Play to Learn: Matching Video Games to Your Child

Choosing the best video games for your child is not always an easy task.  Sure you can just get them the latest first-person shooter or some other popular game, but if you want your child to play to learn, it may take a bit more thinking on your part. I am not suggesting that all video game play should be centered on learning.  We know that children learn a great deal directly from their play, including digital play. However, if you want your child to play to learn from their video game and Internet use, it’s best to know their areas of interests and strengths and find games and digital media that fit them.

If you are looking for video games and technologies to help in a specific area, read through our Thinking Sills and Academic Skills pages to find the categories that best suit your child, and then browse our collection of PlayBooks to find the best games for your child.

If you just want to make sure that they’ll derive some benefit from their digital activities, follow our advice below.

l.  Look for age-appropriate games. Pay attention to ESRB ratings and LearningWorks for Kids Recommended Age.

2.  Find games that match your child’s interests. Either match your child’s current interests or consider areas where you can successfully expand your child’s interests. For example, there is compelling research that indicates playing sports-based video games increases the likelihood that children will play these sports.

3.  Encourage your child to choose games where you can play along with, or compete with your child. This helps you to observe what your child is doing and has also been demonstrated to improve family relations. All of our PlayBooks have Play Together guides to help you set goals and get the most out of each individual game.

4. Choose games that are social. Select games for your child that have multi-player options so that the child’s game play is not a solitary activity and can be done with their friends at home or online together.

5. Allow games that do not offend your sensibilities. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to encourage your child to select games that conform with your own values. If you are upset by violence, gender or racial issues, promiscuity, or inappropriate language, inform your kids that specific games are not acceptable in your home.

6.  Play games that practice an academic skill but are definitely not academic games. For example, it is far easier to get children to practice reading while playing engaging video games that require some reading, than getting them to sit down and read what they consider to be a difficult book. Popular games that coincidentally practice reading can be an enormous asset to struggling readers. There are studies that indicate that struggling readers who are frequently online become better at reading from their online experience.

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