5 Ways Video Games Benefit Kids

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Video games offer lots of different learning opportunities and positives, which many people may not readily realize.

The obvious advantages come from games that teach and educate and are often used in a school setting. But video games can also improve a child’s visual and spatial skills, better his or her spelling and typing, help manage health issues like diabetes, teach the joy of competition, promote the fun of creating your own world, help a child make new friends and so much more.

Games are available in a huge variety of genres and can be played on consoles like the Xbox, on PC computers (both online and off), and handheld devices like the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP.

Children explore, experiment, fail, succeed and repeat with video games. Doesn’t that sound like a great education for what they will encounter in adult life?

Builds problem-solving abilities

Recent studies indicate that children who play video games score higher on standardized tests than those who don’t. Logically that makes good sense since many games use strategy and problem-solving skills.

Almost any video game you can think of has a puzzle to be solved or an issue that needs to be unraveled. That increases a child’s ability to problem solve — like completing a jigsaw puzzle, gaining a new level or acquiring a long sought-after item.

“You use the tools the game gives you to achieve a goal and you get a reward for it,” says Steve Pierce, an eight-year veteran of the gaming industry and CEO of Onverse, LLC. “When you achieve the goal, you have a sense of achievement – something you don’t get watching TV or a movie.”

Thinking or using the brain to make decisions is always better than just sitting and absorbing like a sponge.

“Adventure, simulation, hidden objects, role-playing and puzzle games all help boost problem-solving skills,” says Scott Steinberg, author of Get Rich Playing Games.

Improves visual and spatial skills

Hand-eye coordination and other physical aptitudes can get a real workout with video games. Whether your kids are looking for hidden objects, participating in scavenger hunts, making word associations or even matching shapes with words or colors, they’re improving their sense of space and how the world operates, Steinberg says.

Examples of some of those toddler games include “Shapes,” a simple shape matching game played on the iPhone, and “Plants vs. Zombies,” a game that identifies plants, vegetables and zombies at a glance.

Games aimed at the tween and teen players often require word recognization.

Teaches spelling and keyboarding

Those games that require typing and spelling in a fun environment become less obvious ways to teach kids skills they need like spelling, vocabulary and typing. Bookworm and Bookworm Adventures, Flip Words, Hangman, Hang Mau, Text Twist and Alphabet Jungle all necessitate correct spelling and typing. Plus none of them have the actual words “spelling,” “vocabulary” or “sentence diagraming” in them.

Promotes sharing, taking responsibility

“Lots of games ask players to work together,” says Steinberg. “Kids learn not to be afraid to approach new people (with parent monitoring, of course).”

Socializing is a key component in some of the most popular games. They encourage players to work together. In some you can earn credits that allow you to give gifts to friends, which is a good example of sharing.

“Online multi-player games like Club Penguin, Wizard 101, anything on Pogo.com and World of Warcraft require players to work together towards a common goal,” Steinberg notes.

Encourages family time

If you play the games with your children, you can see for yourself what they are learning and you can build on that with other “real” activities. For example, if someone makes an unfamiliar word in the Bookworm game, then you can show them how to look up the meaning in a dictionary, make a list of the unusual words to play in Scrabble or challenge the child to use the word in a sentence.

“Playing together also gives you a good opportunity to socialize with your child,” says Trina Schimmer, host of GamingAngels.com. “You can even workout together using the Wii.”

It is recommended that you check the ratings of the games before buying them on www.esrb.org.

Of course, too much of a good thing is well, too much. Playing video games needs to be balanced with other activities – ones you do in the real world. Pierce recommends an hour or two a day as the maximum amount of time kids should be participating with any kind of virtual game.

Save money on video games

According to Pierce, kids play one game an average of 10–12 hours total, then they are done with it. Console games range in price from $40-$60, so the costs can easily mount.

Used games sold by game resellers can drop that price substantially. GameStop is one of those resellers.

New games are released every Tuesday, and Schimmer says don’t buy them when they are brand new.

“Wait three weeks or a month,” Schimmer says, “and they’ll be on sale at Target or some other store.”

Many of the social games and virtual world games can be played for free, but if you want to upgrade your experience you can for a small fee. For instance, Pierce’s game, “Onverse,” can be upgraded from a free apartment to a home for $10. That’s a savings of $30-$50 over a console game and extends abilities you have within the game for a period of months.

Although video games have secret benefits, they also can’t replace real interaction, so use with caution.

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