Do You Play Video Games with Your Kids?

For many homeschool households, family game nights are a great way to enjoy each other’s company and some healthy competition. While both competitive and cooperative board games are quickly regarded as a rich tradition (as they should), video games are often viewed by parents with a stigma.

According to Sinem Siyahhan, an assistant professor at California State University at San Marcos, that stigma may come from the lack of interaction parents often have with video games. As a result, her advice is simple, “Don’t just let your kids play video games, but actually play with them.”

To help make video games a more positive parent-and-child activity (and maybe even add them to the family game night rotation), Consumer Reports recently offered these six practical tips for parents:

1. Let the adult pick the video game.
“Kids tend to be much more flexible than adults in this regard, so choose a game that’s not only age-appropriate but also something you want to play…This approach also gives parents the opportunity to evaluate video games ahead of time to make sure they don’t conflict with the family’s values.”

2. Take turns.
“It may seem counterintuitive, but if you’re looking for a friendly gaming experience, avoid multiplayer games. There’s far more opportunity for meaningful interaction if you choose a single-player game and take turns.”

3. Draw analogies.
“Many of today’s most popular games immerse the players in complex situations that require deliberate and sophisticated decision-making. These scenarios present you with teachable moments in which you can gently seed the conversation, drawing parallels from the onscreen action to real-world situations.”

4. Reverse roles.
“If you ask open-ended questions like ‘What just happened?’ and ‘What’s going to happen next?’ it encourages the child to develop the communication skills to explain how to play or improve. And when the parent doesn’t catch on immediately, kids must then display patience in their new role of teacher.”

5. Make an occasion of it.
“Experts agree that for many kids, especially tweens and teens, it becomes much easier to talk about anything when they have a joystick in their hands.”

6. Set limits.
“Firsthand experience can help you understand everything from when they should play (with certain games kids really do need a 10-minute warning before dinnertime) to the age-appropriateness of an individual title.”

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