As a long-term home educator, I really sympathise with all of the parents and carers who have been thrown into Corona-schooling recently. In this blog post I’d like to share some of the ways in which I’ve found Minecraft, Among Us and other games to be really positive, as well as how to get the best learning experience for your children who are fans of these games.
If you’re anything like me, seeing your kids sit endlessly on screens can be difficult. Parent-guilt creeps in, and I’ve found myself having circular conversations with myself that go something like this:
“Surely this much screen time can’t be good for them. Ok, I’ll be more involved. I’ll be able to fit my job, and cooking, washing, cleaning and admin in somewhere- maybe when I’m supposed to be sleeping- yes, I’ll just give up sleep, and be really present and Do More Activities with the kids. We could go to the- oh, wait, nope. We could meet- oh, wait, nope. We could do another zoom class- URGH, really? We’ve done baking, art, ridiculously long bubble baths (sometimes several in a day), we’ve done everything in the garden we can think of, they’ve played with all their toys. There really is NOTHING ELSE TO DO.”
And that’s the truth of it- at the moment, for many families, connecting to the infinite possibilities of games and films and apps that digital devices provide is a key way of getting through lockdown. And that is just fine.
Did you know that when books first came out, people thought that reading was bad for you? They called it ‘reading mania’, and there was great concern that reading books would make people- get this- antisocial, depressed and even promiscuous (huh?!)
Although we all know that sitting still and indoors for long periods of time isn’t great when there are other options, there are plenty of ways in which games such as Minecraft and Among Us (when played on a safe, private realm) are incredibly educational. I’ve heard my children and their friends discussing which rocks have the best properties to build with (science!); practising spelling as they write notes to each other on the chat facility within the game (literacy!), and working as a team to help repair a player’s broken building (social skills and engineering!).
As a home educating parent it is really useful to try and use my children’s interests as a starting point, and find things based on their interests rather than forcing something they won’t engage with. Children are hardwired to learn and to do things that are of interest to them; it just so happens that often this isn’t the same as schoolwork!
I’ve found that rather than seeing ‘screen time’ and ‘learning time’ as separate, it has been really helpful to both see the learning that happens through playing the games, and find things for my children to do that tie in to their enjoyment- they always learn better when they are happy.
In the first lockdown last year, another home educating Mum and I starting designing themed activity packs to help families give their children something fun to do- something that was educational without kids even realising it. Back in October we posted some creative Minecraft Activity Ideas such as making stop-motion animations out of plasticine and free video apps, making Minecraft block art stampers out of Lego and building 3D Minecraft characters out of paper. Since then have brought out two professionally printed Minecraft themed activity packs- a cross-curricular Minecraft themed pack, and a Maths for Minecrafters pack. Both are full of fun and completely Minecraft-themed activities, and have been very popular with parents who say that it’s the only way to get their kids off screens!
With the rise in popularity of Among Us, we also brought out our brand-new Among Us inspired ‘Crewmate’ activity pack, full of recipes, craft ideas, literacy and numeracy tasks, games and projects themed around the game.
If your child is really into a game, theme or topic, try letting them explore their passion and observe what they are doing and learning. When children are interested in something they will challenge themselves, push their own limits and allow themselves to get frustrated in pursuit of skill development (anyone who has gamer kids will know the sounds of this!).
Computer games encourage teamwork, delayed gratification, precise communication, patience and many other skills, as well as the specific topics explored in each game. Although exercise and fresh air should always be encouraged, try to relax a little about your child enjoying computer games, and see the positive effects.
This approach applies not just to computer games but any interest- whether it is Lego, animals, Harry Potter or something completely different. If your child has a passion, allowing them to explore it fully and finding things to do that show you support their interest, will have a great effect on both their confidence and learning.
Cross-curricular activity packs are available in the following themes from Curious Little Monkeys Educational Resources:
- Harry Potter
- Minecraft Maths
- Among Us
- Curiosity (child’s interest-led)