Are you concerned that your eight-year-old's video game play is turning his mind to mush? I get it. But what if I told you that playing Minecraft and other skill-building video games might actually improve his focus, working memory, and other executive functions?
Watch your child play for a few minutes, and you'll see that he plans, organizes, and problem-solves while engaged in a video game — skills we'd all like our ADHD kids to develop. Wouldn't it be great if he could transfer those game-playing skills to everyday tasks?
He can, with a little help from you. Use the following three steps to tap into the skill-building potential of video games:
1. Help your child identify the thinking and problem-solving skills that are necessary to play the game.
2. Encourage metacognition and reflection by talking about how these skills are used in the real world.
3. Engage your child in activities that use these skills, and then talk with your child about how the skills connect to game play.
Here are some popular games you can use to encourage your child to connect game-based skills to real-world skills:
> Game description: Bad Piggies is a puzzle game, from the makers of the popular Angry Birds, that challenges players to build contraptions that carry the "piggies" to their destinations. At the start of each stage, you're shown the level layout, given a collection of parts, and sent on your way. It's up to you to invent a solution to each puzzle — there isn't only one right answer.
> Skills a child uses: Bad Piggies requires a child to use different strategies in order to advance. The player needs to think flexibly and consider several ways of escorting the piggies through the stage. He may be discouraged at a few failed attempts, but perseverance pays off.
> Skills to practice outside the game: Show your child that it is OK to make mistakes. Take a wrong turn on an outing on purpose or mix up the ingredients in a recipe. Show him how to keep calm while making the necessary corrections.
> Game description: Roblox is an online virtual playground and workshop. Players are given basic tools with which to construct buildings, machines, and other creations to explore the Roblox world.
> Skills a child uses: Players use working-memory skills when they learn and remember how to use the different tools for arranging and building objects and altering their appearance. To improve working memory, explore the different features in Roblox Studio with your child, and encourage her to become familiar with the location and layout of the available tools and instruments. Practice working-memory skills in the game by building a small house.
> Skills to practice outside the game: To build working memory, do a step-by-step project that requires remembering what you have already done, such as following a recipe or planting a garden.
> Game description: Players are placed in a borderless, randomly generated land with no supplies, directions, or objectives. They have to decide what to do and how to do it. Players collect materials from the world around them in order to "craft" items and build whatever their minds can imagine.
> Skills a child uses: Minecraft improves planning skills because players need to set and achieve goals within a time frame. As your child starts the game, he'll need to collect mined materials, build a workbench on which to craft items, and construct a shelter. Discuss with him the need to focus on the task at hand in order to achieve his goals before the monsters arrive at nightfall.
> Skills to practice outside the game: Practice planning skills by deciding together what your child needs for school. Begin with a list of essential supplies — pencils, notebooks, markers, backpack, and lunch box — then list the other materials or things she'd like to take to school. Decide which items to purchase. Encourage your child to make the lists on his own, and to determine the most important items to buy.