I know what you are thinking! Computer and we limit the children’s time on it, trust me, I’ve been there, I still AM! But my son was reading very complicated books and was really great at understanding and reading them, but when it was time to write answers, to spell, oh no! Even words he had just read, simple day to day words would come out like some foreign language and trust me, they were not in any known dictionary!
Well, Minecraft and Clash of Clans came along and he needed to chat, sometimes, unusual words were involved in the game! He started observing other players and started mastering the most common words and also the harder ones. Let me share a secret – 7, 8 even 9 year olds don’t chat with acronyms or abbreviations, they write things down, full words as a way to communicate with each other. It’s their brain trying to make sense of thinking and typing at the same time, fast enough to ask for resources, for donations, for troops and for their buddy who is playing with them to follow them and attack.
So after my frustration with my son’s literature answers, and observing his progress and maturity in the written language and how it had developed in parallel with his game skills, I have reached the conclusion that games can have a positive impact on your child’s education, as long as they are playing games that reach and use those skills.
As a linguist, these are my findings, comparing my observation and the data on my son’s homework:
- Games can improve spelling if your child uses chat mode, because the speed and level of concentration will require that they master their spelling to write while they play.
- At age 6-8, children are trying to make sense of building sentences, without proper punctuation and connectors, so words need to have full meaning, because most times, two words will convey the meaning of a full 10 word sentence. Well, no better place then games, where speed will require precision and concision, above all.
- Children don’t want to sound “not cool”, so sometimes my son would shout across the room, mom, how do you spell? Spelling becomes a must have skill, so the cool older kids playing don’t make fun of you!
- My son’s communication skills also were enhanced while playing Minecraft, Clash of Clans and Terraria since he had to master Skype, research mods, glitches and tricks on You Tube, which brought extra hours of reading and learning, prior to playing the game.
- His typing skills were also developed, because with no formal typing lessons, he suddenly became a very fast keyboarder. There is a chat section on Minecraft which has motivated him to learn to type faster and more accurately and sometimes communicate with several players at the same time.
So more specifically about Minecraft, my favorite, way beyond spelling, when you spawn in Minecraft you are in the middle of nowhere with trees, caves and animals around. If you are playing in survival mode, you will also see creepers, skeletons, zombies, spiders or endermen that will attack you starting at sundown. You need to try to survive by cutting down trees and building some type of shelter to protect yourself from the monsters that come out at night. You also have hunger bars and if you don’t find food, you will die.
Sounds easy, but trust me it’s not. You must come up with a strategy for surviving that first night and be quick about it lest you die at the hands of the monsters in the dark or a hungry belly. I have seen the kids come up with elaborate plans for surviving that first night. They’ve learned to hunt for food, build shelter, mine coal for torches and make tools from natural resources all within the span of a 10 minute Minecraft “day”. Tough, huh?
I’m impressed so much I have even recommended some parents to use games to help my foreign language students enhance their reading and spelling skills. Check it out on my post on favorite apps!
Just remember, the best way to help your child excel at any subject is to make it fun and help him feel successful. Nothing is more fun then playing video games!