Gaming with children

I’ve talked to a few parents in passing about this, so I wanted to open it up here. Do you play games with your kids? How is that going?

I play a few games with C (currently 4.5 years), with our primary being Stardew Valley and Minecraft, and then e plays Animal Crossing on a 3DS by emself (sometime I visit eir town, but it is mostly single play).

We’ve had a few weeks of our routine getting mixed up due to traveling for housing and vacation reasons. So some behavioral changes are expected, but I am debating if gaming is something I should be doing at this time.

We time our sessions, and that part isn’t as bad. But between sessions (which happens at the same time most days, so a whole day) C can be obsessed about ensuring the next session will happen, and plans out contingencies. In some ways this is adorable and productive, like when e builds with blocks what we will build in Minecraft, or reads the handbooks and imagines our buildings.

However, it can get really annoying and emotional if we even hint that gaming won’t happen. Grumpy, mean, self-exile to the room (no more slamming doors, because seriously, who does that?). It is a lot more than I was expecting from this age, and I believe it is connected.

And ultimately, I think I am dealing with my own coping mechanisms, and how they relate to my interactions with C. Video games make life easier for me. If I need to think about a theme templating method, a couple of rounds of Hearthstone gets me to my solution. And when I am depressed or anxious, I can play games all night to process my feelings and make it through to the other side.

I’ve always considered it a wasteful behavior that won’t destroy my mind or liver. And when C started getting into it, I experienced catharsis of eir beginner’s mind. I overlooked a lot of the changes in C because I was having a good experience personally. So this message is as much a prompt for discussion as it is unloading my own fears of fucking up my kid. :sweat_smile:

Related, we don’t let C watch a lot of anything, though it is strategic. If I am parenting alone and need to take a shower or update code that fixes a broken site, Magic School Bus or Mister Rogers is on standby. And there is a similar difficulty in shutting that down as well, so a lot of prep goes into getting C’s opt-in to self-manage (“okay, we are going to play at the table after this episode, right?”).

I don’t think I get a lot from parenting advice; collectively, @susan and I read a ton of parenting lit., and she is a childcare professional, so it isn’t particularly difficult for us. But recently I’ve had good experience just listening to others explain their mundane, daily stories. It fills in a lot of context for me, so I’d love to hear what you are doing, with your kids. Or, what was it like for you as a kid that played video games? Share your stories! :slight_smile:

Oh, screen time. In our house, we don’t do very much video gaming, other than Ascension and Kard Combat on the phone, which aren’t quite the same kind of stimulation. However, we of course see all those same obsessive/dependent patterns around watching video, and we’ve spent more thought than we ever wanted to about which shows are relatively more regulating (Oswald, Kipper, Backyardigans) and which lead to more grumpiness when the supply gets cut off (Martha Speaks, sadly, because otherwise it’s a cute show). In some ways, I prefer when the kids play games (the above card games, plus Osmos sometimes) because they’re actually engaged and thinking, and Ascension is a social thing as a family. However, the lack of well-defined end times can make the transition out of it harder.

I’m happy to report, though, that at least for our kids we can see a pattern of increasing and then decreasing compulsion around screen time, with it peaking around 5 years old or so. R, who is 8, still can’t not watch if something’s on, but he’s much more able to choose a different activity that he finds more satisfying in the end. He used to sneak the device to play KC obsessively – now he’s often in danger of hitting the 3-day timeout for his turn with a friend he plays with. It still engages him, it just doesn’t dominate.

Sharing this kind of information is super valuable.

My story!

So, only recently, in the last 6 months have we been allowing any sort of screen time. (Reasons for waiting were the supposed detriment screen time may have to kids under 3. There are probably a lot of other factors at play there, but we opted for super caution.)

The kids don’t game really. I have two older computers set up with minecraft, but the area is such that they can’t really sit there and play it easily. We don’t have a console set up, so they never see or observe me playing games.

We do however are now watching the occasional show with them. Currently it is almost exclusively My Little Pony. It’s a pretty decent show, teaching the kids a lot how to be good friends, how to be kind, etc. It’s my goto for moral comparisons too with the kids. “A, does Rainbow Dash yell at someone because she don’t like it that a friend is crying?”.

A obsesses a lot over MLP, but mostly on the characters, and acting out play moments with them with figures. But we definitely experience the grumpiness when it’s suggested we won’t watch be watching a show. (We generally watch 2 episodes on Friday night, and maybe 1 on Saturday.)

Something else that was happening, though isn’t as much lately, is grumpiness that occurs after watching the show. “Let’s watch more!” It was an occasional total meltdown over it, which caused us to cease all MLP viewing for a couple weeks.

The strong emotional responses come only from A (he’s almost 5). F, who just turned 3, is fine either way. This seems to support the observations of @dan.percival .

I would be very interested in a blog post sharing some of the better, more helpful titles you’ve read!

I recently read “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne. It was kind of amazing and I did implement changes that made really positive differences. I wrote a post about how we created a meal plan and it really has been great for us. He is big on living with less and we have been rotating Clover’s things out a lot more than before and I think that we could even continue to pare down on the things we own.

The book “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and How to Listen So Kids Will Talk” is also a classic that has been an amazing resource to me. I would recommend to anyone with kids. There is also a version for teachers.

I know that a lot of early childhood professionals will say to restrict media until children are two and limit media until they are seven. I think that gaming falls into an interesting category because children are not merely passive observers. Board games are great ways for families to spend time together and I don’t see video gaming being too much different if is appropriate for their age. When maiki and Emma Clover play Star Dew Valley, Clover makes pretty much every decision and maiki handles the controls and reads the prompts. Its super social so she loves it. She is learning so much about farming, seasons, money, inventory, maps, fishing, relationships, social services and well being of her character and the other townspeople. Its so amazing right?! But yeah finding limits to this awesome fun and managing expectations about gaming is tough because she loves the game and spending time with maiki.

Sometimes I get annoyed with the idea of video games but I have felt that overall their addition to our lives since this past December has been positive. The main introduction was getting a T.V. and a Nintendo Wii set up for playing Wii Sports and Just Dance. Initially I was a little weary about the set up but I know it is a positive way for us to connect and get exercise. Its been really fun and I have finally found a way to introduce yoga to Clover without her cramping my style. Clover looks so cute dancing and I have found that I am less embarrassed to dance with my family in the my living room and I am somewhat learning dance moves. Sure, we still go outside and play every day. We try to strike a balance in every aspect of our lives and so we have to discuss gaming a lot. Still I think that Clover benefits and so do we. It can be so much more fun than I had imagined.

Thanks for sharing, @susan! I’ll second “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and How to Listen So Kids Will Talk” as being super helpful, we have 3 copies now I think, tucked away around the house. :slight_smile: I’m adding “Simplicity Parenting” to our must reads.