Category Archives: Gaming with family

Parenting in the Digital Age

I recently went on a train. I have always liked them, but haven’t made many trips. In fact my dream is to make a train trip across the Rockies in Canada. There is something hypnotic about sitting by a window and watching the changing scenery with the rhythmic sounds of the train in the background. In the newer trains designed with tourists in mind, even the roof is transparent! In my head the train is a whole city moving through the landscape and as a child, I had loved the feeling of going forward as the landscape moved back!

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By Intel Free Press – http://www.flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress/9527140076/sizes/o/in/photostream/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27914424

Train journeys are a great time to reflect. These last few months my wife and I have been talking a lot about parenting in the digital age. It’s hard to bring up kids without the influence of digital devices.

The Pros

A digital education has many pros. Educational kids games help with learning. Schools use them extensively. Kids can find information easily. They can watch videos of things they want to know more about. Boring subjects can be made interactive and interesting. Textbooks can be done away with and teachers can compile their own material. Children can explore what they want. It improves their problem solving strategy. The list can go on and this is a good list. There’s no denying it.

The Cons

Human beings are social creatures and we live such that there is give and take. Isolation’s definitely not good for kids. Our biggest grouse against digital device is the fact that it isolates kids with their device. They might chat with others or they might have virtual friends, but physically it’s lonely.

Outdoor play reduces. For kids in their growing years, its very important to be physically active. They need a good dose of Vitamin N, especially in the growing years. They understand their surroundings when they tramp through the countryside. Snow, slush, rain, heat etc., kids must have exposure to all of it. Their senses are sharpened by spending time in nature.

With more time spent on digital devices, the ability to make by hand is reducing. In a time when devices were not available, kids commonly had hobbies which involved collecting, building or some other activity by hand. Building something not only helps kids pick up a skill, it also helps them understand how things work and the properties of materials.

Staring at devices for a long time causes eye problems in some people. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of eye problems in young people. When kids get involved in what they watch, they actually forget to blink!

The Middle Path

Completely cutting off kids from devices or not stopping them in any way are two extremes we need to avoid. We have given this a lot of thought. We can’t ban devices, because we continue to use them. What we can do is set a good example, by not using them while we eat or spend time with the kids. We must get more serious about the time we spend outdoors with the kids. Summer really helps as the time we spend outdoors naturally increases. If kids have something more interesting than the game they have on their device, they will be naturally be weaned off digital content. We should increase the activities we do together and kids might be encouraged to put away their games to explore this beautiful world!

 

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Math Games with Younger Kids

Mathematics can be fun for many, but can also be a monster for others. It’s unfortunate if kids are afraid of math even before they start regular school. Frequently this happens because parents are afraid, and they pass on their fears to the children.

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Happy Kids by Caio Vinicius Reis de Carvalho

One of the easiest ways to reduce this fear it to talk math. Yes, talk. Mathematics. Talk quarter pizzas and half burgers. Exchange 5 peanuts for an almond. Ask the kids to distribute fruit to the family. We must surround kids with numbers. This makes kids comfortable with numbers and their concepts. This exposure will help them throughout their lives. Just like sportive spirit, an appreciation of mathematics has to be imbibed. Sometimes playing games is a great way to get kids into math.

Here are three Math Games to play with Younger Kids:

  1. Count your Steps

Count your steps as you walk. It could be to the bathroom or just till the front door. You could call out a number and your kid calls out the next. Make it more interesting by singing out your numbers, or you could sound funny. This is also a great way for kids to advance their counting abilities. You could even try reverse counting.

2. Weigh things

This can be messy but fun. You might have to wait a bit until kids can read out numbers. Trust me kids love doing this. Ask them to weigh one object against the other, just using their hands. Occasionally you could ask them to load two small buckets. They they could lift the two and decide. At the park use the see saw to talk about weight. Start with imbalance and see if balance can be achieved with the help of other kids. Children like to weigh their shoes, food, books, toys etc. Beware of finding a used nappy on the scale!

3. Count and throw

This is a great game to be played indoors or outdoors. Keep a large container. Pile up a few things which will not break, and not hurt. Aim and throw them into the container. Keep count of the ones which land inside. This game is also good for improving hand eye coordination. If you have a mix of kids, change the distance they throw from. To make it more exciting, throw things into water. Make sure objects are waterproof and make sure the mess is outside the house. Alternatively, you could also stand at a height and drop things into a bucket. Just make sure the kids do this safely.

As kids start school most of them get on to playing math games. Schools maintain resource links for kids. Always play the game you are allowing your kids to play. If you are happy with it, let the kids play. Some teachers are enthusiastic enough to design games for kids. It is definitely an age where kids learn through games. In fact education and gaming are evolving together. In spite of all this the first games played at home are the ones which leave a deep impression.

 

 

 

 

About Fathering

My kids are preparing a Father’s Day gift for me. The signs are many – quick clearing of their table, going shopping with their mother(she is not a big fan of taking them shopping) and the unnatural stops in conversation when I enter their space!

The gifts I might get

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Image by Tazrian Khan

I am not ashamed to admit that I look forward to the gifts my kids give me. Last year I did not get a ‘thing’, but I got a chance to play dragon games with my kids. I was honored to be invited. This year I might get something made of papiermâché. How can I guess that, you ask? I smell it! Yes, I smelt it in their room, but saw no signs of any object drying out. So it must be a surprise for me!

I might also be getting a cake baked by a cousin, who has a bake and sell business from home. How do I know this? Well, I heard our older one speaking to her over the phone about a cake. There are no birthdays around, so it has to be for me – a gift for Father’s Day. I am not being smug, just enjoying the run up to Father’s Day.

Becoming a Father

Parenting was something my wife and I were looking forward to. While my wife got a barrage of advice from all and sundry when she started showing, I mostly got a pat on my back. Father’s are credited with contributing some genetic matter in the making of the baby and that’s it. Well, I wanted to be more. I have been a hands on father and loved every moment.

A bigger role

Recent studies show that fathers play a bigger role in parenting. It’s stupid and senseless, but I always envied the fact that whatever my wife had done in the past might have some effect on our baby. What she did during pregnancy could affect the child. What she did or did not do after delivering the baby too could affect the child. No one ever spoke of the effect I would have on the child. In the process of having a baby, no one gave me a special look. I just got the ordinary bored pat on the back. Recently studies have shown that fathers matter. In fact the way father’s have been before becoming a father contributes to the health of the baby. Most fathers would have loved not having this kind of influence, but I love it. It makes our children more ours rather than more the ‘mother’s’. Does that make sense? I used to be a little disappointed that the kids were not more tightly tied to me, but now I am not complaining!

I know Families Matter. I know kids need their mothers more than their fathers, especially in the younger ages. I know there are parents and super parents. I know all this, but I always like to know that I am tied in tight with my kids – biologically, emotionally, psychologically and in practical everyday life. I am an involved father.

All the more reason to look forward to Father’s Day. I am intrigued and impatient to see what I’ll get and I am glad the kids don’t read my blog!

How to Choose the Right Learning Games for Kids

Come summer, there are a variety of games kids can play – dance games, puzzle games, learning games, escape room games and the list can go on. It is not easy to find the right game for children. A good game is one that will add value to their education. This could be by assessing their understanding of the subject or giving them the practice they need in the right context to give them a better grasp of the concepts.

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DSC05907-001” by Laurie Sullivan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Here is a checklist that tells you what to look out for while looking for learning games.

Identify the Learning Goal

Before you even begin to look for a learning game, it is important to identify the purpose behind it. Narrow down the subject, topic, age and grade, and how you want to use the game to supplement classroom learning. If your first grader needs practice with addition via practice, then consider looking for games that cater to this specific goal.

Features of a Game

  • Interactivity – This feature keeps the children engaged as they have to be actively involved in taking a game forward. Their actions determine the flow of the game.
  • Good Story – Learning games that have a good story line or context can help children understand how and why a concept is applied. This could be as simple as a game of basketball that is used to practice addition or something that is long form and set within a virtual world. Graphics and music also add to the user experience. Not all games have a story or context in place.

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DSC05870” by Laurie Sullivan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  • Progress & Rewards – Learning games that have different progress levels and offer rewards for achievements can be motivating to children. Rewards can simply mean a line of encouragement and the points they earn.
  • Fun – We cannot underestimate the fun factor in any video game because that is the one feature that sets it apart from textbooks and worksheets, and makes games alluring to children.

Types of Learning Games

Learning games are good for kids. These games are designed keeping in mind the learning goals. Games to develop critical thinking skills can be presented as puzzles and strategy games. Other games include but are not limited to adventure, interactive reading, and role playing games.

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DSC05903” by Laurie Sullivan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There is a choice of paid and free digital learning games for kids on the internet, and you can factor that into your decision. With this checklist in place, it will be easier to find learning games that will benefit children.

Football Games for Kids – Who Plays Them?

Surprise, surprise. Football games for kids are no longer just for kids as older folks get on the online football bandwagon. What is it about football games that has caught the attention of grandkids and grandparents alike?

Playing Safe

Football games for kids are safe and easy to play, offering the excitement of the game while keeping aside the physicality of the game. This is good news for young children who are too young to play the rough game on field and older folk who cannot afford to risk injury.

The Tech Factor

The rise of interest in online games is also because more and more people own mobile phones, tablets and computers. Hence, the games are easily accessible. Factors that hamper going out like weather and distance don’t come into play when one is playing football games online. Technology also benefits folks who may be homebound due to health reasons.

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Owen teaching Dad…” by Jordan Brock is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Social Angle

There was a time when online gaming was considered a solitary activity. But this really depends on the choice of games. Many seniors play football games online on multiplayer platforms as it allows them to connect with other people across the world from the confines of their home.

This is also a great way for grandparents to bond with their grandkids who may not be living nearby. Kids can actually show them how to play and turn playing online games into a shared experience that strengthens their relationship with their grandparents.

Time to Play

Seniors have more time in hand. Due to their accessibility and easy controls, online games are a convenient option and a fun way to spend time. They are more interactive than reading books or watching telly.

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computers” by Jody Morris is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Health Kick

Kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from playing online games. Older folk also reap many benefits from playing games like football. Regular social interaction even if it is via games can boost the happiness quotient.  Online football games can improve executive functions, cognitive skills, memory, coordination, quick response and also offer mental stimulation.

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More talking with Grandma” by Lisa.B is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Apart from these football games for kids, for those grandparents who are looking for something more cerebral, there are plenty of puzzles to explore. They can also challenge their grandchildren to a game of Scrabble, DrawSomething and other games. Technology, once again, has emerged to bridge rather than widen the generation gap with gaming.

From Heroes at the Colosseum to Heroes in Mobile Games

Sport was one of the most popular forms of entertainment in ancient Rome. Armed combatants called gladiators in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire would entertain a tightly packed colosseum with violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals in the presence of their emperor. Gladiators, who reached the height of popularity under their emperor Claudius, either fought to death or till the first shedding of blood, and would eventually place the decision of the outcome of the fight on the emperor. He would then either signal death with a raised fist with the thumb sticking out upwards or deliver mercy with a raised fist with no extended thumb. Most of these gladiators were either slaves or came from socially marginalized races and would fight till their last breath to exemplify the Roman martial ethic of ‘fighting or dying well’. The heroes of this violent sport have been celebrated in both high and low forms of art and commemorated in the Roman world though they were mostly treated as social outcasts during their lifetime.

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Coliseo, Coliseum by Vicente Villamón is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Other sports such as cursus (running), lucta (wrestling), pugilatus (boxing), pentathlon (consisting of jumping or leaping, the foot-race, throwing of the discus, throwing of the spear, wrestling), and pancratium (a combination of wrestling and boxing and martial arts) were also common sports in ancient Rome. Violence and bloodshed were two common threads that linked one Roman sport with another. Records say some Roman heroes were felicitated while others were segregated even in death.

Sports on the field

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2012 0921 JPII football 17 by Tim Donovan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Today, sports have evolved. Though there still exist, violent sports like rugby, wrestling, and boxing, they are played adhering to strict and fair rules and regulations. While the winner is commemorated, the loser is not humiliated either. Events such as the Olympics and World Cups offer fair ranks to first, second and third runners up in case of tournaments with many teams. While wrestling and other fighting sports have evolved into Krav Maga, Freestyle boxing, Judo, and kickboxing, soccer and football have evolved into modern day rugby, freestyle football, Paralympic football, futsal, cubbies, flag football, and more. You’ll be wrong if you thought these sports are played only on the fields and indoor arenas. With evolution, they have moved beyond and further. They have migrated to electronic gadgets such as our phones and tablets and taken the world by storm. Children who are shy to take to the fields and prefer to watch these sports on television sets have started to play such participatory sports.

Sports on mobile phones and other electronic devices

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“Worm Attack!” Mobile Game Helps Rid Communities of Intestinal Worms by USAID U.S. Agency for Inter is licensed under CC BY 2.0

GameDay Heroes is an app from the NFL stable aimed at getting kids on board. It can be played over a Wi-Fi connection with friends and family. The game consists of multiple football-based mini games that give children the scope to indulge in participatory sports. The game acquaints kids with NFL teams, jerseys and other gears, and allows them to dabble a little with shadow football. In a nutshell, it gives children a chance to explore the world of football and grow an interest for the sport in the most encouraging and entertaining way. While “Spot What’s Not” is a mini Game Day Heroes game where children have to spot the differences between two scenes straight from a football field, “Scrimmage Swap” is a tile swapping game where NFL helmets act as the different tiles. Anybody and everybody can be a hero in this mobile game, without shedding a single drop of blood or having to fight it off in real life on the field in front of a tightly packed auditorium!

It has been a long journey for sports – from the Colosseum to phones and tablets in young hands.

Gaming Grandma

I saw a strange scene last week. Grandma and grandson were sitting very companionably and playing a computer game – she on her tablet, a gift from her daughter, and my son on his device!

I picked up my poor surprised jaw off the floor and walked into the kitchen. As the door shut, I could hear my mom shout out, “Beat you!” with great gusto. My mom watched a lot of sports (and she could be very vocal about her support), but she had never played a single computer game as far as I knew. She and my son had spent many wonderful hours playing other games at the park and at home.

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Image credit: makelessnoise

Maya, my wife, explained that a few days ago, my mom had asked our son if she could watch him play his computer game. After many instructions and explanations, they seemed to have found a nice rhythm to their play. They started taking turns playing on his device. Once she got comfortable, out came her as-yet-unused tablet. Now, she was playing a multi-player game on her tablet, against her grandson on a different device!

Curious to know what they were playing, I sauntered over and watched. They were playing something called Food Flick, flicking food to people in the stadium. Busy flicking burgers and sodas they answered me in grunts and monosyllables. I interpreted their communication and understood that my football mad mom and son had downloaded the NFL Rush Zone app meant for kids called – Game Day Heroes. What they were playing  was a mini game from the app.

Gaming which is beneficial for Seniors

With the rise of memory loss in the elderly, doctors and researchers have been suggesting games as a good way to keep the brain active so as to slow down the effects of age-related cognitive decline. It’s believed that certain problem-solving skills and strategizing, that is required in gaming, might slow down the effects of aging on the brain.

Interestingly, gaming, which was considered an industry that targeted the youth, now also targets the elderly! For the elderly who have restricted movement, gamification of real life activities (which they can no longer do, like walking a forest trail) will add a new dimension in their lifestyle. The challenges are many as seniors might be hesitant to use digital media. This could be eased if real world experiences are created with easy to use interfaces. Also, they can use digital media to keep in touch socially.  Interestingly, games have been found to be better than anti-depressants for solving depression problems.

Other Grandmas and Gaming

This old commercial actually features a gaming grandma and her grandson on a game which was very popular, but that’s just an old commercial. Here’s a real life gaming grandma on MTV.

Perhaps it was the effect of one of her oldest and dearest friends being diagnosed with dementia. I’m not sure what had got my mom interested in her grandson’s games, but I’m glad she was. Computer games are a great way to bridge the generation gap.