As we the gamers grow and assume different responsibilities, pursue careers, and begin to live different lives, our interests don’t always have to change.
So often I hear general disdain coming from my in-laws and older generations towards the fact that I still play video games as a mother of two young children. Bah, I say. Involving children in video games is not only fine, it’s a healthy and normal way to spend time with your kids. If you enjoy video games as a parent it doesn’t make you immature or any less of a parent than ones who prefer to bond with their children over something like sports. If you really want to get at it, what’s the difference between sports and games most of the time these days?
Children can learn a lot of useful things by sharing some game time with their parents. For starters, they learn hand-eye coordination skills which are useful for fine motor function as they grow older and get more involved in school. But that’s when they themselves start to play games (which is a topic for a whole different article).
What if you’re little one is just a toddler and isn’t very good at using a controller yet? That’s fine, here are some tips and tricks from one gamer parent to another to involve your children so that you can turn a solo activity into a family one.
Give Them a Controller
Don’t give them the controller for the actual game, not even one that has batteries in it. Jeeze, it doesn’t even have to have to be the same controller for whatever console you’re playing on. Just any old controller. Do make sure it can’t turn on and interfere with your game, though. Now have your little one sit down with the controller and tell him or her that it’s his turn to play. Chances are he’ll sit there quietly and believe he really is playing.
This trick only works for a short amount of time from 2-3 years and it varies on your child’s attention span. But if it gets them to sit down for a little bit then it’s better than nothing right?
Give Them a Job
When my little guy was still too young to play his one games, I would tell him to “help” me play the game by finding me what I needed. I’d give him some sort of silly job to do. For example when we play Don’t Starve Together I tell him to help me find the spiders. Another example when I play Zelda I ask him to help me find anything glimmering on the ground so he has to sit and pay attention and try to spot the items that glimmer for me to pick up.
Talk Together About the Game You’re Playing
I try not to let silent time go by with my son when I’m playing a video game for two reasons. Reason one is that I’ll get so absorbed into my game that he’ll sneak off and start doing toddler shit elsewhere. Reason two he’ll get bored if you don’t engage him and sneak off to start doing toddler shit elsewhere. So I ask him about what he thinks of the game.
Have your little one sit and ask her questions about the characters or the scenery. A lot of the time I’ll ask my son what character’s he likes the best. Or I’ll ask what emotions he thinks the characters are feeling after a cutscene.
Similarly, when he asks why or what I’ll try and answer and then ask him for his opinion. This will not only allows him to feel included, but will help develop complex skills in understanding emotions and plot points that go into media.
Share Your Success
When you are during an exciting part of a game, include the kid. They’re great at getting excited. Get out of your chair if it’s a hard part in the game (like if you’re a masochist and like to play Dark Souls or something) and start dancing around with your kid. Be physical with the controller. When you press A to jump, bob your controller like you’re using a motion action. Laugh, giggle, scream. These are all things that kids do naturally, so of course your little one will be more than happy to join in. She’ll probably pay special attention to the game the more active you are and share in your excitement.
When you win, give her a high five. Say she did a great job and that she helped a lot. Pat on the back and take a break from the game for some outside time, or if it was an intense game have some quiet time.
The easy truth is that it’s not hard to involve your children in video games. For older children it’s easier, but with toddlers it may seem impossible. If you follow these guidelines then you can create a fun activity and bonding time for the both of you to enjoy.