I remember the day I heard of Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, Deceptively Delicious. Somehow this woman was successfully slipping spinach into her kids’ brownies, and moms everywhere took notice. Genius, I thought. This woman knows parenthood intimately. She too has had the dream of kids being healthy and happy at the same time.
My fourteen-year-old recently introduced me to an iPod/iPhone/Android game called Flow (free)—it’s a puzzle game, and the object is to connect matching coloured dots to each other to create a ‘flow' pipe, which somewhat resembles a road map. Navigation and visual/spacial tasks have always been an issue for me (and by me, I mean all of us, as my getting lost does end up being a family problem). I need to work on these skills, and now I can do so from the comfort of my home. I like to think that I am rewiring my brain (even though the Special Ed teacher in me knows that I am about thirty-five years too late to get the most bang for my efforts).
Flow also has the benefit of reinforcing problem–solving skills, demonstrating that the solution to a problem does not always come easily, may require creative thinking, and will often require an investment of time and effort. When the kids are playing this game, they are learning that if the first strategy does not work, they must look at the problem a different way. My daughter thought I was nuts when she saw me turn my phone upside down to look at the puzzle from a new perspective. She thinks I play it because it’s fun, which is half true.
Minecraft is like an animated, computerized version of really complex building with Lego. If you know Lego, you know that the two frustrations that accompany it are: a) not having enough pieces, and b) finding the pieces you need when they’re mixed in with the other bits and blocks. Minecraft has eliminated these problems, because the pieces are virtual and organized. Both Lego and Minecraft are building games that give players the power to create 3D structures and, therefore, teach and reinforce spacial awareness, geometrical concepts, patterning, and even number sets when you consider the little bumps on the bricks.
Do you think I advertise these facts to our kids? If they even thought that I was remotely happy with their choice to play these games over Call of Duty or some other bang–em-up, shoot-em-down other option, they might rethink their choice. Why mention the spinach when all they notice is brownie? I may not be able to navigate to my own brother’s house, but I know when to keep my mouth shut. Usually.
For more educational kids apps and games that are fun to play, click here.