The school holidays are nearly over here. Chatterboy goes back to school next Wednesday, and Hungry Boy has his first day at big school next Thursday. So they will both have had five weeks of pretty relaxed holidays – going to the beach, and museums, visiting friends and other bits and pieces, but a lot of time hanging around at home.
We’ve let them play computer games a lot. Specifically one game, Lego Star Wars. Some days, if it was raining, they probably played for four hours. If you’d told me three or four years ago that this might happen, I would have been horrified. But watching them play together, it’s been a wonderful learning experience for both of them.
It’s a two player game, requiring cooperation. So they each play one of the characters, and have to cooperate to make it work. For example, to kill one of the monsters, they have to team up to work out how to drop a big gate on top of the monster. When they are trying to defeat some of the tougher characters they have to work out how to have one of them hit from the front, and one from behind.
They have to work out puzzles. To get to some of the special features, they have to work out things like building up a ramp so that their characters can get up to a higher place. They have to work out which of the various characters they have at their disposal they need at any given time – a robot that can open doors, or a Jedi fighter that can use the force, or something that can crawl into small spaces.
They have to learn persistence, as their characters die numerous times while they are trying to work out the puzzle of how to get to the next level. Their fine motor skills get a workout as they try and use the keyboard to make their characters move in exactly the right way to jump over moving lava flows.
They learn negotiation skills for when they both want to explore something in different directions – learning that just shouting at each other is unlikely to improve the situation.
And while we have had to do a bit of conflict resolution for them, most of the time I’ve been very impressed that the pull of the game has made them figure out how to work it out for themselves.
While I think “educational” computer games had a lot to do with teaching Chatterboy to read, this computer game has taught both boys some less “educational” but possibly more valuable life lessons.
Many parents are nervous about too much computer time. But in our household, Mr Penguin and I both spend a fair bit of our leisure time in front of a computer screen. And we have both earned a living based in part on our skills at navigating the world with the aid of a computer. So I think this has been a summer holiday very well spent.