gamer_kids_644x410.jpgIs your child a gamer?

Does he or she love nothing more than to be glued to the end of a video game controller or hunched over a handheld device, desperate to reach that next level or power-up?

While parents and educators are increasingly seeing the educational and developmental benefits of gaming, many are also looking for ways to harness this passion and push its skill and aptitude-developing potential.

"Video games are not a ‘waste of time',” says Scott King, director of education at Real Programming 4 Kids, who says gaming can actually make people smarter, help cognitive function and even improve the world.

Still, many parents are looking for ways to take use this passion and any related inherent talents to help their kids on potential paths towards careers in such things as game design and computer programming.

boy_on_gameboy_204x306.jpg“We hear it from parents all the time in our program,” says King. “They know their kid is interested in video games but want them to do more with it.”

Sandra Burt and Linda Perlis, authors of “Raising a Successful Child: Discover and Nurture Your Child's Talents,” say it is important that parents take cues from their kids on what they love and want to do with their lives.

“The support, encouragement, and nurturing offered by parents is a determining factor in the development of a child's talents,” says Burt. Perlis says, “We need to give our children permission to follow their own interests and talents, and we can be optimistic about the results.”stacked_books.jpg

Scott King’s Tips for Parents:
  • Enroll your kids in a video game developing class, workshop or camp like Real Programming 4 Kids;
  • Check out books in the library helping kids learn just what’s behind the story-making, gaming structure and technicalities of making a game;
  • Watch YouTube series teaching kids computer programming basics;
  • Log onto discussion forums to find solutions to problems your kids may be having in a game or in learning about gaming/programming on their own;
  • Try some of the many free and high-quality educational resources for kids like Scratch from MIT, Codeacademy or Code.org;

Sarah Drew, founder and CEO of Every1games.ca, says parents of gamers can harness this interest in gaming and increase their kids’ learning in a number of ways:

Sarah Drew's Tips for Parents:
  • Kids can make up their own board game with basic craft supplies, making the rules as complex or simple as they wish. Encourage your kids to play with themes, characters, objects and puzzles.
  • Why not rework an old physical game like Hopscotch? Or make up a whole new game with a deck of cards? These activities will help foster skills to help kids think like a game designer.
  • Gamemaker 8 is a novice-level and free game design program that can be downloaded from YoYoGames.
  • Ladies Learning Code also runs Kids Learning Code and Girls Learning Code classes and camps throughout the year

minecraft_logo_160x147.jpgPaul Dias, program teacher at the kids’ after school and weekend Focus Learning Centre, recommends both Lego play and Minecraft. "I'm a devoted Lego person,” says the former high school teacher. “I think it develops amazing spatial mechanics, creativity, patterning and a keen architectural mind. Somebody had to think of the Acropolis before it actually happened. Somebody had to visualize it and make a plan.”

Kids are “nuts” for Minecraft, he says. “(The game) takes planning, strategy, forward thinking, planning for the unexpected… marshalling resources… The kids learn about ore, metals, natural resources, ecological awareness and so much more."