Minecraft’s vast scope an open-ended gameplay make it a great platform for learning. For children with ADHD, the game can be particularly helpful in teaching key cognitive skills like Planning, Focus and Organization. By setting some simple gameplay goals and challenges, parents and educators can shift the parameters of play, turning the game into a powerful tool for developing thinking skills which children with ADHD commonly struggle.
To get things started, we’ll briefly introduce the Planning thinking skill, then cite specific examples of how it is used in the game. We’ll conclude with an in-game project that challenges kids to exercise and identify the use of the Planning thinking skill in-game. Players who have not completed the Gameplay Goals in the Play Together section of our Minecraft Playbook may wish to do so before continuing with this article.
How is Planning Used in the Game?
Planning is the thinking skill that helps an individual develop a strategy to accomplish a goal. No task in Minecraft can be undertaken without some level of planning. Proper planning not only impacts the effectiveness of players’ building and exploring tactics, but can also play a large role in working with other players and managing multiple in-game projects at once.
One of the most exciting aspects of Minecraft’s gameplay is that it allows the player to set their own goals. With this freedom, players can travel to any destination or construct anything they can imagine. The consequence of this style of gameplay is that players are not given any direction on how to accomplish these self-created goals. It is in this circumstance that planning becomes the first and most important part of the player’s tactics, helping the player prioritize actions. Because the world of Minecraft is randomly generated and endless, even exploring your surroundings requires more planning than you might first expect. Preparing for unforeseen circumstances is key, and the open landscape gives the player time to strategize and prepare for any upcoming enemies and obstacles.
Another, more obvious, use of planning in Minecraft is in building. Any project the player chooses to build must first come from an initial idea in their mind. With this internal blueprint the player should then begin brainstorming all of the materials needed to finish the project. After gathering required materials, the player should have a loose interpretation of how he will go about constructing the structure. Without performing at least these three simple steps, the project can take much longer to complete — if it even gets completed at all. The care taken in the planning is escalated when building in particularly dangerous environments such as near lava or on a high elevation.
In fact, any potentially dangerous situation in the game should be met with further consideration from the player. Cave exploration, for example, can be a lucrative investment of time and effort, but is also one of the most treacherous ventures for the player to engage in. Without the ability to see the environment outside of your immediate reach, it is important to be extra cautious. Pits, monsters, lava, and other dangers lie around every corner. In addition to the physical dangers in caves, there is the danger of becoming lost in the often confusing and seemingly endless cave systems. Players should avoid becoming overly-absorbed in finding the rare materials scattered in these caves for these exact reasons. Balancing risks and rewards and prioritizing your actions are the keys to making it back out.
Minecraft Projects for Kids: Building a Watchtower
Finding your way around in the randomly-generated worlds of Minecraft can be tough. Before setting out to scout out material and traverse unexplored caves, you should consider how you will find your way back to your home base. A common strategy for locating your “home base” from a distance is to construct a tall watchtower near your home. Doing so will create an in-game visual point-of-reference to help guide you as you explore.
In order to put Planning skills to the test, we have created a project that involves constructing one of these handy towers. This kind of preparation and foresight can prove greatly useful in game, and will highlight many of the cornerstones of the Planning thinking skill, such as developing strategies, planning step-by-step processes, prioritizing actions, and working piece by piece on a long-term project.
- Construct a watchtower on top of a nearby mountain or hill
- Brainstorm and gather necessary materials
- Create an actual blueprint, diagram, or model for the tower
- Cannot be shorter than 35 clocks high or have a diameter of less than 3 blocks
- Enlist a friend(s) to help you with your project
- Complete the project without falling to your death!
A useful tip for building at high elevations: hold down the shift key while walking to avoid falling off ledges!
If you would like to complete the bonus goal and recruit a friend you must first set up a private server for them to join (if you are playing Minecraft on Xbox 360, this is not necessary). You can do this by going to the Minecraft website’s download tab and following the instructions on how to set-up a server.
For more information on Planning or tips for improving thinking skills with Minecraft, check out the Planning thinking skill page and the Minecraft Playbook. And be sure to check back for more Minecraft projects for kids!