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Garrett Fuller: How to Play Games with Your Kids

Column By Garrett Fuller on December 01, 2011

So the other day I wrote about being a Digital Parent, today I want to offer some suggestions about what types of games to play with your kids. This is tricky as I am not listing out games specifically, but more importantly talking about in game systems and skills that can help children learn and achieve a sense of accomplishment in a game. These skills can then be applied to real life in some scenarios, so let’s get started.

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Reading is Fundamental

Remember that line ages ago, well in today’s world reading and typing are more critical than ever. So, for reading in a game, make then read the quest text with you. Yes all of the quest writers out there will love this one, and all of us players who blow through quest text will have to slow down a bit. In the end, reading in a game is fun and exciting. While reading a book is great, reading in a game is even better because you get to make your own choices afterwards. Remember those old “Choose Your Own Adventure Books” that came out in the 80s? I loved those as a kid. Game quests are no different and so for reading, help them read the quest text, slow down and let them do it. Eventually they will be ignoring quest text like the rest of us but for now, use this as a reading tool. It is amazing to see the motivation a kid has to read when there is a tangible reward at the end of the quest. Games like: Free Realms, Clone Wars, and Wizard 101 all use some fun fonts in their game text that will help kids slow down and read the words.

Next Up, Math…

 For many kids math is just not fun. Numbers and adding and all that is often thought of as a straight up school subject only. However, many games offer in-game stores, items, and auction houses. I say harness the math power of games to teach kids! Look at Gold, Credits, or Cash as an important learning tool. I have 500 Crowns, so I can buy a new mount, or I can save some more to get that awesome epic mount I have wanted for a while. In -game economics have become very complex and are definitely a tool that can be used to teach children about money, budgeting and the value of spending wisely.

 Another area in math that is vital to learning in games is statistics. If you child gets a new wand or sword, have then check the statistics against what they already have, make a comparison and choose. Also showing them how the old character stats system of RPGs works is wonderful for math. I cannot count how many times back in 1980 I rolled and re-rolled dice to make D&D characters. The stats were just so much fun to tweak and so important. Eternal thanks Mr. Gygax. Please rest in peace.

Tell Me a Story

Stories are the best in RPG games. Kids love a good story, but forget reading about the brave knights of some realm or another… go out and be one. A child tapping into an imagination while creating a story around it is so much fun. Now, I also temper this with reading a book before we go to sleep each night with my five year old. But the digital generation will be the doer generation. They will get bored quickly with activities they cannot actively take part in. While we are happy to sit back and watch TV or read a story, new media will put people into these stories and have them make choices. So encourage your child to play the story in the game, and then maybe do a project afterwards were they write a short story about their character. In their own words they will tell their tale, send it off to get it made into a bound book and bam: your child is now the author of their own book!

Last But Not Least, Puzzles.

Puzzles are a nightmare for all of us gamers, but darn does it feel good when you solve them. As a gamer I love puzzles in the real world because I can usually solve them 100 times faster than a non-gamer. Then you get the, “How did you do that?” I just laugh and say, “Hours of Zelda.” Puzzles are great for kids: they are the ultimate brain training tool. You can almost see the synapses firing in their heads. FIRE NEURONS FIRE! The trick is to not overload them on said puzzles. Use them effectively when needed.

All of these skills are great to find harnessed in video games, but here comes the real secret, ready?

Once done playing, apply them to the real world. When you are at the toy store, stop and say, here is how much money we have, here are the toys you want, what should we do? Like in your game remember? Well now you really are making them think in reality. Take these skills and design situations in the real world to have kids apply them. I think you would be amazed at the results.

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Garrett Fuller
Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997. He originally joined MMORPG.com as a writer in 2005. In 2007 Garrett went on to handle Industry Relations for TenTonHammer.com. Then, in July 2009, Garrett happily rejoined his old team at MMORPG.com as the site's News Manager. Garrett lives in Hillsborough, NJ with his wife, son and daughter.

His column appears here every Wednesday.
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