Game Cube and Little BoysWe just got a gamecube for my 7 and almost 4 yo boys in October, so needless to say I have been doing lots of thinking about it!
The conclusions I have been coming to after watching them play (and playing myself) is that video games really do have a bad rap. The amount of problem solving that my kids go through while playing is incredible. The instructions that come with the game do not contain the info that you need to win...just basic info on how to play. My boys have to figure out (and remember) patterns when they figure out what commands to use (push the a button twice or a 3-4 button sequence that I can never remember!). They are constantly asking me to read things for them and most of my oldest's sight words are from video/computer games. We talk about vocabulary. They are constantly figuring out strategy...my oldest especially will go back and play the same challange using different tactics or characters to see what kind of results he will get (looks suspiciously like the scientfic method to me). If he can't figure it out, then we go and look up cheats (hmmm looks like research to me!)
He is also learning that he gets better the more he plays (a very good lesson for him to know as he tends towards the perfectionistic side and often will not try things if they are too difficult). And he is learning that sometimes if he takes a break and comes back he can see something he missed before. He is learning to share with his little brother. He has something that he is better then his dad at. He is learning that people (his brother mostly) do not like to lose all the time and if he wants to have someone to play against he needs to keep that in mind.
It came to me the other day that Jason is more engaged then if he were doing puzzles in a book or being read to...when he plays a video game, it is a whole body experience. I can see his mind working...he is completely engaged. He is constantly strategizing, thinking about the next step, figuring out how to solve the next level, experimenting with options. He is also very active...jumping up and down, yelling, running in to show me his latest accomplishment.
We also have great conversations while playing games...the other day he asked me what plural meant (it came up in Sonic, can't remember why). So we talked about it...played with coming up with plurals of different words (man, men, boy, boys etc) He has asked me how to count by 100s (he was earning 100 points/race and wanted to figure out how amny he needed to win), this led him to asking about counting by 5s and 1,000s. He is comparing number in the hundreds of thousands to determine if he can afford an upgrade to his car. He is learning estimating. There are SO many different layers to video games these days...it really amazes me how complex and how much thought they take to play.
He is doing things (like comparisons, critical thinking, trial and error, vocabulary) that they stress in school...and he is doing it because it is fun and he wants to. I really think that parents are missing something if they limit their kids game playing...either in time or in types of games (education vs non-educational — I think that Jason has learned more from his "non-educational" games).
The only thing that I hate is when I try to explain to family or friends how much learning he is getting "from playing video games all day" and they look at me like I am nuts or deluding myself. And he does do other things during the day...he loves being read to, likes books on tape, plays with friends, does science experiments, makes potions and goop, takes fencing, plays board and card games, plays with his Playmobile castle, jumps on his mini-trampoline, asks tons of questions.... Well, I guess that I could go on but I think that you get the point. :o) Don't discount the learning/problem solving that is going on while our kids play video games. I can't think of anything else that he does that engages his mind so thoroughly and completely...that gets it moving and thinking and wondering. And that can only be a good thing. :o)