Many children may face a sort of polarized world: On one hand, electronic devices allow them to play addictively fun educational games for kids; on the other hand, they have toys but they may find these physical toys relatively unstimulating. Some children may even find that computer games are far more interesting than people – perhaps they struggle
to connect with others and it is easier to just avoid the challenge. While it is true that computer science is taking over our lives, and that many computer games do help with real-world know-how – a computer-dominant life seems wrong for anyone, especially for a child.
Children have very plastic minds; they have so much learning and growth potential. They need to develop social skills, empathy, and a sense of ethics; they need to develop dexterity and physical strength; they need to have a sense of the way theory plays out in the real world. Computer games alone are not likely to help them with these challenges. Fortunately, it is easy to find just the right game or toy for your child, at a manageable price.
Why Computer Games Are Not Enough
While cyberspace has done so much good for people, there clearly are cases of excess: People are so eager to get a photo on their phone that they fail to catch a basketball player as he takes an out-of-bounds fall (as they previously would have clamored to do); they act rude to celebrities they supposedly admire because they just want a photo; they almost kill themselves trying to get the perfect selfie; bullies take to the internet to bring others down in a way that they never would to their faces; perfectly wonderful people become dismayed with their lives because of the avalanche of glowing reports from their peers. There clearly are a lot of negative effects of technology that need to be rectified.
Computer games do exercise a wide variety of skills; some even create opportunities for physical activity. However, it is hard to get away from the fact that the real world is not on a screen and it is not programmed for a specific purpose (although this could be an object of philosophical debate). Therefore, computer games are a great way to build knowledge and hone various skills, but there are some areas where the mere fact that the game is on a device makes it unhelpful.
Even with increasing tech dominance, it is hard to imagine a world in the near future where everything is on a screen or programmed into a device. Also, ultimately, things that are programmed are based on real-world elements. Therefore, real-world skills will never truly become obsolete. However, children may not be physically or mentally ready to pursue potentially dangerous or complicated real-world skills; therefore, effective play options are important. Fun educational games for kids help to fill this gap between the play of childhood and talent of adulthood.
Advantages of Stimulating Real-Life Games and Toys
It is true that computer-based games are an efficient way to instill many practical skills in kids. There is considerable overlap with real-world activities and the computer makes activities easy to access. Kids can be exposed to a tremendous amount of factual knowledge and do endless activities to enhance problem-solving skills and dexterity. However, balancing these games with engaging real-world work makes the child more flexible and the skills more transferable – the child develops the skills to go from screen to paper to hands and back easily. This is ideal for so many jobs: archaeology, architecture, engineering, medicine, chemistry, farming, business, sales, culinary arts, and more. Furthermore, when kids see the fruits of their labor in the real world, they feel a whole other sort of confidence and drive.
Physical skills clearly are greatly enhanced by non-cyber activities; to navigate the real world, children need to develop whole-body coordination. Even children who hit a wall when it comes to sports ability can enjoy other physical challenges. It is a matter of finding what works with a given individual’s body and mind; this goes for adults, as well. In fact, the ability to develop one’s own fitness goals is an excellent skill for people of all ages. Some people love group activities and directly competitive endeavors; others prefer to exercise alone and compete with themselves. No one of the two is better than the other, and in fact, either type of person might end up excelling at a sport at some point in his/her life.
Also, some physical skills are directed at sports; others are directed at entertainment (dancing, acting, etc.). Again, either one is potentially lucrative, healthy, or just fun – if it is the right activity for the individual person.
While social media does bring people together in a certain kind of way, most of us still agree that it should be built on a foundation of good basic social skills; and social skills really require non-cyber activities. Children need to talk to one another, look into each other’s eyes, and solve problems together. Multi-player games build interaction and teamwork skills. Direct interaction with real, living animals also helps – for example, time spent training a puppy builds patience with and sympathy for the imperfection of real beings. The tremendous benefit we all get from human touch is not likely to evolve out of humans anytime soon, and even if it did, would that even be a good thing?
Games can also be a non-threatening way for children of all ages to confront their weaknesses, whether it is a learning disability, shyness, or anxiety. Games played with sympathetic friends or family allow a child to practice a weak area without judgment or teasing. If nothing else, games and activities provide an escape from the anxiety related to having a learning disability or a social deficit. There is nothing more gratifying for a person of any age than seeing that he/she is really beating, or otherwise overcoming a weakness.
Where to Look for Excellent Kids’ Games
You can find literally all kinds of fun educational games for kids at MindWare. This site has stimulating games for people of all ages, personalities, and interests. The site’s categories are Technology & Engineering, Science & Nature, Creative Activities, Brainteasers & Puzzles, Active Play, Games, Early Learning, Building, and Reading Books. You can also search based on the categories: Special Needs, Educators, and Grown Ups. (Do not ignore the Grown Up category: Adults can benefit from games in much the same way that children can; in fact, adults may especially appreciate the stress relief of fun recreational activities.) You can also narrow your search based on age, price, customer rating, and more. However, it is rewarding to quickly peruse all of the site’s wares – you might find just the right game/activity that you did not even know existed.
In the Technology & Engineering category, one award-winning option is the KEVA Structures 400 Plank Set. This set of 400 identical pine-wood miniature planks comes with a storage bag and an idea book. The age designation of 5 years old and up can be taken literally, here – even teens and adults can become interested in this activity as they see what their young siblings or children are building.
STEM-related activities are not just for older children. Start-Up Circuits is an electronic circuit-building activity that is safe for children as young as two. When successfully assembled, the kit can create a sounding siren, a shining light, or a spinning fan. Very small children genuinely enjoy building these circuits; some are initially alarmed by the sensory intensity of the fan or the siren, but generally, they overcome this and get to enjoy it.
Make Your Own Kitty Day Camp shows that you actually can train a cat – if you take the right approach. In fact, the kit contains instructions and materials needed to do a variety of activities with a cat; many of these activities allow the human to explore the cat’s abilities and behaviors. Furthermore, they are meant to be enjoyable to the cat. In all, the kit promotes a natural interplay between game, craft, and interaction – for children 8 years old and up. (FYI: MindWare offers a similar kit for dogs, too.)
Traditional Skills Will Always Be Important
The skills needed to build something tangible, to work with one’s hands, and to deal with others will never become obsolete. The computer world is ultimately based on real-world creation and interaction. Many computer-based activities do not actually teach computer science or computer engineering, and they may only superficially apply computer applications. Therefore, it is debatable whether playing computer games actually makes a child more likely to be an excellent coder or a network security expert.
For parents who fear that their child is becoming overly fixated with the screen, providing fun educational non-computer games is the best solution. This way, the child does not see the world as “the boring real world” versus the computer or internet world. Rather, they put the computer in perspective and see the special interplay between the real and cyber worlds. This perspective is likely to prevent loss of physical and social skills, and cyberbullying – all potential crises of our age.