Can playing Minecraft encourage kids to be more helpful?

We’ve all been there, rushing around trying to catch up with chores. Under siege from our to-do lists. Too busy to spend time having fun with the kids. Too busy to imagine having any fun at all.

Let’s face it, that’s not a good place to be. Sometimes there is the temptation to just snap and ask, “why I am the only one tidying up? Why is your room such a mess?” Sticker reward systems have been tried and abandoned. The place is a mess, no one is helping out and it’s a battle to draw the kids attention away from TV and video games.

What to do? Here’s a suggestion, put the to-do list aside and play Minecraft.

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Is it a question of Chores vs play?

It might sound ridiculous, but when you are having one of those days, it may be the time to let loose a bit yourself. Have a time out from housework and go play. Let playing with your kids help get you through the day.

This will take time before it helps you to get your kids to help out around the house. But, I’m not kidding, after some time and admittedly by accident, I have come to realise that one of the best incentives to encourage my son to help around the house is playing games with him.

It started with playing Minecraft, but the theory can be applied to any form of play. And as an added bonus, I had the chance to have fun, refresh my mind, and discover a gamer side of myself that I never knew existed!

When my son showed interest in playing games like Minecraft I wanted to see what he was getting into. So, I started to play the block placing game myself.

Pretty soon I was slaying zombies, crafting tools and mining for diamonds like a pro. In creative mode I built a city – an emerald city no less – based on the Wizard of Oz. It even has a yellow brick road surrounded by poppies leading up to it.

Emerald-city-minecraft-night

Emerald-city-yellow-brick-road-minecraft

Minecraft Emerald city at night and from the yellow brick road

Long after I had grown tired of placing emerald blocks, Toothy continued to add detail and structures to the Emerald City. We started to play and build in Pocket Edition initially. Later we moved onto playing on the WiiU, exploring more texture packs and options.

The Greek Mythology texture pack, which is incredibly majestic, is a favourite of mine. After reading Percy Jackson novels, Toothy is obsessed with Greek God and Goddess myths. So exploring the Minecraft Greek Mythology texture pack adds extra dimensions to the stories he has read. We can build scenes from the book or myths in Minecraft.

The Candy texture pack is a bit overwhelming. Be warned – like eating too many sweets – it can give you a headache.

Finding out what the kids are getting in to can lead to a lot of fun

Best of all, I was able to play alongside my child, and see his creativity go wild and his confidence grow. Like other parents I have appreciated the benefits a game like this can have for children.

My son could quickly create stunning builds. In the games creative mode he would build huge statues of lions, Iron Man, fortresses and hotels. He set up challenge games for us to play and a build-a-battle arena for quick build competitions. I could see that planning a mission or game could encourage teamwork, problem-solving and planning.

In survival worlds, we would grow crops to survive and fend off creepers from our fortresses at night. It surprised me that I would enjoy playing Minecraft so much.

What’s impressed me so much about playing with Toothy, is how I have not needed to make suggestions or direct our play.

Minecraft-Creative-Iron-Man

Unlike linear platform games, you can pretty much do what you want in Minecraft. You have a wide range of choices about the way you play and every time you play can create different outcomes and adventures. It’s very much player led which means it can be totally child led. When playing with Toothy, I really just tag along and he lets his imagination take us away on an adventure.

Minecraft-Candy-Texture-Pack-Nether-Portal

Playing Minecraft can feed into enjoying reading

If I manage to get some quality time with my child I feel lucky. So playing computer games is a fun way to spend time with him doing one of the things he loves. Another is to get him talking about the books he is reading.

One fun aspect of Minecraft is that as it is so free flowing you can create a themed world about book characters and locations. Toothy has set up some basic The Hobbit adventure maps based on scenes from the book, this is a fascinating way to get kids talking about stories and what they have been reading with kids too.

So, this is all great fun, but not forgetting my starting point, how does playing computer games with your kids help to make them be helpful?

One day I was trying to finish washing a particularly huge pile of dishes. Toothy called out – “do you want to play Minecraft Mummy?” “Yes, I do,” I sighed, “but the dishes need doing so I will finish them first”. “When will you be finished?” he asked. “In a bit”, I said. “How long is a bit?” he asked reasonably.

Gaining confidence in real life too!

Finally, it dawned on me, ask him to help and I will be done quicker. Often, I have found that asking for help with chores is met with resilience and reluctance, leading to my feeling overwhelmed and grumpy. But not in this instance.

Help came quickly and enthusiastically as he realised it would speed up getting to the playing of the game. Gaining confidence in carrying out simple chores means that he can build independence in the real world, not just the virtual!

So you see, play Minecraft (or anything really) with your kids, and you will be able to encourage them to help around the house to free you up to play with them. And, it’s awesome fun too.

Before you know it you will be building cities of your own, and if they are lucky the kids can help too.

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Angela Stapleford

Angela is the kind of parent who wants to discuss the latest hero movie or middle-grade book series on the school run. She grew up on the Lord of the Rings books and has a background in education & publishing. She believes all children & young people can enjoy wonderful story-telling and loves sharing ideas with others.

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