Many parents worry about their kids wasting time on video games, and also about the potentially violent or inappropriate content of those games. While it’s true that some video games aren’t suitable for kids, many games present a valuable learning opportunity and can be a productive use of your kids’ time.
One such game is Minecraft™, the explosively popular 3D block-based video game. Kids and adults alike spend hours building anything they can imagine in this game that pairs old-school looking graphics with a surprisingly sophisticated plot.Minecraft boasts over 100 million registered users, which means many kids already play or want to play the game. So what is it about Minecraft that makes it a kid favorite? Maybe it’s the cool 3D graphics, or the fact that they can play it on almost any device from anywhere. Regardless of what draws kids to Minecraft, parents can feel at ease once they’ve learned a bit about the game and how to make it a beneficial and fun part of their kids’ afternoons.
1. It’s neverending… literally.
Minecraft is a “sandbox” game, which means there’s no ending or goal. There are endless possibilities for kids to use their imaginations as they move through the game, gathering supplies and building new structures or tools to help them survive. It can be confusing for kids and their parents when they first start playing since there are no instructions to follow, but that’s the best part: kids must explore and create on their own.
Since you can’t win, the game is never finished. One day in the Minecraft world only takes about ten minutes of play time, followed by ten minutes of night, so it’s easy for kids to lose track of time when they’re playing. It’s a good idea to agree on guidelines about when and how much kids can play before they get started.
2. You can play with your kids– and keep them safe.
Minecraft can be very confusing for kids and adults, especially at the beginning, so it’s a good idea to play alongside your kids as they’re starting out. You can do this by working together in single-player mode, or you could set up multiplayer mode via a LAN server in your house.
Once your kids are more comfortable with the game, they will probably want to start playing with friends. Kids could join a server run by someone you know or can trust, or they could even design their own Minecraft server and share it with friends so you know that it will be safe and secure.
3. The mode matters.
Minecraft has five different modes: Creative, Survival, Adventure, Spectator and Hardcore. Our favorite mode for kids is Creative because it’s all about — you guessed it! — creation! In Creative mode, kids have access to an infinite number of blocks and items to create anything they can imagine. Unlike Survival or Hardcore modes, the focus in Creative mode is on using your imagination to build new, awesome creations.
4. It builds critical STEAM skills.
Minecraft is a great way to supplement the STEAM education that your child gets at school. From developing art and design skills as they create their dream house to building new objects using math concepts from basic addition through complicated equations, Minecraft is a great way for kids to practice and build their knowledge around STEAM curriculum subjects.
5. It encourages problem solving and teamwork.
Even if kids don’t realize it, much of their time spent playing Minecraft is helping them build critical real-world skills. Problem solving is important for kids throughout their lives, helping them handle everything from tough situations with classmates to budgeting when they’re older.
Minecraft teaches problem solving by presenting players with challenges and the tools to overcome them, but not the instructions on how to do it. For example, you’ll need two sticks and three wooden blocks to build a wooden pickaxe– a critical tool in the world of Minecraft. It takes patience and ingenuity to acquire these resources, and then practice with crafting to create the item you need.
Playing in multiplayer mode takes the skill-building a step further. By forcing kids to exercise collaboration and cooperation to build that awesome monument or decide how to keep their resources safe, Minecraft helps kids learn to value teamwork when settings and accomplishing goals.
The Bottom Line
The key to a beneficial Minecraft experience is clear, enforced expectations for kids coupled with supervision from informed parents. With a little bit of parental research and kid accountability, they can start imagining and creating in a safe, immersive and fun world.
Ready to get started? The Official Minecraft Wiki is a great resource for more in-depth information, or you can get Minecraft here.