Kids’ Activities and Games: Mere Child’s Play?

| July 10, 2012 | 1 Comment

Boy building a card houseNow that summer is here, the kids are home most of the time and I’m noticing what types of games and diversions they tend to gravitate toward. When they were little, I was usually able to see the value in their games; things like building with blocks, acting out scenes with Little People figurines and playing CandyLand taught them valuable skills in sorting, role playing, learning their colors and more. Now that they’re older, though, I admit that I sometimes see less value in the kids’ activities, and often say “it’s time to do something else now” when I arbitrarily decide that they’ve been doing the same thing for too long.

Over the past few days, though, I’ve forced myself to take a good look at what they’re actually doing to see if their activities do, in fact, have some educational value. Here are a few of their favorite games and my observations:


Do your kids play this card game? I could never make heads or tails of it, but my son and his friends all seem to think it’s a blast. I finally asked him to show me how to play, and I have to admit, I was quite impressed with the level of logic involved! My 11-year-old was rapidly subtracting large numbers in his head, multiplying without a second thought, and figuring out the chances of whether the other person (me) held certain cards that could inflict specific damage to his cards. After about a dozen games over the past week in which I’ve won exactly zero, I have to hand it to him and his friends: Pokemon is a game requiring a good deal of strategy and analysis. Play on!

Nintendo DS

Most of the time, this is just another handheld video game system, and we do put limits on it. Sometimes, though, the kids do surprise me by playing educational games. For example, Scribblenauts is one game that requires kids to spell out what they need in order to complete each mission. They might need a ladder, a watering can and an airplane for a particular level, for instance. My daughter’s spelling has improved since she started playing this game; learning to spell “helicopter” or “dinosaur” for a spelling test isn’t nearly as useful as learning to spell the same words in order to earn a star, after all.

The Travel Channel and the Food Network

My kids have odd tastes, and their favorite shows include Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods and Alton Brown’s Good Eats. Although I don’t let them watch TV for hours on end, I really can’t complain much when they tell me about the delicacies eaten in Paraguay, or when they can explain how sugar turns into caramel. They’ve also enjoyed the Planet Earth series, which we have on DVD, and Mythbusters, available on Netflix.

Before you write off your kids’ activities as mere child’s play, remember that a lot of the time, seemingly brain-draining entertainment might actually be educational and beneficial. Even if it isn’t, some time-wasting is fine, as long as it’s not excessive.

Have you been surprised by what any of your child’s favorite pastimes actually entailed?

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  1. gina valley says:

    I think kids learn from everything they do! Sometimes the key is to make sure they understand what to do with that knowledge.

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