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Are children learning when they’re playing games online?

Children are spending more and more time on their devices, particularly playing games like Pokemon Go, World of Warcraft, FIFA, and Minecraft. In addition, a study about educational games shows nearly 60% of teachers use educational video games weekly in their classroom, and 18% use them daily.

When we host parent workshops, one common questions we get is, “is my child actually learning when they’re playing games online?” According to the New Media Institute, “To progress in a game is to learn – when we are actively engaged with a game, our minds are experiencing the pleasure of grappling with (and coming to understand) a new system. This is true whether the game is considered “entertainment” (e.g., World of Warcraft) or “serious” (e.g., an FAA-approved flight simulator).”

With the gamification of education happening in your child’s classroom, they may be playing educational video games that increase their math or reading skills, but what about the ones they like to play at home? Are games like Pokemon Go, FIFA, or Minecraft helping them learn and grow? Games don’t need to be labeled “educational” for your child to learn from them.

By playing video games, your child can gain:

Reading & Writing Skills

Often times, your child will need to read and write to advance in video games they play. As an example, a child favorite, Minecraft, helps with their communications skills! In the game, players must read prompts, be able to comprehend what the prompt says, and act accordingly to move on in the game. Minecraft doesn’t have a user manual, so users post on message boards and forums to help others understand the game. Your child can improve their reading and writing skills by reading how-to posts and posting their own.

Problem Solving Skills

A large part of a video game experience is failure. When your child fails in a video game, they will use problem solving skills to figure out what went wrong and what they can do to be successful the next time. In FIFA for example: if trying to score a goal for the right side didn’t work, what if I tried scoring from the left? Will the outcome be different?


Through playing video games, your child can strengthen and gain friendships. If your child plays a game that their friends are also playing, such as Pokemon Go, they’re able to bond with others by sharing successes and failures they’ve had in the game. Online, your child has the opportunity to make friends with others who also play the same game during game play, or in forums.

Talk to your child about the games they’re playing and evaluate what they might be learning from them. The skills your child learns from video games not only help them in the classroom, but later in life.


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