Video Games – Good Nutrition!

file0001556040045Doctor G, I just watched your YouTube video about video games. You say that parents can choose games to help kids build “skills.” Besides faster hand-eye coordination, what can these games really benefit my child? He is 10 and is great at minecraft and Madden, but really I don’t see how that helps him.

Anonymous, in PA

I completely understand! It is easy to see a child staring at a computer and think, “This can’t be good for him!”

To continue with my nutrition analogy, I would say the same thing about a child who sat and ate – even vegetables – all day long.  As my mom always said, “Everything in moderation!”

So, the first step is to make sure that our kids have some balance in their lives. A child can even read too much, right?

I was a little skeptical myself, during the taping of the first episode of iQ: smartparent, when we learned about the 10 positive emotions that research has shown kids feel while gaming: joy, belief, love, surprise, pride, curiosity, excitement, awe and wonder, contentment, and creativity. All that?!

Even more encouraging, Jesse Schell of Schell Games, and Nikki Navta of started a great conversation about building skills through gaming that go far beyond excelling at the game.

Games give us an opportunity to look critically at our child: “What do I wish you were better at?” and find challenges that our kids are ready to embrace in order to build that new skill.

Do you wish your child was more resilient? Games can help kids think of themselves as problem-solvers because certain games force kids to find solutions. Any leveled game that it is possible to “lose” encourages children to persevere – to hit “play again.”  This is a way to be encouraged that your child wants to tackle a game again and again. He sees that he can improve, even if he hasn’t yet mastered a skill. This is the definition of resilience!

Do you want to raise someone who is a great team player? Consider joining a community that is building together on Minecraft, and including your son!

Are you looking to encourage your child’s creativity? Jesse mentioned LittleBigPlanet while we were together at WQED; that is a game that requires players to create both the environment AND the story! Minecraft fosters creativity as well. He also gave high marks to Scribblenauts, and several viewers have told me they are now really excited by their play with it.

And, as always, if you are not sure of the content or appropriateness of a game for your child, check out Common Sense Media and see what they have to say – I use them all the time and they’ve never steered me wrong!

Readers, have you noticed a game that helped a child build their character or life skills?


Comments (2)


  1. Gina says:

    I totally agree with your philosophy of thinking as video games how we think of nutrition, so I follow the same 80/20 rule (mostly educational, but also some silly stuff like Minecraft). All three of my kids play Minecraft together, so it’s very interactive, they work as a team, sharing duties and helping each other. I hear them complimenting each other, and they’re participating so actively that it’s not the image of video-game-zombie that you usually think of (now my husband on the other hand…). For long car rides, we allow a little bit of Nintendo DS, and Super Scribblenauts is their current favorite.

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