If you haven’t heard of the game Minecraft, there’s a good chance that you been living on a different planet from your children over the past few years. Minecraft is what is known as a “sandbox” game, set in an open virtual world where the player does not need to have any particular goals or direction in mind in order to experience success. Minecraft is a game of discovery, construction, and learning, and it’s being used in a variety of school settings to teach skills like mathematics, physics, history, and reading comprehension. In addition, sandbox games like Minecraft can help kids with Autism develop creativity, flexibility, and other important thinking skills.
Children who play Minecraft practice a variety of thinking and problem-solving skills on a regular basis, like planning when designing a new building or mapping out a farm, flexibility when learning to “craft” new objects, and organizational skills to keep track of materials they have accumulated and ensure that they are safe from enemy creatures. There is evidence that Minecraft‘s use of thinking skills may be particularly helpful for children affected by autism. Many parents of children with autism have touted the positive power of the game in engaging their children. While there are legitimate concerns that some children with autism can become obsessed in their Minecraft play, there remain a number of strategies that can be used to make sandbox games like Minecraft into great opportunities for learning.
Here’s how to help kids with autism get the most out of sandbox games like Minecraft.
- Make the time to play the game with your child. At the very least observe them playing. You may need to ask them to slow down their building and exploration in order for you to understand what they are doing. Asking them questions about the game can be a great exercise for both of you.
- Encourage your child to work on a specific task in the game. Preferably find something that requires the use of planning and organizational skills. Rather than simply exploring, ask them if they can build you a house or set up a farm.
- Take Minecraft and other sandbox games beyond the console or computer. Encourage them to build with Legos, design and construct a fort in the backyard, or to learn more about the actual mining and discovery of materials that make up today’s buildings and objects.
There are many other fantastic strategies for using Minecraft and other sandbox games to help children impacted by autism. Many of these can be found in the articles listed below.
- Self-Awareness and Mapping Your World
- Exploration, Flexibility and the Joy of Cave Spelunking
- Teaching Self-Control in Combat and Defeat
- Learning Planning & Organization in Minecraft
See our in-depth Minecraft Playbook here.