics, Stack the States and Presidents vs. Aliens. They’re all pretty great at combining learning and playing, and my kids still love them.

When my twins were in first grade, Nick’s teacher told me she thought he would love Minecraft because he loves to build. You can’t beat a teacher’s recommendation, so I spent the $11 to download it, and was surprised to see that it looked more primitive than PacMan. I didn’t think my kids would like it, but sure enough they both loved it. Soon they were digging caves and basements, building cabins with secret rooms, hanging artwork and making flower gardens.

Both kids quickly became Minecraft addicts, and when it got to the point that they were arguing over it and ignoring me when I told them to turn it off, I “deleted” the app (read: hid it in a folder) and made them quit their addiction cold turkey.

But then I saw that our local arts center has a kid’s class that focuses on Minecraft, and I read an article by Nick Bilton in The New York Times about how the app is both an obsession and an educational tool being used by teachers and parents around the world to teach everything from science to city planning. Well. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. Reading about all the benefits that can come from Minecraft spurred me to drag it back out for my kids. I watched them play together, discussing, planning and allocating tasks according to each other’s strengths and I had to admit that I’d be hard-pressed to find something in the real world that could rival what they were learning by playing Minecraft.

While I’m certainly more lenient in the amount of apps I download for my twins now that they’re seven years old, I still monitor all of them. I don’t allow apps that are strictly games, such as Angry Birds or Candy Crush, and we don’t have Wii, DS, or any true “video game” consoles. I have to admit that I view most of the apps on our iPad as learning tools, and I also approve of my children playing them—video games or not. My husband recently commented that the kids had been “playing the iPad” for over an hour, and I had to point out that they were playing “Presidents vs. Aliens” and learning the names of every U.S. president in order…and really, wasn’t that better than watching Pokemon?

(photo:  Thijs Knaap)

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