Is playing Minecraft teaching your kids important skills?

While parents may worry that too much Minecraft might be bad for their kids, a New York Times reporter found that many experts say it actually helps them develop academically and improve other skills as well.

Some schools are even using Minecraft in class, according to The Times:

“Earlier this year, for example, a school in Stockholm made Minecraft compulsory for 13-year-old students. “They learn about city planning, environmental issues, getting things done, and even how to plan for the future,” said Monica Ekman, a teacher at the Viktor Rydberg school.”

“Around the world, Minecraft is being used to educate children on everything from science to city planning to speaking a new language, said Joel Levin, co-founder and education director at the company TeacherGaming. TeacherGaming runs MinecraftEdu, which is intended to help teachers use the game with students.”

“A history teacher in Australia set up “quest missions” where students can wander through and explore ancient worlds. An English-language teacher in Denmark told children they could play Minecraft collectively in the classroom but with one caveat: they were allowed to communicate both orally and through text only in English. A science teacher in California has set up experiments in Minecraft to teach students about gravity.”

So what skills does Minecraft help kids develop? Well according to The Times:

Digital skills

How to interact with people online

Game-based play that could raise cognitive learning up to 12 percent

Improve eye-coordination, problem-solving and memory

Also lets kids practice “parallel play” where kids are into their own games, but still interacting with other kids on the server

From The Times:

“Minecraft extends kids’ spatial reasoning skills, construction skills and understanding of planning,” said Eric Klopfer, a professor and the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Scheller Teacher Education Program. “In many ways, it’s like a digital version of Lego.”

My 10-year-old is still on Minecraft some but now he’s moving on to scarier things like Dota 2. Now I wish he would go back to just Minecraft. I will say though even if Minecraft is building some skills you still have to monitor it. I found my son playing a “minigame” within Minecraft called “drunk tag” where the perspective of the player was that they were drunk. So I’m not OK with that.

So do those facts change your minds about Minecraft? Would you be more inclined to allow them to play it? Does it make you feel better about them playing it?

42 comments Add your comment

A

September 18th, 2013
5:20 am

TWG–how is it you seem to be “finding” your kids doing things online that you aren’t aware of or that may be inappropriate. Don’t you have ground rules for tech at your house? My 10-year-old loves Minecraft, and uses modules he designed, but he knows he can’t go beyond that or the basic program right now. We trust him to stay in the sandbox and he does. If we found him doing something like yours, he knows his privileges would be taken away. Do you have similar consequences?

catlady

September 18th, 2013
7:17 am

It is possible to say something good about almost anything, but I strongly urge parents to limit the computer/RPGs and ALWAYS strictly supervised!

FCM

September 18th, 2013
7:41 am

Mine have been playing Minecraft for quite awhile. They play Zelda, Harry Potter, Veterniary Medicine, Boggle, etc too. Like most games, there are things to be learned but should not compete with doing things like climbing a mountain.

We have spoken here on Minecraft at least twice, I am not sure there is much more to gain from discussing again.

Young Lady

September 18th, 2013
7:52 am

The info about games isn’t exactly new, I’ve heard a lot about it for years. Whether or not I’m okay with gaming really comes from the fact I play video games still and grew up playing them. For most parents I know that is really what determines whether they’re okay with it or not.

That said a 10 year old should not be playing Dota 2 (or League of Legends). Maybe this is because I’m an avid gamer, but the communities in these types of games can be very adult and abusive towards other players. It’s not the environment for young children and even as an adult there can be some very nasty people there. But an adult is more equipped to handle the language and hurtful comments.

HB

September 18th, 2013
7:55 am

Seriously, Theresa, your son is 10! If you’re uncomfortable with the new game he’s playing, why is he allowed to play it?

Annie

September 18th, 2013
8:09 am

It’s amazing how you keep finding out what your kids are doing online after they’ve obviously been doing it for some time. Do you not supervise their computer time? Is the computer a desktop in a central room or is it a laptop that allows roaming to other parts of the house? Are they allowed to wander off to their bedroom to surf the net there to their heart’s content, without you looking over their shoulder?

If you’re “not ok” with something your kids are doing, then be the parent and put a stop to it. You’re not here to make friends with your kids, you’re here to teach them and guide them and hope when the time comes for you to release them into the wild you’ve done enough to prepare them for the real world.

Mayhem

September 18th, 2013
8:25 am

I think the most important skills we can teach our kids is social interaction, and make them go outside and actually use their imaginations. Instead of on line interaction, go and meet face to face for interaction.

I am absolutely amazed that parents actually DEFEND their kids on line gaming, aka babysitters. We didn’t have them and our kids turned out just fine.

One day in the not too distant future, thre will not be any kids outside playing. Instead they will all become introverts, be to scared to leave the house, and will end up in your basement when they are in their 30’s because they have NO clue now to interact outside the home. Hide and seek, kick the can, and all those other childhood games will become extinct. Bicycles will be extent, and so will exercise. Your children will become extremely obese people, who cannot get jobs, because it forces them out of the house and away from the gaming…….very sad indeed. Outside play, using and stimulating the mind will also become extinct.

And it starts as early as 3……very sad indeed.

FCM

September 18th, 2013
8:27 am

BTW…Parallel Play is what toddlers do. They play alone but in a room full of people. We are supposed to encourage our kids to move outside that to interacting with real people.

The number of kids who cannot make a proper phone call or even make some conversation just boggles the mind. My kids know that if they call someone they better be able to do it correctly: “Hello, Mr/Mrs Smith? This is Susie M, may I please speak to you Sally? Thank you” I mean is a minimum standard, yet I get so many kids who call “Is Susie there?” No Hello or anything.

DB

September 18th, 2013
9:36 am

Wow — so many perfect parents, here. Apparently, every child of every parent on this blog EXCEPT Theresa’s is monitored 27/7, and has NEVER done anything they ought not on line.

At least, that you know of.

Damn, folks — people get annoyed when she talks about current events and says, “Oh, you aren’t talking about your kids”, but when she talks about her kids, she gets jumped all over for doing it all wrong. I increasingly wonder why she doesn’t just tell you guys to eff off. It’s a no-win. Walsh sounds like a smart, inquisitive kid — and the smart ones will explore. You just have to make sure that they feel free to come to you when they run into a problem. (i.e, when my daughter was doing a school report on Sweden in elementary school, she googled “swedish dress”. The seach provided lots of Swedish women in stages of UN-dress . . . and an alarmed, “MOM!!!”)

That said: My son never got in to the RPG stuff — he said it sucked up too much time, between playing three varsity sports, club sport, a weekend job and school. He had a couple of friends who flunked out of college because with their new-found freedom, they decided to play WOW until 4 AM instead of studying. He didn’t get a Playstation until he was 15, so the only time he ever got to play video games was when he was at a friend’s house — my husband was adamantly opposed to it until I pointed out that playing “Diablo” on the home computer wasn’t any different than playing it on a Playstation. :-)

FCM

September 18th, 2013
9:53 am

@ DB “every child of every parent on this blog EXCEPT Theresa’s is monitored 27/7, and has NEVER done anything they ought not on line.”
Come on, we all know I admit to not being either a perfect parent or having perfect children. I doubt these other parents are either.

lakerat

September 18th, 2013
9:57 am

fortunately, though my kids had all of the PlayStation, Xboxes, PS3, Gameboys, etc. from the time they were 10 years old, they did not play with them much EXCEPT when they had friends over, and even then it was because the guests wanted to play with them that they acquiesced, or when the got new games for Christmas (guess they felt like they HAD to play with them then since they were new) – like DB’s son, mine were too busy with sports and other activities inside, outside, and way outside the home to dwell too much on the “mind expanding” video games. And, they graduated from college on time and under budget, too, both keeping their grades way above the 3.0 GPA.

Young Lady

September 18th, 2013
9:58 am

You just have to make sure that they feel free to come to you when they run into a problem.

Yes but the issue with games with online communities (specifically some of the DOTA 2 and other MOBA communities) is not so much what they’ll see written (vulgar comments, bad language, etc.) but that sometimes that language is directed at them. I don’t think there is anything wrong with online games but parents have to take a very active approach with them when young kids are involved because of all the potential pitfalls.

Jessica

September 18th, 2013
10:16 am

It always makes me laugh to hear parents of grown children proudly proclaim that their kids never wasted time online or playing video games. Congratulations on protecting your kids from technology that didn’t even exist yet! We have a strict no-teleportation rule in my house.

Seriously, if your kid wants to unwind from a busy day by playing Minecraft (or any other game, provided the content is acceptable) for half an hour before bed, what’s the harm? It’s fun, and some games can help them learn spatial reasoning, problem solving, etc.

I think all reasonable parents can agree that too much screen time is a bad thing, especially if it’s keeping kids from getting exercise or making friends, but I don’t think a little Minecraft from time to time will damage my kid.

DB

September 18th, 2013
10:49 am

@FCM: I just get so tired of seeing T. attacked every time she opens the door on her family. 4 of the first 6 posts were of the “you’re doing it wrong!” variety.

@Jessica: Umm, 24 may be “grown”, but in the late 90’s, when he was a year or two older than Walsh, he did play around with Asheron’s Call and Everquest online, one of the first big multi-player games. So don’t laugh about the “lack” of technology. But we didn’t see the same compulsive drive of “must play!” that many kids seem to suffer from — he’d get bored with it, and wander away after an hour.

beth

September 18th, 2013
10:58 am

My 8 year old does play minecraft and I do think it can be educational… sort of like modern day legos. She can be very creative in her building and I like seeing what she has created. Recently, she has started writing stories to go along with her imaginary minecraft world about the type of people who live in her world. I did not know that there was a game within the game called Drunk Tag. Thank you for the heads up, I will talk to her about those now. Although she plays it, it is not something she does alot. My kids are only allowed to play video games on the weekends and do play 20 minutes here and there (maybe a bit more on rainy days), but the trampoline in our backyard wins out every time with her and all of the neighborhood kids.

catlady

September 18th, 2013
11:41 am

DB, I think some of us are struck by how protective T is about her kids at places like Whitewater, yet she seems to be quite hands off regarding computer games and such.

Annie

September 18th, 2013
11:46 am

I never claimed to be the perfect parent. However, my kids are only allowed on the desktop which is in the family room. And they’re only allowed to use it at weekend, unless it’s necessary for an assignment. And knowing what sort of search results Google can present, we sit and “help” with any searches they may need to do.

They are not allowed take my tablet and watch Netflix in their room, they can’t take the laptop and wander off with it. If they want Netflix, they can access it through the Wii (again, in the family room) and if they want the internet, they wait until the weekend and for a time their Dad or I can be available to monitor. Volume must be up at all times, only one browser pane open, and any attempt to hide the monitor will results in loss of computer privileges. I’ve also set up the parental controls in Windows which allows us to set time limits, control access to certain games and add website restrictions.

FCM

September 18th, 2013
12:25 pm

@DB I get that “T. attacked every time she opens the door on her family.” Any of us posting can be. Someone put in their 2 cents b/c I said church youth was the last activity we would pull. I ignored it of course b/c their 2 cents isn’t even worth that to me.

Catlady has it about right “how protective T is about her kids at places like Whitewater, yet she seems to be quite hands off regarding computer games and such.”

TWG has not been a parent before (that we are aware) so I imagine like most of us she is “winging it” from time to time. Her kids appear to be normal healty kids. Walsh broke his leg playing outside not playing Minecraft.

I do think that supporting not tearing down each other needs to happen more. I know when I first started reading we tended to support more. ALthough honestly, TWG has taken flack from all of us for being a “worrier”. :)

Ann

September 18th, 2013
12:50 pm

@ Jessica – Actually, playing video games or looking at any type of screen for a half hour or hour before bed stimulates brain activity and significantly reduces melatonin that is very important for your health. Researchers are finding that the artificial light of various devices interferes with quality sleep and production of important hormones. While it may seem harmless at the time, the price may be paid down the line with increased risk of diseases, etc. If you tend to look at a screen before bed, experts advise dimming the screen as much as possible. There are also free programs you can download onto your computer or phone that changes the brightness & colors on the screen at the appropriate time of day.

Kat

September 18th, 2013
1:07 pm

Some comments aren’t worth two cents to you? Yet you commented on the comment, so you are incorrect I suppose.

Everyone blames TWG for being a helicopter parent. Then, when she chooses to give them some space, she wonders if she did the right thing. It’s tough being a blog moderator when you get flak for whatever choice you make.

Ann

September 18th, 2013
1:10 pm

As the Times article notes, there is no research yet on the educational value of Minecraft. All the quotes, etc., in the Times article are either people in the technology field who have an incentive to “spin it” as educational (Joel Levin, co-founder and education director at the company TeacherGaming) or other quotes from teachers trying it in the classroom, etc. Of course, someone from “TeacherGaming” would say it’s very educational. Big money is made in “spinning” video games and other electronic toys as educational. Maybe they are or maybe they are not. But, “thinking” they are educational certainly makes parents feel less guilty. My 8 year old son has just not shown any interest in video games as of yet.

What I find puzzling is the parents who, in conversations about flu shots or vaccinations, will say that parents should absolutely follow the pediatrician’s advice. These parents will criticize others who veer from that, saying “why aren’t you following the advice of the medical experts”. Yet, many of these same parents totally ignore the American Academy of Pediatricians advice on limiting screen time.

I agree with FCM that parallel play is what toddlers do before their world enlarges to include peers. I remember a few weeks ago when Theresa wrote about her daughter putting on the earpiece as soon as she hit the bus to watch YouTube. When do kids have social interaction in school any more? Some schools limit talking time at lunch for at least part of lunch.

jarvis

September 18th, 2013
2:16 pm

Get a grip folks. Kids still play with each other and socialize.
Ask any teacher. They can’t get them to shut up.

My 9-year-old had her birthday party last weekend. We had 26 girls at my house (not my doing on the number). My daugthter is already into theme parties. This one was 1950’s. They all had on poodle skirts etc. They had a blast, and other than the music playing in the house, not a single electronic device was turned on.

FCM

September 18th, 2013
2:20 pm

@ Ann, I did some checking. Parallel Play is observed in older kids too when doing video games. The concern I have is the one you shared, that the social interaction of peer to peer becomes less.

I have been told by schools that the “social” time is very limited. A little bit in “Morning Walk” on the track before school and even less at lunch/recess. Instead of EQ (yesterday) we need to get back to basic skills talking to real people.

Ann

September 18th, 2013
2:38 pm

@ Jarvis – That is true for some more than others. I have been to several neighborhood birthday parties, going away parties, etc. with a 12 year old in attendance who had his ear phones and devices operating the entire time, at each occasion. I was sitting next to this kid during an entire meal at a table, in which there were other 12 year olds to talk with, if he so desired (one of which he used to play with and interact with for several years). He looked up to make several comments. Each time, he said to his Mom “How long are we going to be here?” I would have tried to engage him in conversation by asking what he’d been up to, but because of the ear phones and game playing, it discouraged anyone from talking to him.

beth

September 18th, 2013
3:34 pm

Don’t we all worry about some things more than others? I know I do… for example, I don’t allow my kids to have soda, but allow minecraft (in moderation). I don’t allow my 8 year old to watch PG-13 movies… EVER, but I allow them to play in our cul de sac with a group of other same aged kids relatively unsupervised. I, along with all the other parents, do check on them every 15 mintues or so, but don’t necessarily sit outside watching their every move. They bounce back and forth from yard to yard, swingset to swingset. Right now, they are in my garage playing dress up with old halloween costumes. These are 8 and 9 year olds… playing dress up! That’s the kind of creativity that having your face shoved into a computer screen all the time can’t give you.

I understand that sugary drinks, video games, and somewhat unsupervised play could all be potentially harmful and/or dangerous, but we can’t worry every second of every day so we pick and choose where to focus our energy. I personally do not allow unsupervised internet time nor do I allow hours of internet/screen time not so much because of socialization issues (my kids get plenty), but because I am very strict about what kind of images my kids see. We haven’t have cable/satellite tv (by choice) for many years now because I wanted to control the images/advertising/type of programs they are watching. I especially worry about them getting access to porn. But at the same time others may cringe that I let my kids play outside without parking my chair right next to them. As I said in my earlier post, I did not know that there was a game called “drunk tag” within minecraft. But I do now and will watch out for it and talk to my kids about it. But I still feel the creativity in buidling whole worlds in minecraft does have some educational value… at least the way my kids use it, it does.

Ann– that story about the 12 year old is just sad…. bad parenting

FCM

September 18th, 2013
3:44 pm

@ beth…I agree with you on the soda. My child has been at 2 different sleep overs and when I pick them up (around 11AM) they are drinking soda. It certainly doesn’t fly at my house. Then again, my parents banned sugary cereal (Cheerios, Post Rasin Bran, or Rice Krispies were the only ones allowed). I had Froot Loops everytime I was at a spend the night. So maybe it is the same thing?

My friends on the other hand loved coming to my house for bacon, pancakes, and orange juice.

Ann

September 18th, 2013
3:57 pm

@ Beth – Unsupervised play is a part of growing up and helps your child learn independence and become confident in making their own decisions. My son is 8 and I allow him to play unsupervised outside, too (sometimes he’s exploring on his own and sometimes he’s with other kids). I do peek out the window or check on him once in awhile. Sometimes, he walks a few houses down to play in a creek behind one of the houses.

motherjanegoose

September 18th, 2013
4:24 pm

Late to the dance! I get a BIG FAT ZERO as far as knowing anything about this, personally. My son has told me that several of his college friends were addicted to it and it greatly affected their studies or lack of sutdying. A friend told me that her son was quite obsessed with it and I mentioned it to my son, as I had no clue. His take was, “It sucks you in and you are addicted!” Again, I know nothing and am happy I did not have to fight this battle.

When I was 8 , we walked to mall in Chicago as my Grandma gave us some money for the candy store…haha!

motherjanegoose

September 18th, 2013
4:28 pm

STUDYING…guess I get a big fat zero on spelling too…haha!

Betty

September 18th, 2013
4:43 pm

@mayhem—What do you have against Introverts??

“One day in the not too distant future, thre will not be any kids outside playing. Instead they will all become introverts, be to scared to leave the house, and will end up in your basement when they are in their 30’s because they have NO clue now to interact outside the home”

Some of us are very nice people, and interact with others just fine……..we just choose not too, when possible. And no, I’m not typing this from my Mom’s basement, either! ha ha

catlady

September 18th, 2013
6:13 pm

Betty, believe it or not, I am an I, also. I have to push myself out into people. I am much more comfortable hanging back and observing.

The world would not be so interesting if we were all introverts or all extroverts (that would be hellacious). LOL

Mother of 2

September 18th, 2013
7:40 pm

Not really buying the whole educational value of this game. My kids have played it. It seems to me to be a source of amusement/stress relief. There are much better ways to get educated than playing this game.

#IHateMinecraftHaters

September 18th, 2013
8:39 pm

i am 15 years old im very high into the world of MineCraft world I beieve that so what the mini-game is called Drunk tag it only means you are disoreted w/ a spell and playing tag so what the game has a disliked title i believe that when playing minecraft it allows you to meet new people. When I started Playing Minecraft i set up a skype account and sense then i ve met people from England, Russia, Korea,and My home city (ive be come great froms w/ him) so i believe Minecraft Can Be Educational (Its Used in my school and many others as a way of learning) and Fun So please dpnt be upset with minecraft or a goaddarn title of a mini-game just be happy your sons happy and having fucn, Its really all tht matters.

#IHateMinecraftHaters

September 18th, 2013
8:40 pm

But Be careful w/ what u allow ur child to do if u dont feel comfortable w/ them skypeing or playing online make them a private server or ony alow them singleplayer

#IHateMinecraftHaters

September 18th, 2013
8:41 pm

I also agree w/ Mother Of 2 It does give me a great stress relief
when i come home after school and dance

beth

September 18th, 2013
11:34 pm

I should add that I do NOT allow my 8 year old to play with other online players…. in Minecraft or any type of game. She used to want a DSi so she could play football with the neighbor boys online. I told her to put on her soccer cleats and go play actual football with them… OUTSIDE!! She did and learned how to play and now plays on a flag football league! She does not have a phone/texing capabilities or a facebook page or anything like that. She’s 8!!!

In minecraft, she just builds houses and forests with waterfalls and lava pitts and has chicken coops. And then writes stories…with pencil and paper… about the type of people who might live in her “village”. That’s what I mean by educational, but certainly not to take the place of real education. I think of it as modern day lego building (which can also be educational), but online interaction is definitely off limits.

Annie

September 19th, 2013
7:21 am

@ #IHateMinecraftHaters

Your post shows that maybe kids should spend a little less time with video games and a little more time working on basic grammar skills. I want my kids to be happy, but not at the expense of being able to read and write.

Ann

September 19th, 2013
9:39 am

@ #IHateMinecraftHaters – I agree with Annie. Your posts show you are missing out on the important education of learning how to write sentences and proper punctuation. Your long paragraph is filled with run-on sentences.

Both introverts and extroverts can succeed in life. But, communication skills are essential in getting through a job interview. We all know that screen time can be addictive and does not have the same benefits as outdoor play. Building a fort outdoors gives you a real feel for the materials, problem solving, how to work with what’s available in your yard or woods, etc. Within a virtual world, you are working within constraints that the software designer has created for you within a game. It’s “someone else’s world” that you are playing in.

It has been shown that getting emails or messages creates an endorphin release in the body, due to the “potential” of it being something interesting. This is one of the reasons it can be addicting. For me, I highly limit screen time because I want my son, when he is a pre-teen or teen to actually “want” to interact with his grandparents and relatives while visiting, to engage and enjoy those relationships, rather than be “sitting there” pining for his devices.

Kat

September 19th, 2013
2:04 pm

@ #IHateMinecraftHaters: Are you SURE you know who you are playing with and where they are from??? Hmmm…???

Zona Ostenberg

September 23rd, 2013
2:32 pm

Simply want to say your article is as astounding. The clarity to your put up is simply nice and i could assume you’re a professional on this subject. Well together with your permission allow me to take hold of your feed to stay updated with approaching post. Thank you a million and please keep up the gratifying work.|

URL

September 24th, 2013
10:45 pm

… [Trackback] …

[...] Read More here: blogs.ajc.com/momania/2013/09/18/is-playing-minecraft-teaching-your-kids-important-skills/ [...] …

2day diet

September 25th, 2013
3:13 am

Is playing Minecraft teaching your kids important skills? | Momania: A Blog for Busy Moms
2day diet http://zixiutangslimcapsule.smartlog.dk/a-favorite-of-mine-is-solely-going-for-walks-post1431250