Screen Time

ADDitude-Approved Video and Computer Games for Children

Got a gamer? Here are some brain-building downloads and purchases that we recommend for your child’s designated screen time.

Bad Piggies — Rated E for Everyone

Bad Piggies is a puzzle game from the makers of the popular Angry Birds. It 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.

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.

Roblox — Rated E for Everyone

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.

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.

Minecraft — Rated E for Everyone

This is a big one. In Minecraft, 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.

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.

Portal and Portal 2 — Rated T for Teen

The Portal series is revolutionary in the video game industry because it prizes gameplay over flashy graphics or complex narratives. Players navigate a character through an abandoned research center using a “portal gun.” It opens doors between chambers that players or objects can then move through like a puzzle set in a three-dimensional world.

The game is engaging and cognitively fruitful. It requires players to use executive skills, like planning, time management, and working memory, which kids with ADHD need to work on. The recipient of multiple “game of the year” awards from various publications, the Portal series is available for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC users.

Starcraft and Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty — Rated T for Teen

These Real Time Strategy (RTS) games are built around maps or environments viewed from overhead. Players construct different types of units and harvest materials, all with the goal of defeating an enemy (either computer or human) in battle. Kids need to devote maximum attention to ensure they are producing units at peak efficiency while anticipating attacks and planning assaults on the enemy.

To be successful, a Starcraft player needs to use metacognition, sustained attention, and working memory. If you need proof of how highly regarded this game is, look to the pros. Professional competitions are held for both games that routinely offer prize pools in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Available for Mac and Windows.

The Zelda Franchise — Rated E for Everyone

In the realm of “oldies but goodies,” the Zelda series reigns supreme, particularly the Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask editions. Players are challenged by a puzzle-filled world, requiring critical thinking and goal directed persistence – in other words, completing a goal despite distractions and competing interests. These games are available for the N64 game system, although newer versions have been released for the Wii and Nintendo’s handheld devices.

Guitar Hero — Rated T for Teen

Guitar Hero is an exercise in focus and reflex. It offers teens an opportunity to fine-tune their ability to pay attention and to turn visual stimulation into physical reaction. It takes working memory to master this game, since it relies on repetition of complex patterns. Players use plastic guitar-shaped controllers to “play along” with their favorite songs. Available for PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Windows and Mac, and Nintendo DS.