WHAT is the deal with Minecraft?
That’s what I wanted to find out when my seven year old daughter came home from “electronic day” at her Edmond day camp, talking about how all her friends were playing Minecraft on their devices that day. I had sent her to day camp with my Kindle Fire loaded with a few kid-friendly apps, as the closest thing she’s got to a personal electronic device is a Leap Pad and it was of course, conveniently out of batteries. After hearing her talk about Minecraft, I did some online research (which runs a BROAD range of parent opinions, BTW), talked to parents I knew, teens that played it, teachers that used it, and filed all this info away in my head.
However, she kept talking about it. So a few weeks later, we downloaded the Minecraft Pocket edition for the Kindle as a reward for chores and began exploring with her. At first, we didn’t get it. She was thrilled each time she was given the opportunity to play Minecraft, but to us the graphics looked very old-school and pixelated and we couldn’t figure out why it was so fun to just build stuff out of blocks.
And then our teenage daughter bought it for the Xbox. My husband began to play it with both girls and got totally on the Minecraft train. He has a great eye for design and was able to build ELABORATE things like a roller coaster, a glass house, a beautiful church and much more. The three of them now design dream worlds and houses together all while sitting beside each other on the couch.
The more you learn about Minecraft, the more possibilities and variations you will find in playing this game, so I absolutely encourage you to do your own research. I can tell you, however, that there are two basic modes: Creative Mode and Survival Mode. In Creative Mode, a player can easily find building materials and build without the threat of zombies attacking. Players in Creative Mode do not have to worry about hunger or health and can create detailed constructions without those worries. In Survival Mode, a player is required to find their own resources (including food & building supplies), survive the elements, and evade monsters.
As a mom, here’s what I LOVE about Minecraft:
- It promotes creativity, exploration, and imagination. Minecraft starts with an open-ended canvas and allows the user to create a world, structures, and many other elements that bring that user’s ideas to life. All the while, the user is also exploring the Minecraft world around them and experiencing the thrill of finding new things.
- It provides the opportunity to use problem-solving skills. In certain modes, a Minecraft player will need to find food in order to stay healthy and locate supplies for building while also figuring out how to build certain structures. These are only a few of the possible scenarios where problem-solving becomes the player’s responsibility.
- It improves vocabulary. Before long, a child who plays Minecraft will be using words such as “biome”, “spawn”, “ore”, “flint”, and “pickaxe” regularly…and will know what they’re talking about. Or they may just come home from the school book fair with a Minecraft book they can’t put down.
As a mom, here’s what I DON’T LOVE about Minecraft:
- It’s addictive. This is where your house screen time rules apply. My advice is to be specific with how many minutes a day/week your child can play or watch on a screen, how they earn screen time, or use game play as a reward.
- There are options to play on a multiplayer server that is hosted by an unknown stranger. We choose not to play on these servers at this time. There are chat options in multiplayer servers which gives these unknown players the opportunity to ask your child for personal info, or use inappropriate language and/or bullying tactics in the game.
- Some YouTube Minecraft tutorials or videos of Minecraft play have adult language in them. Be aware of what your child is watching regarding Minecraft. Do you use YouTube kids? No problem. It will filter the videos and only present child-friendly versions. Please know that there are many Minecraft YouTube videos that are cute, creative stories or helpful tutorials and are very appropriate for children.
- There are monsters and killing. In Survival mode, a player will encounter monsters such as creepers, zombies, skeletons, and endermen. A player may have to fight these monsters in order to survive. Also in Survival mode, players may need to kill animals for food but I think it’s important to note that players can also kill animals unnecessarily.
I have to say, I think children can learn a lot by playing Minecraft and now enjoy watching our family play it. I feel that parents can let their child enjoy playing Minecraft, if they find it appropriate for their family, and as long as they are monitoring their child’s use. And occasionally I use the time the rest of the family is playing Minecraft to watch something on TV in the other room, where the programming DOESN’T have Jr. in the name.
And hey: I won’t tell if you find yourself playing Minecraft after the kids have gone to bed.
I mean, what mom hasn’t dreamt of creating their own perfect world?