I speak with parents frequently about Minecraft. Some parents love it: it provides a creative outlet and keeps their kid out of trouble. Other parents hate it: it is an addictive waste of time, violent, and their kids always want to buy the Minecraft books at the book fair.
As a former classroom teacher, my feelings for many years fell primarily in the second camp. I hadn’t ever played it, and kids would go to the book fair, buy these books, and ALWAYS want to “read” them during reading time. It drove me crazy! I needed Minecraft explained to me! I know from speaking with parents that many kids who were addicted to “reading” the books had never even played the game! Back then, there was definitely a social pressure to like Minecraft.
Over time my opinion of Minecraft has changed dramatically. First off, I was bored on a Friday night and sat down to play the game for a few hours. I was immediately sucked into survival mode with the challenge of surviving the night. Once I had survived the night, the challenges kept mounting. How do I eat? How do I eat cooked food? How do I farm? How do I make a bed so I don’t have to stay up all night? How do I find iron for better tools? How do I explore a dungeon without dying? What is redstone?
There are still many questions I haven’t answered, and even though I have played Minecraft a decent amount, kids in our classes still poke fun at me and how I play. I am slow, and I don’t understand nearly as much as they do. It takes a long time to learn all there is to learn in Minecraft. It is a truly endless game.
Aside from concerns about screen time in general, Minecraft provides with a great creative outlet and an opportunity to build interesting structures to their heart’s content. It’s an equivalent to LEGOs without having to buy and store all of those bricks! In that sense it’s significantly better bang for your buck and kids can and should learn some important computer skills, like using a mouse and typing, as well as coding and basic server functions.
Minecraft also teaches a lot of coding and problem solving skills. At Coder Kids, we are always encouraging kids to look up solutions to their own problems, primarily on Google. When I am playing Minecraft, my phone is right with me so that I can look up questions any time I have them. I guess people in the early days of Minecraft herded sheep through trial and error, but I am glad that there is an answer out there about how to do it (it is wheat in case you’re wondering).
Also, consider the memorization skills that kids are building during their Minecraft play. Most kids these days may not be memorizing the Gettysburg address, but they can absolutely tell you how to create a diamond sword on their crafting table. I’m not a child development expert, but to me the process of memorization and recall is an important skill that Minecraft teaches very effectively.
Admittedly, I’m not a Minecraft expert, and I interact with kids who have a lot more hours of playtime than I do. In order to really have Minecraft explained, you’re probably gonna have to try it out (just a little bit!) That said, let me conclude with a few tips for parents from my perspective about improving your child’s Minecraft play.