“But I Hate Sports!” How to Get Your Video-Gamer Outside
“My son’s playdates comprise playing video games for five hours on a Saturday. He’s a nerdy kid — no sports, 130 IQ, ADHD, non-outdoors person — any suggestions?”
I am a big believer in a healthy play diet that balances all of a child’s activities — academic, athletic, artistic, gaming, etc. However, everyone is different. Sometimes, the kids who want to play sports five hours a day could benefit from improving their digital literacy. A healthy play diet also provides opportunities for creative and unstructured play, but some kids simply don’t have a creative bent. These kids might enjoy doing yard work or are highly motivated by doing chores or jobs that will pay them. All kids are different and unique, and we need to recognize that.
When parents describe their child as “nerdy,” I assume he has some discomfort with social relationships and feels more comfortable interacting with technology. If this is the case, I wouldn’t advise against being overly restrictive with your son’s interest in technology. That being said, five hours a day of straight up Minecraft is simply too much; after an hour or two, he’s not getting much benefit out of it.
So you need to find ways to relate this interest in video games to other forms of play. I strongly encourage you to help him play and use technology in an innovative and alternative fashion.
Here are a few ideas to expand beyond Minecraft:
1. Setting up his own Minecraft server, learning coding in order to make Minecraft mods, or making his own Minecraft videos to teach others how to play will provide him with different skills and opportunities.
2. If he’s like most kids, he will outgrow Minecraft and then find other things that engage his interest. Your role is to facilitate that by getting him involved in extracurricular computer classes, introducing him to some of the cool coding programs available online, or encouraging him to create his own website.
3. To get him away from the computer and actually moving, try appealing to his love of technology by getting him a Fitbit or other fitness band that will prompt him to get moving and track his progress.
The good news is that, in this age of technology, many nerdy kids are incredibly successful. And, when they become adults, often times their interest in technology works to their advantage as they pursue careers developing technology or using it in new and novel ways.