When it comes to playing video games, we pretty much have the same approach and attitude here as we do with any other activity. That is, everything within reason and keep an open mind. We also approach gaming with an interest in learning ourselves. We’ve all heard of Minecraft, it’s nothing new. But I’m surprised at how many parents tell me their kids love this game, but they, themselves, don’t really know too much about it.

That’s not uncommon. Lots of parents just feel they aren’t into gaming or wouldn’t understand so while their kids are playing, parents are doing something else. Having chatted with a few parents, we all know there are some great skills learned from this particular game, so we’re a bit more at ease. I had once asked my younger son what he’s learned from this game. His response? “Patience and time management.” Say what?

Yup. He’s explained that sometimes things don’t work out the way you want to and you need to have patience to figure out what you need and how to deal with unexpected situations. Plus things need to get done before nightfall in the game so you need to keep that in mind.

That response prompted me to grab a controller and play along with him, and my niece and nephew, who come over from time to time.

Minecraft was created in 2009 by  Markus Persson. It went viral online without a marketing machine behind it. Soon kids and adults around the world caught on.. The game jumped onto gaming consoles including Microsoft XBOX with better graphics and ever growing improvements to the content.

The game has come a long way since it began, today, even parents and educators are given tools to help get the best out of Minecraft by offering online support and lessons for a wide range in ages starting at 3 years old. We’ve spent a lot of time exploring the many different lessons. A great example is the lesson on Biodiversity where you can create your Minecraft world and ecosystem and find ways to look to the future for possible solutions.

If you haven’t played before, basically you can play in creative mode or survival mode. In Creative mode, you can build your world, raise crops and animals, get along with the village people… you get the picture. In Survival mode, you’ll be confronted with challenges while creating your world. Creepers, spiders, mobs, monsters and all sorts of stuff comes at you.

Here are some other things we’ve learned while playing with the kids and watching them develop their thought processes. And, besides, the conversations are pretty hilarious!

PATIENCE: This is the one learning that every player, regardless of age, will tell you is necessary while playing. Nothing comes quickly here but the outcome can be worth it. A lot of trial and error happens while playing that stem from basic everyday situations and science concepts.

CREATIVITY: because there are no boundaries, Minecraft allows players the freedom to explore and learn through their experiences here.It encourages self expression and plenty of opportunity for problem solving. There are many resources available for the player to make their own worlds.

COLLABORATION: Yes, Minecraft can be a single player but there are options to play with friends, family, classmates, coworkers etc. Collaborating with others can mean working together with a common objective but it can also mean solving conflicts and negotiations. This is my favourite as I will play along side my kid (split screen) and he’ll tell me what I should do or what I should watch out for. Not uncommon for me to be yelling “uh, what is that? what do I do?!” and he’ll navigate me through with confidence and thoughtful process.

“You’ll want the shovel made of diamond, it’s the strongest material of them all.”

“Pull the carrots from the garden and feed the piggies. Take care of them and they’ll have babies.”

Gotcha. By the way, you can play up to 4 people on split screen.

MOTIVATION & ENCOURAGEMENT: Research is a good idea in this game and you may find yourself running to YouTube or Googling tips to gain more insight. The Minecraft community worldwide is strong and won’t hesitate to offer tips and ideas. There are plenty of tutorials available as well. But wandering the game, if you have the patience, can reveal many interesting findings.

INSPIRATION: Have you been on Pinterest? There are some seriously incredible structures there and others have gone so far as to offer their blueprints. Through our Xbox One S console, my kid has shown me how he’s gone online to play on other servers that have been created by others right within Minecraft game with missions to complete. He’s been pretty inspired by the coders and designers and what they’ve done. But also, it’s my favourite time to ask (not-so-stupid) questions like “sooooo, are you conversing with them?” Hard NO. This is where I can get a gauge on his level of activity without having to put on any parental restrictions, which, by the way, you can on the console if you’re concerned. If he’s online, he plays mostly with his friends and the Xbox and screen are right in my sight line in the family room next to the kitchen…where I am most of the time.

CONFIDENCE BUILDING: when eyes are off you and into a different realm, you can feel less judged. There’s actually a positive here. It’s no surprise that some of the shyest kids tend to gravitate to the gaming world to build that confidence without being the centre of attention. It’s more about your skills rather than appearances.

CODING: it’s no longer a term that is associated with computer geeks. Far from! I remember being one of two female students enrolled in a coding (aka computer literacy) program as a teen. Unfortunately, I wasn’t encourage to continue by my teacher as he concentrated on the male students and I wish I had the courage to push back. Now coding is everywhere. Coding is the language of now and the future so in reality learning and understanding coding is a huge asset in many fields. I’ve learned the Minecraft Hour of Code is a free, one-hour introduction to the basics of coding and available to everyone. It can lead them to positive  and enhanced gaming experience as mentioned already.

BEYOND THE SCREEN: There’s much more to Minecraft that expands learning in so many fun ways especially when there are kids that are so passionate about it. There are many great resources including a Minecraft: Guide to Exploration and a Minecraft: Guide to Creativity that we’ve found very informative. My  7 year old nephew has been pouring over the books that’s been full of tips and explanations far beyond my capacity! Don’t tell him!

If you’re a Minecraft lover, or just starting out, you might be interested in the ultimate Xbox One S Minecraft Limited Edition Bundle (1TB) available through the Microsoft Store, online and other reputable retailers. It comes with a really cool “Creeper” wireless controller. See details here.

Minecraft is rated 10+ for everyone.

On a side note, I was pleasantly surprised to see more games on Xbox that are geared to families with younger children. Stay tuned as we’ll take a look at a few fun titles!





*Disclosure: We love games! But this post was not paid for, however we were provided with the console and game for experience sharing purposes only. BTW, that piggy controller is mine!