The world of computer games has come a long way. The storylines, graphics, and what you can do as a game player have all greatly advanced. These developments create opportunities for kids to immerse in games that entertain and build knowledge, skills, interests, and creativity.
If your child has expressed interest in computer games, but you’re unsure where to find them, the main types available, or how to know what is age-appropriate for your child, keep reading!
Where to Find Games
In the past, most people purchased computer games in stores and then downloaded them onto a computer or popped in a CD. While you can still buy games in that traditional way, there are many other options available as well.
A quicker option is downloading games or playing online using popular platforms such as Steam. Steam is one of several online stores known for its extensive library of games. Xbox for PC also has popular games that you can download onto a computer, such as Minecraft and LEGO games. Roblox is a unique platform where gamers create their own games, play other’s games, and socialize with other players through gameplay.
There are several types of educational games available, and each one has its own set of learning opportunities. We’ve provided an overview of some of the main types, popular games in each category, and what skills kids might learn by playing each one.
- Casual Games: These games are generally quick and fun. They don’t have in-depth storylines or take a long time to play. They can be excellent for learning or practicing typing, math, chess, and more. Tetris is a popular, casual game with positive impacts on memory and spatial understanding. Matching games like Candy Crush or Jewel Match build memory, focus, and pattern recognition skills. Your kids can even put together jigsaw puzzles online!
- Building and Creative: You have probably heard of Minecraft, one of the most popular building games. Not only does it provide kids with endless hours of entertainment, but it also teaches creativity, math reasoning, and patience. Typhoon Roller Coaster and Contraption Maker are other fun building games worth exploring.
- Simulation Games: Simulation games typically replicate real-world situations where players take on specific roles. These include sports, racing, flight simulation, and role-play games. In addition to the specific skills being simulated, players can learn empathy for others, decision-making, and critical thinking. Check out Kerbal Space Program as one of the most highly rated flight simulation games for kids.
- Action and Adventure: Action and adventure games can provide hours of playtime. While not always focused on educational elements, kids can gain social skills while playing with others and hand-eye coordination. You can find games based on favorite characters or activities, such as cooking.
- Strategy Games: Strategy games tend to involve more extended play and include building up resources, winning battles or wars, or building a city or civilization. Civilization is a popular strategy game where players learn about history, economics, and politics.
- Nostalgic Games: One way to appreciate how far games have come and make video gaming a family affair is to play the games you loved as a kid. Pong, Pac-Man, or Oregon Trail will bring you back to your childhood, and the simplicity of many of these games makes them easy and fun to enjoy as a family. Check out these 19 ’90s Computer Games That Made Learning Unbelievably Fun.
Ratings and Safety
While video games can provide learning and fun, they can also expose children to themes and content they are not ready for. Most games have a rating, and experts recommend you stick within those guidelines for age-appropriateness. Other things you can do to protect your kids and your wallet are to set up parental controls, talk about internet safety, and be clear about asking permission before making online purchases.
Playing online with friends may be an excellent option for social interaction. However, online chats and play with unknown people open up a new, potentially dangerous, and sometimes inappropriate world to children. Internet Matters provides resources and guides for parents on setting up controls and having important conversations with kids.
Computer games can provide kids with fantastic learning opportunities. The best way to ensure that your kids are playing games that are appropriate and educational is to play with them, stay involved in overseeing decisions on what they can play, and monitor their gaming activity.