Kid Games: Balancing Kid Games and Video Games with Imaginative Play

Kid games ...

... are an important part of childhood. When I tell my children that their father and I had no DVDs or video games as children, they stare at me in horror. They simply can't imagine what we did with our time back in the "olden days." Of course, we did just fine.

As a child, I was only permitted to watch television for an hour each day and spent the rest of my time reading or playing kid games outside. My husband who grew up in a family that barely had enough money to put food on the table, fashioned a bat from a tree branch and a ball from a roll of rags and played baseball with his friends in an empty lot all day long. Such is the power of imagination.

Although today's kid games, in particular kid video games seem like a childhood necessity to kids, as the parent, it is crucial to make sure your child balances time spent in front of a t.v. or computer screen with time engaged in imaginative and physical play.

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Imaginative play is crucial to brain development. The child who can turn a box into an imaginary car or a towel into a superman cape is developing his capacity to create something other than what is available to his senses. Later on in life, this translates into the ability to re-engineer and/or innovate. It is also important with regard to language skills. Imagination paves the way for the construction of metphors and the ability to grasp abstractions. By contrast, most kid games (in particular, today's kid video games) stunt a child's imagination because everything is pre-imagined for him.

Since kid video games are here to stay, rather than forbid them (which will make them more compelling), I suggest you limit time spent playing kid video games. Set a limit that is practical for your family--for instance, one hour per day or only on weekends. Stick to this rule no matter what.

Be prepared to suggest other acitivities for your child, such as building a fort out of chairs and blankets or baking a cake from scratch. Keep items on hand such as clay, paper and painting supplies, so your child can learn the art of creating something new from basic building blocks.

Counter the lack of imagination required for t.v., videos and today's kid games by reading stories to your child. Reading is a great activity because your child creates images in his head as you read the words. Even though my children are seven and ten, I still read to them. We've read all the Harry Potter books and will soon be starting on the classics. Encourage older kids to take turns reading to develop their articulation skills and give you a little break.

When choosing kid games, select board games that allow the whole family to participate. Since each is playing at their own level, everybody will learn something. Kid board games that exercise your child's math, reading or spelling abilities or teach him important life skills are an important aspect of family togetherness.

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As for kid video games, make sure to make your selections wisely. Most big retail stores have video game systems available, so you can "try out the kid game" before you buy. Don't rely on the rating system (E=everyone, T=teen, A=adult). Instead, try the game yourself or watch your children play it first. Another idea is to rent it for a day. When deciding whether to buy a kid video game, consider the level of violence in the game. Are characters shooting at each other or trying to evade the law? Think about the message that this sends.

Make sure to consider the content. A game in which your child plays a driver who is being chased by the police implies that this kind of activity is okay.

Although many kid games are full of violence, it is fairly safe to stick with the sports-related games, but be careful—in some of these games, the players get in fist fights with each other or the referee when they don't like the way a play is called. This sets a poor example of sportsmanship. A good idea is to rent the game and check it out before you buy it for your kids.

One thing we do in our family to counteract these kinds of games, is watch feel-good family movies and classic movies that show strong character development. You can do this in your home without spending a lot of money by signing up for a service like Netflix lets you rent, watch and return DVDs from home - Try free for 2 weeks.We've found this is a great way to teach values and how certain choices in life lead to certain outcomes.

In play, as in real life, balance and variety are important keys to live by.

Kid Games - Kid Activities

Parenting Magazine

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