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My 3yo daughter has recently noticed me playing Craft the World, a game which is (mostly) about dwarves working and building their home, with hardly any violence. She wanted to know what it's about, I started explaining, and after a while we've started playing together.

craft the world

She really enjoyed building dwarves their home, furnishing it, dressing dwarves and giving them tools to work better, etc. etc.

So far, over the last week or so, we've played 3 or 4 times for 15 minutes max each time. I'm doing most of the clicking but decisions are made together. I encouraged her to use the mouse, but with little success.

I'm having doubts about this. While I'm against giving a child a phone or tablet to get rid of them, I didn't really feel bad playing this game with her. I had the opportunity to talk about some things she never heard about before, explain with a good example that one has to work to have something.

Should I let her play with me at all? Do you think that this activity, as I have described it, is acceptable for a 3 yo?

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    So far, over the last week or so, we've played 3 or 4 times for 15 minutes max each time. Keywords, "we've" and "15 minutes". I honestly think this is perfectly fine. You're spending time together and you're in no way over doing it. This would be completely different if you were letting her watch you play Call of Duty or playing for 8 hours. Gaming, within reason, does help with reflexes, decision making amongst other positives so I wouldn't worry to much. It's good you're thinking about it though and not just plonking them in front of it as a way to distract them from you. – Bugs Dec 22 '16 at 16:57
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The primary reason "screen time" is considered bad for children is that, even when somewhat interactive as games are, it does not stimulate their brain as much as other things do. Kids need all sorts of different activities - physical ones to help develop coordination and strength, social ones to help develop social awareness and social skills, they need to talk to people and hear them talk in order to develop vocabulary and comprehension.

Playing a computer game with you, in a highly interactive way, is to me comparable to reading with a child. If it is a way for you to give her attention and to give you a chance to bond, then it's a perfectly fine option in my opinion, so long as it is reasonably limited; it shouldn't be the main thing she does, but a half hour or so won't be a problem. It's a great way to help her learn problem solving skills, and if she is moving the mouse she's also developing her fine motor control (as opposed to a tablet which tends towards more simple, large areas to select).

The thing to be wary about is the game turning into the only thing she wants to do. You'll want to have a set amount of time that it can be played per day, and stick to that. You'll probably also want to limit yourself in the same fashion, and do so obviously, so that the child understands this is something you need to learn to do, as opposed to this being a hypocritical "do what I say not what I do" type of thing. If you're playing the game 4 hours a day and she's only allowed 1, it'll be hard for her to understand why.

I play Pokémon with my five year old, for example, and while he enjoys it quite a lot, it can be a struggle to limit the time effectively. I only play when he's playing (or when he's asleep); and the asleep-time I limit sufficiently so that we are at roughly the same stage in the game (he often plays when I don't). This has worked fairly well, and I don't think it's had a negative effect on him; but it has led to him wanting to play constantly, and needing to keep hard limits on his play, so be aware of that.

All in all, though, I think gaming as a social activity is a great thing for even younger children, as long as it's in moderation and age-appropriate of course. Getting your undivided attention, and getting to learn things with you, is a great thing for your daughter.

  • Thanks for your answer. Its what I've been thinking myself, actually. And we've been through the "only thing she wants to do" already with tablet games. At around 2yo we've discovered lego duplo games, which she really enjoyed. She was very reluctant to give the tablet away, but we've managed to keep the child-tablet relationship healthy. Nowadays, she recalls the tablet is fun around once a week, plays a game or two and willingly returns it afterwards. I'm hoping we'll keep the PC-father-child relationship healthy too. – Dariusz Dec 22 '16 at 18:40
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A lot of articles and studies on the topic of tots and video games / tables seems to indicate that the best thing you could possibly do is not provide them to your child at such a young age.

I have coworkers with daughters 3 and 6 respectively, and both have their own tables, play "educational" games, etc. That sounds fantastic, however research suggests that these sort of things wire kid's brains to seek instant gratification (always something exciting happening), which later ruins them for things such as sitting quietly in class, listening to the teacher (something exciting is not happening every second).

Now, your limited play time with her may very well simply represent some quality bonding time with your daughter. However, it will also influence her to seek such entertainment on her own (one day very soon she will want to hold the mouse, then simply play while you're at work, or cooking dinner). After all, building blocks don't hold a handle to funny dwarfs running around and doing silly things on that bright, colorful screen!

My advice would be to avoid exposing her to video games for a few years longer (a challenge, I know). Give her brain a chance to develop more before you introduce her to the world of instant gratification of digital entertainment.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    Thanks for your answer. The arguments you made are exactly what I thought when considering the subject. There is another thing to cosider, though, which I haven't thought until just now: it might be better to introduce games slowly and under supervision than to let the child completely loose a few years later. Which might happen at any moment in kindergarden or when playing outside, it takes just one child with PSP or Nintendo... – Dariusz Dec 22 '16 at 18:42
  • @Dariusz - hence the challenge – AndreiROM Dec 22 '16 at 20:33
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    Can you link to some of the research you describe, providing examples for users to continue reading if they want more detail? – Acire Dec 23 '16 at 15:24
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There are two things important here:

At first, the question is not if something contains violence or something else, but if you kid does understand the difference between reality and game. The game you describe sounds pretty clearly not real, so it shouldn't be a problem, and till now games are not realistic enough to be likely a problematic in that way. But you should still watch out, that your kid doesn't confuse these two worlds. (Sidenote: TV is actually many times worse in that way, as well as books (without pictures), since both have a much bigger focus on the illusion than games.)

The second one: limit the supply in games not (so much) in time. The second danger is, that games become more interesting than reality. If you limit then umber of games she can play with, she will loose interest. Games tend to have an overall small possibility of variation, you can for example build something in different ways but in a view weeks, everything that is to be seen, will be seen and your kid will move on. But if you limit the time, gaming will stay much more interesting over a longer time. See it the same way as a theme park. It is amazing to go there and you can't do everything within one day and you will go there probably one or two times a year, but if you would have one right beside your door and can be there day lie, there will be a point when you simply stop caring. In other words let her play if there is nothing else to do, let it become boring and let her have other things in life.

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Old question, but I'm shocked about some of the answers so I had to respond. I volunteer quite regularly with children your daughters age. I'm also a geek, and gamer when i have free time.

The first thing I will say is that there is nothing inherently wrong with games! There is a real sigma in some people's answers, but It reminds me of the trope new media are evil. There is a dislike of gaming to an extent just because it's new. By themselves games are not bad.

What is bad is leaving a child with any form of entertainment that keeps you away from them for extended lengths of time. This can be playing simple video-games, or watching tv. It also could be the child coloring or playing with blocks alone. The biggest problem is not the activity, it is when parents stop spending time with children and leave anything as a substitute for parental involvement.

In your case your involved with your child during these brief game sessions, and that's good! Any form of involvement will be good for her, it doesn't matter if it's play with blocks or video games. The bond is still being built and that is a good thing!

The other criticism you hear is that games are not stimulating enough, and this I highly disagree with. Appropriate games, like the very one you mentioned, stress the brain significantly. It requires problem solving and reasoning skills, learning and creativity. This is going to stimulate her brain, in fact 15 minutes every day or two of playing a game like this is much better for her then more time coloring or playing with blocks, not because games are better, but because it's good for a child to get many different forms of stimulus and practice. If she already colors often then more coloring isn't likely to teach her something new, but a new game for a little while may teach her some reasoning skills to solve the puzzles, or allow a new form of creativity in more sandbox/creative games. It's an alternate mode of practicing her mind.

Furthermore, I like that a girl is playing these sort of games with you. It's well known fact that girls are far less present in STEM fields, likely at least partially due to society teaching girls that they shouldn't focus on these fields. While I don't think 15 minutes of playing games is going to have a significant affect one way or another here, I would stress that you are encouraging her to use a computer to it's full extent and to learn what she can do it. This can make her more comfortable with computer use in general at an early age, which could have a small increase in the odds of her sticking with computers and technology rather then society 'teaching' her that they are not somehow a 'girls' task. I'm a judge for middle school robotics competition call FLL, I'm judging all this weekend actually, and there are far fewer girls then boys participating, but I have noticed the girls that do are more likely to call themselves gamers, suggesting there could be a correlation.

So I see nothing wrong with your current involvement and occasional playing with her, if anything I think it's positive. The important thing is that this involvement includes your interaction with her, and that interaction is the real strong point. I honestly wouldn't mind seeing more of it, if she were interested in doing so of course.

In fact to get more out of it I would suggest you try alternating the games around every now and then, show her many different sorts of games, especially of the puzzle and builder/sim/creativity variety. Help her to learn that there are challenges here that she can learn to tackle with your help. Perhaps, when she is ready, which she may not quite be up to yet, get her started with some of the early programming games for kids. I'd also keep encouraging her to learn to use the mouse, though not to pressure her if she is really resistant, as it is a good tool to learn. Basically while playing games also encourage her to look at the computer as a tool that she can learn to use fully, that it can do many things but if she invests some time into learning she can make it do the stuff she wants from it.

Of course I stress that games used to supervise kids is bad. If she got to the situation where she was spending a large amount of time with games alone then encourage her to do other things with you, this is the same as if she was coloring or watching tv for too long alone. The advantage to your playing with her now are that it is still rather novel and thus a good learning experience, and that you are interacting and bonding with her while doing it.

Beyond all that I would add, caring for children is all that really matters. Don't let people make you think you have to do things in a certain way, so long as your with your child and she is happy (and not obviously spoiled I suppose) then your doing a good job parenting, whatever activity your doing with her.

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I think that's awesome. I wouldn't even say 15 minutes max or anything.

My daughter got into fallout 4 when she was 5. That game's incredibly vulgar, violent, and extremely complex. We are very clear about the concepts of video games and the differences between real life and stories of fantasy, violence, and creativity found in games. When you interact with your own kids you can tell what they're ready for or what they will have a hard time dealing with. The content of the game may not matter if you are an attentive parent by nature.

One thing people like to pick on with questions like yours is that they make some strange assumption that playing games is some time waster and indicative of the rest of their day being spent in equally "meaningless" endeavors. But treating video games like some kind of forbidden thing will probably mean that later they may play more because they were never allowed to do so when they were younger.

Our girls have free access to games with no real time limits, from Mario Maker, Fallout 4, iPad games, to Virtual Reality games like Super Hot and Toy Box. We've found that when they are a normal option, they tend to care less for them. But they make a big deal about playing board games and reading books. They usually don't go more than 20 or 30 minutes before switching to something more physical.

We have a pretty experience based parenting philosophy. They get exposed to plenty of physical activities, museums, volunteering, arts and crafts, the beach, snow, and much more. The video games are a very small part of their overall experience and we feel it is good for them to not be alienated from things that they will realize is a big part of many people's lives. So I applaud your willingness to explain and share with your daughter. It's good for kids to know their parents enjoy something and that they can enjoy it with you.

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I'd say, upgrade your hobbies. Especially as a parent. Sitting motionless in front of a screen is not what people really need, especially children. This gets obvious when a friend of mine teaches pre ballet classes and many of them can barely reach their knees when sitting. They should be able to reach their feet easily.

Do stuff that encorporates everything, mind and body, it's better for you and your child. Lifetime is a very valuable thing and you might want to be an example on how to use it intelligently.

The amazing message that I hear in your post is that you are eager to explain the world to her. Eager to guide her and help her grow and be with her. That's invaluable. That's the important part. While computer games are easily accessible, they are also designed to be played a lot, to increase the desire to play them. Last time I looked, regardless of the consequences. Bad for people with problems who learn to hide there while the things they hide from are growing worse. I'm not sure if there's not better solutions, better pastimes, especially given that young age.

For example, there's a big difference between handling stuff on a screen with a mouse or building something with lego bricks.

I played a lot of games in my youth and the negative impact of all this wasted time has had a lasting negative impact on my life. How many skills could I have learned in the same time, drawing, singing, dancing, skills that lasts.

I think, AndreiROM's answer is noteworthy. The nonstop action element in these games is a powerful influence and the return is still usually nothing. I'd be hard pressed to recall anything noteworthy that I have learned from a game. Which means: spending time with you is the only meaningful thing when you play together.

  • I know that gamers hate my answer, but I say this as a needlessly dying 42yo. My perspective on what I should have done instead is a bit clearer now that all is lost. – Haunt_House Dec 24 '16 at 16:48
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    Your answer is more of a general rant against gaming, not very specific to the question posed by the OP. For example, did you waste all this time playing with your child (or parent), or on your own? Is there no way to incorporate some creative games into cooperative play, or must it really be none? – Acire Dec 24 '16 at 18:20
  • Well, it's not a rant. But yes, I think a very young brain has better things to do while it's body and brain are literally growing. Computer games have the problem to be incredibly appealing due to their seemingly safe nature while really doing nothing to improve the person's future and being perfect to evade life's problems. They are OK in small doses, like alcohol. Many games are designed to make people keep playing them. They can become drugs for the mind. – Haunt_House Dec 24 '16 at 18:40
  • I just think that there are so many amazing alternatives that it's not about incorporating computer games anyway. It's more about the child not having time for that while doing the cool stuff. – Haunt_House Dec 24 '16 at 18:44
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    everyone is alloewd to have free time that they enjoy. Even parents need time of their own away from kids every now and then, they are people. Just because you don't play games doesn't mean you can disparriage an adult that hobby over others. Furthermore, games actually can be a veyr productive use of 'hobby' time, they tend to involve quite a bit of thinking and planning, more then coloring or play doh or man of the 'approved' hobbies for kids offer. If a kid plays to excess it is bad, but 15 minutes is not excess. This fells more like a rant against games then fair advice. – dsollen Jan 20 '17 at 21:58

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