5 Ways Your Kids Are Learning While Playing Video Games

I married a gamer.  Since gaming is ‘Love’s hobby, it’s something the kids have always been interested in, and it’s been a natural activity for them to bond over.  Unfortunately, I feel as if I’m constantly apologizing for the fact that my kids spend an hour most days taking turns playing computer or console games with Daddy.

I’ve decided that the time for apologizing is over.  While there’s always a chance that they’re picking up negative habits or beliefs from slaying pixelated zombies or conglomerate monster-things (and we are pretty careful about the types of games we expose our kids to–though interestingly enough no one seems to think we should abandon Bible reading when the kids role play David killing Goliath or Solomon threatening to cut the baby in half to determine its true mother), the more I’ve watched and listened to them gaming with Daddy, the more I’m convinced that gaming, like most other hobbies, has many benefits.

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the domino effect of reading

Through the years, I can’t count the number of times when “I read it somewhere” was the only answer I had to give others who wondered where I’d learned things.

Though I’m not sure exactly when it began, somewhere during elementary school I became a voracious reader.  At one point I remember being frustrated with our town library because I had read any chapter books in the kids’ section that I found remotely interesting (that being a majority of them), and there was nothing new to read.  So the notion of soaking up information through books is nothing new to me.

And yet, sometimes I am still surprised at the ways in which reading connects to other areas of learning. I was reminded yet again this week of the truly interconnected nature of skill-development.

After hovering forever around the A to Z Mysteries and Boxcar Children level of books (for something like a year!), Peatie has FINALLY increased the difficulty/reading level in what he selects to read during his evening free-reading time, and I’m in my glory.  Why?  There are lots of reasons to rejoice, but here are a few:

A) Because he’s as excited about reading these books as he was about the first A to Z and Boxcar books.  (After the first few, it seemed like he read more of the same just because of momentum.)  He now comes dancing out of his room every evening to report on the latest happenings at Castle Glower.

B) Because he also pokes his head out every evening to ask me a vocab word or two.  He now knows about crenelations and retorts and griffins and privy chambers and any number of other glorious words.  Have I mentioned how much I love words?

C) Because he’s incorporating the tone and vocabulary of the book into his conversation at times, which I think is awesome.  The other night he was reporting in on the relative ages of the various characters when he informed me (with a smug smirk), “I don’t know Bran’s age, but I do know one thing for certain–he’s a wizard!”  The deliberate pace, the turn of phrase, and the pregnant pause were perfect, and he knew it.

D) Because even his writing is improving.  The story he started today sounded vastly more interesting and stylistically mature than what he’s written in the past.

A story he wrote a month ago started like this: “One time a bear lived in a tree. His name was Zub. He loved being up the tree, but suddenly Zub saw a hunter trying to get him! The hunter started racing up the tall tree. Zub raced into the high branches.”

His latest story begins, “The wonders of the different worlds spread across the worlds fast. Heartland (a world) had many towns, and one of them was Size (Named because it was HUGE)! In the town of Size the houses are small, and they have many stairs. In Rattle the Rat’s house the shows on TV were always watched on the 2594th floor.  (Now we can’t go over what all his house was like, because it has 10000 levels.) So he was watching a show when he heard a sound.”

Earth-shatteringly brilliant writing?  No, but in my opinion there’s definitely noticeable improvement, and I’m excited for him.  (And for myself.  His stories before were all rather formulaic, insanely improbable, and hard to follow–and I had to read them all.)

All these delightful effects (and more that I haven’t noticed, I’m sure!) come because he’s now read a couple more challenging books.

Isn’t it fun to watch your kids learn and grow, making connections and getting excited about new information and improving their skills!?  I can’t wait to see what he learns next!  I love this job!  (Well, most of the time…)

**In case you’re wondering, he’s currently working through Jessica Day George’s Tuesdays at the Castle series.

a dozen activities to develop early number concepts

Exposure to numbers doesn't have to be formal and serious.  Even silly experiences can be full of learning!

Exposure to numbers doesn’t have to be formal and serious. Even silly experiences can be full of learning!

Learning about numbers is one of those foundational concepts, necessary for understanding so much about the world.  For this reason, we diligent parents are eager to ensure that our tykes are on-track for numeracy skills from the very start.  These ideas, for the crowd that isn’t quite ready to write numbers or study formal math, will build a foundation for later success–without the need for any formality or structure.

  1. Make counting a regular part of your life, from how many baby carrots your child wants for lunch to how many strokes it takes to mix your brownie batter. The more opportunities you take for counting (within reason, of course!) the more familiar your child becomes with numbers and their order.
  2. Master the “concept” of number. Talk about how many cups you’ve stacked, how many blocks are in a line. Help your child develop a mental image for each number—especially for 1-5.
  3. Compare groups of items. Line up all your red Hot Wheels and park the black ones in a row beneath them. Decide which group has more, and how many more there are.
  4. Have fun with simple word problems. “Look, you have five grapes left! How many will you have after you eat another one?” In this way, your children will learn that numbers and math help them to describe and understand their world.
  5. As your child ages, “their” number is infinitely special to them. On each child’s birthday, I make a sign saying, “[Kid] is [#] today! Happy birthday!” This sign starts prominently displayed in the kitchen, but after a week or so it moves to their bedroom, where it hangs all year. If nothing else, my kids master recognition of one number each year!
  6. Point out numbers in your child’s world. Count down that last minute on the timer until the cookies are done, talk about the price of items you’re buying at the store (as you point to the numbers on the price tag), inspect the page numbers of the books you read. Start to nurture familiarity with the written symbols we use for numbers.
  7. Post a number line or 100 chart for your child to ponder. Show them how it’s organized, and refer to it when numbers or comparisons arise. They may love to count while pointing to each number—but if they don’t, that’s fine, too!
  8. Combine an understanding of number order with some fine motor work: get simple dot-to-dot pages for your child to complete!
  9. When they’re interested, play a matching game. Place groups of objects on the floor, a different number of each. Give your child a set of number cards (marker on a blank index card or bit of scrap paper works great), and help them match each number to its corresponding group of objects.
  10. Here’s another matching game: Place the number cards on the floor, and see if your child can create an appropriate group of objects for each card.
  11. Using Uno cards or homemade number cards, have your child try to put the numbers in order. Be sure to reinforce the left-to-right order they’ll use for reading!
  12. Read fun number books. A search of your library’s catalog is sure to turn up at least a handful of colorful or silly counting books.