As a father of two young children I know that sooner or later they will start playing video games, exploring the internet and want a smartphone to chat with their friends twenty-for-seven. Children are naturally curious to explore new things. And as parents it’s our duty to lead them into these new worlds. With leading I don’t mean strict bans and hundreds of rules. With leading I mean show them good paths and be to them an example. Metaphorically: “Don’t forbid them to use a knife. Show them how to use a knife safely.” At least this is my mindset of parenting.
Leading your children into the world of video games is a complex issue. Even if you play video games by yourself it’s impossible to know them all. 40% of all games on Steam were released in 2016. And just a fraction of them are good and suitable for young children. So where is the place to get some orientation? There are several organizations which review games and give them an age rating. For example:
- in USA, Canada and Mexico: ESRB
- in Europe: PEGI
- in Germany: USK (Germany is part of Europe but have a rating of their own):
- in Japan: CERO
Of course, the age rating is different between countries and their common cultural basis. For example Bayonetta 2 got an age rating of 17+ from ESRB and CERO but a 16+ from PEGI and USK. Maybe your 15-year-old girl or boy is able to play and mentally handle this game, but if you don’t know the content of the game and you can’t judge it personally for your child, go save with the age rating of your country. But if you forbid playing it, then maybe they will play it unguided next door with their friends. So if you can’t stave off your child to wait another year or two, then maybe it’s the better choice to inform yourself and guide your child mentally through the game.
Also the age rating doesn’t always fit for the age of your child. For example Pikmin 3 got a 3+ from PEGI. Of course a 3 year old child is able to watch you playing this game but will never be coordinately able to play this game for his own.
I will now recommend some video games on Nintendo consoles that are a good place to start. If you agree, disagree or have other recommendations please feel free to write it down in the comments below.
Super Mario Maker
Maybe you already played Mario back then on your NES or GameBoy, so this game will also have a nostalgic factor for yourself. Now think about creating your own levels together with your children. Create them a level they are able to master. Help them to create a level by themself. See the happiness in the eyes of your children if mommy or dad is playing the level they created alone. Super Mario Maker is a perfect start into 2D platformers and will support the creativity of your children.
Available on Wii U and 3DS, 0+.
In Scribblenauts Umlimited you help Max to explore a world with nearly unlimited possibilities. You have to help in-game characters to solve their problems, for example to get a kitty out of a tree. There are many solutions to solve this problem. You can solve this with a ladder. Or with tying balloons on Max so he can fly and get the kitty. Or give Max a saw and let him fell the tree? While at young ages you have to help your children in writing down the tool, pet, super hero or whatever they need to solve a problem. But it will teach your children to use their imagination so solve problems.
Available on Wii U and 3DS, 0+.
Mario Kart 8
Maybe Mario Kart 8 hasn’t a high pedagogical value at first sight. But I will tell you later why it has. Mario Kart 8 involves driving karts on different tracks like on an airport, in Bowser’s castle and many other places. With items like banana skins, turtle shells, flashes, mushrooms, boomerangs and others you try to slow down you opponents so you can be the first one at the finishing line. In Mario Kart 8 kids can learn things like multitasking and tactics. They can play locally or online with friends so it’s also socialising. But the most important thing they learn with Mario Kart is: frustration toleration. Children have to learn to lose. Playing against friends will teach your child really fast that they can’t be always number 1. And because Mario Kart is even fun if you’re losing it will teach that winning isn’t that important in all cases. Available on Switch in April and on Wii U now, 3+.
Exploring, digging, crafting, planing, building, and all this together with friends. This all is Minecraft. There are several modes to play Minecraft. Within the creative mode you don’t have to care about resources, so you can build whatever you want without limits. Within the survival mode you have to collect the resources you need first. So you will go out and cut some trees to get wood. You will dig deep mines to get iron, gold and diamonds. In this procedurally generated world are living pets and evil creatures. Minecraft can be very useful to support the creativity and imagination of your children. It’s also socialising if played with friends. But it’s also very addictive. So give it a time box. Available on Switch this year and Wii U now, 6+.
LEGO City Undercover
My children love to play with LEGO, and not just physically but also in video games. In LEGO City Undercover they now can drive with a LEGO car or a helicopter through a huge LEGO city. They can explore the city by foot and search for secrets. Or they can experience adventures with Chase McCain and hunt some gangsters. The humor is also suitable for parents. And soon on Switch you will be able to play together on the same device. Available on Switch this Spring and Wii U and 3DS now, 7+.