Views on Video Games – Content & Playtime

I don’t think that there is as polarizing an issue in parenting today as the one that centres around kids and video games. On one side, there are avid gamers who defend their stance that games offer benefits that other activities don’t. On the other, there are people who believe that video games are a mindless pastime and create a culture of non-interactivity.

Due to there being so many different viewpoints and opinions, it is hard to zero in on what actually needs to be addressed when it comes to what and how often our kids are playing. Even a quick Google search on the issue will take you down a rabbit hole of data, stats, and studies that cover everything from suggested play time to combating video game addiction.

At the end of the day though, as parents, all we really want to know is whether the activities our children are participating in are providing safe and positive experiences. I find that if we frame the discussion around this simple idea, it can be much easier to come to some conclusions about what is best for them when it comes to their video game/screen time habits.

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Surviving Summer

I have always found the months of May and June to be a fascinating time of year. When I was a kid, the anticipation of summer vacation and 2 months off from school (at least in Canada) was always something that helped me push through what usually ended up being a busy time of the year. As I got older and started teaching, that anticipation for summer vacation turned into downright giddiness. Nothing got me more amped than knowing I was getting two whole months off from work with no responsibilities or timelines to adhere to.

Then, I had kids.

Nothing changes the vibe of time off work like having children around all…the…time! It doesn’t matter whether you’re off for the whole summer or for only one week, going from seeing each other for 3-4 hours a day to being together 100% of the time definitely can test your patience and sanity. When my son and daughter were very young, I found that it wasn’t all that difficult (surprisingly) to manage all of our time together because my main focus was simply keeping them alive. If we managed to make it outside or to the store, I considered it to be a major success.

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Games That Teach – Cooperative Games

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I had just recently learned about the world of table-top board gaming and how a lot of these games can be used with kids to teach and reinforce a number of different concepts.

What I neglected to talk though was the inevitable occurrence that happens to all of us whenever we play games with our kids. There comes a time during every game where you, as the adult, have to decide whether you are going to let your kid win or crush their dreams all in the name of victory.

I will be honest in saying that while I wholeheartedly agree that letting your kid win a game is probably the right thing to do, a part of me can’t help but feel a little cheated because letting somebody win goes 100% against what I believe in. I, like a lot of people, am a fairly competitive person and so allowing someone to just swoop in and win a game that we’ve been playing for an hour + feels somewhat counterintuitive.

Luckily, our family has discovered cooperative board games. Cooperative games allow for all of the fun of a traditional board game without having to deal with the competitiveness that some people (ahem…namely me) bring to the table. At first, the idea of a cooperative experience in board gaming seemed a little strange because I figured there was no way that playing with other people could be as exciting or satisfying as playing against them.

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5 Ideas for Helping your Kids with Goal Setting

A few months back, I began to set up a plan for my 8 year old to increase his understanding of the multiplication table. Knowing that his class was working on multiplication, I thought I’d help him get a jump on the material so that he could be successful and and as a result, feel accomplished. I created a chart that had some clearly defined goals and then inserted some rewards for accomplishing those milestones. When I introduced it to him, he was all for it. He began practicing right then and there in order to achieve his first reward, which was going out for ice cream. Fast forward two months, and the chart hasn’t been touched since that first day.

Now, I realize that the easy thing to do would be to blame myself for not enforcing a strict routine or plan for him to follow or to blame him for not following through. In reality though, I should really be blaming that chart that I made. That’s not to say that the idea behind the chart was wrong as extrinsic motivation is still a proven method to drive people to succeed, but the main problem with the chart was that it was born from my goals and not his. I didn’t consult with him about the milestones of the multiplication table or even the rewards, and so to think that he would be motivated to achieve it seems a little silly now.

This realization got me to shift my thinking from setting particular goals for my kids to being a part of the goal setting process with them. Through talking with other parents and reflecting on the teaching practices that have been successful in my classroom, I have put together a plan of sorts that hopefully will help us move from telling kids what they need to achieve and focus more on how to get them to develop realistic plans and value the accomplishments that they do achieve. After all, if we want our kids to be independent and critical thinkers, sometimes we have to get out of our way and allow for that to happen.

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Books for Kids – 3 Reading Recommendations From an 8-Year-Old

As an English teacher, I get asked for book recommendations – a lot. Whether it’s a student asking for themselves or a parent asking for their teenager, it’s assumed (and rightfully so, I suppose) that I would have book recommendations locked and loaded. The truth is though, I have always struggled with this because half the time, I don’t even know what I want to read, let alone tap into what someone else would be interested in.

Over the past 10 or so years, I have amassed a pretty decent classroom library that I can now direct people to, but early on those were mostly made up of whatever was popular at the time that I bought them, not necessarily what was good or interesting. It wasn’t until I started compiling a list of student recommendations that I was able to include a variety of books that covered diverse and relevant topics for teens. Nowadays, I feel that I can provide decent suggestions to people seeking something to read because I can call back to what other students have said about them.  Continue reading “Books for Kids – 3 Reading Recommendations From an 8-Year-Old”