4 things Minecraft teaches kids

19 September 2015
19 September 2015 The Alchemy Team

Created in 2009 by one programmer, expanded by a small team, and advertised mostly by word of mouth, it quickly grew to more than 100 million users. To drive home its success, Microsoft then bought the game in 2014 for a staggering $2.5 billion!

I’m sure you’ve heard many kids, teens, and even adults in your life talking about Minecraft. Here’s why that might be a good thing, and one thing to be cautious of…

1. It builds creativity

I love Lego. As a child I spent hours building the model on the box and then taking it apart and making whatever else I wanted by rearranging the parts. Minecraft gives kids the same creative freedom, but it’s easier on your bank account. Plus, you’ll never step on a loose piece barefoot in the dark!

If you haven’t played or seen it, Minecraft is a very blocky world – everything is built from blocks. The ground is made up of blocks, trees are blocks, and even your character is a block. You get progress in the game by scavenging or mining blocks of various materials such as stone, wood, lava, etc. You use these as the basis for your creations, or combine them in “recipes” to create more advanced materials, tools and objects.

Some of the things Minecraft players have built are incredible – including whole city replicas.

If you can think it, you can probably build it.

2. It teaches real-world skills

Minecraft teaches players about resource management. The player has a limited amount of resources at any given time and needs to decide wisely how to use them most effectively.

Do you use that wood block now to upgrade your ax for mining, or save it for the house you’re building? Do you spend your time mining or exploring for new resources?

Even if they don’t realise it, kids are learning important life skills, such as when to save vs. spend and other key budgeting and financial skills that are so important later in life. Of course, they might need you to help them make this connection.

Kids also learn patience. It takes a while to assemble the resources you need, so instant gratification isn’t an option. Any adult who’s had to save for a car or a holiday knows that patience is important.

Kids learn perseverance. Your child might not build that amazing monument correctly the first time when it comes tumbling down under its own weight, but they can try again. They learn how to recognise where they made mistakes and start again.

Kids learn teamwork. While Minecraft can be played solo, it also has online and local multiplayer options. Kids can play with others from around the world or their friends on console. They can team up and learn how to work cooperatively to make amazing things. That also builds pride in cooperation with others.

3. It’s kid friendly

Violence is a big complaint with video games. Sure, older video games were violent but the graphics were so cartoonish and crude it wasn’t the same as gunning down the highly detailed, lifelike characters found in modern games.

Minecraft does have some fighting elements to it. You have to fend off “mobs” of monsters but the graphics are blocky and bloodless, like an old-school video game.

For concerned parents of younger kids, Minecraft also features a “Peaceful” mode. This is the easiest setting and turns off all enemies. It also makes it nearly impossible to die, so you can just explore and build.

4. Fun for the whole family

I’m a fan of parents playing video games with their kids. That way, you’re right there to monitor the game, teach them to be good sports, or shut it off when their time is up or when they start melting down. Plus, there are plenty of fun video games that you might genuinely enjoy. The LEGO series, for example, is very clever and not too difficult.

Minecraft is another fun one. You can sit next to your children and give them advice, or create your own character and jump into the game using a different computer or gadget. I know a few families who have Minecraft night and everyone joins in to work on a fun in-game project.

The one bad thing: Minecraft, like any other game or Internet service can become addictive. You might find that it’s all your kid wants to do. Some students I work with talk about the game non-stop and need strict limits and conditions on how long they can play each day. This is really important to ensure it doesn’t become the only thing they want to do.

I think video games can certainly find a place alongside education, and I believe that in the future, the gamification of classrooms will become a universal thing.
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