If you have a child who loves to play Minecraft, you already know it’s not an easy game to quit. One of the qualities that make Minecraft a tool for growing the brain is that it is a blank canvas on which players can do whatever they choose. Sandbox games such as Minecraft and Fortnite Creative Mode facilitate creativity due to the endless options for gameplay. While these characteristics make it an ideal game to help kids learn skills such as cognitive flexibility, problem-solving, time management, planning, and organization, they also make it a game where extended gameplay is not only an option, but often the best method to let one’s mind run free, be creative, and be proud of the result. This is one of the reasons that Saturdays are the best day to play Minecraft.
Kids who attend our LW4K LIVE small group, online executive-functioning training programs that use Minecraft as a teaching tool have enjoyed ongoing projects. They return to our LW4K Minecraft server each week and pick up where they left off in their projects. By playing in the same map and expanding, altering, and developing their ideas, they use many executive-functioning skills and get to know their teachers and fellow students. Many of the students are proud of what they have created and have told their parents how using skills such as planning, organization, and flexibility help them in gameplay. They are able to see the connection with using these skills in the real world.
In general, we suggest that about an hour a day spent playing video games is a healthy amount of gameplay for children during the school week. Parents can be more flexible about screen time when kids are doing well in school and engaged in outside activities. However, the reality of the school (and work) week is that there is often not enough time to do homework adequately and take care of basic chores when children spend more than an hour a day on school days playing video games. On Saturdays, there is usually plenty of time for screen time, and allowing children to challenge their cognitive abilities through playing Minecraft for two or three hours is a good way to go. Parents can also structure Minecraft play to involve peers, either face-to-face or remotely. In addition, children would have time to explore some of the interests that Minecraft play often engenders. For example, kids who love building on Minecraft may want to read the books of David Macaulay, play with Legos to mimic their Minecraft play, or go for a hike where they can examine geological features or collect rocks and minerals.
If you like, your kids can join our Minecraft wizard, Ryan Smith, in his Saturday Minecraft program. Participants play together for about 90 minutes and, if they continue to come back on Saturdays, can work on ongoing projects. All of our LW4K LIVE programs are a great opportunity to play with a Minecraft expert, talk about executive-functioning and problem-solving skills, and recognize the learning potential of playing Minecraft.