2017 has been a crazy year for our family, and one of the craziest things that my husband and I attempted this year was trying to game with our toddler. Without much information to guide us, we had to improvise and experiment with integrating our two-year-old into our gaming life since he really wanted to join us. We had plenty of missteps this year trying to figure out how to game with a toddler, but we have learned a lot of exciting things!
- Young children should never be allowed to game unsupervised. This is something my husband and I did not have to learn by mistake. We both agreed that this needed to be a rule from the get go about how we were going to let our child join us. There are a lot of reasons why it’s important for your child to be supervised while gaming.
- First of all, your child needs you to provide structure, limits, and rules. They will learn how to be a responsible little gamer from your example, so be smart about your gaming habits.
- Secondly, a young child will not be able to recognize safe and appropriate content. Matt and I avoid having games that have a high ESRB rating downloaded on our systems. The reason for this is because while we don’t let our son pick up our systems and play alone, there have been times when he’s managed to sneak a mobile system, turn it on, to try and play alone. Because of this, Matt and I don’t have any games downloaded on our systems that have content we feel would be inappropriate for him to access. The games we have which have a higher rating such as T, and the few M rated games we own, are only kept as physical copies, and are never left in the systems when they aren’t being used.
- Choose games you can take at a slow pace! Games where you can slow down and take your time are great for toddlers. One of the reasons why I love playing games with my son is because I don’t feel pressured to move at a fast pace, and I get to give him the opportunity to try and figure things out. As a rule my son is a passive participant in a lot of video games that we play; he usually is not holding a controller, instead he watches and provides input. My husband and I have played single player games in this way plenty of times; switching who is playing, while the other is watching and problem solving. Our son loves puzzles and he loves problem-solving, and it has always been difficult to keep him stimulated with what we have on hand. Allowing him the time he needs to solve the problems on-screen helps to stimulate his need for challenge, but that means you have to stop and give him the time to do so.
- Set goal limits, not time limits. In spite of what a lot of people say, setting a time limit is easier said than done. In the beginning we tried to set a reasonable time limit for play time, usually 20 minutes. We quickly discovered that if we set a timer and stopped when it went off, it led to a lot of tantrums. When the timer went off and we stopped playing our son had no sense of closure from what we were doing. As we progressed further in developing our gaming routine we switched to a goal based system. We set a reasonable goal that will take us approximately 20 minutes to complete. For example, completing one level in Ducktales Remastered took approximately 20 minutes, and collecting five Power Moons in Super Mario Odyssey usually took about 20 minutes. More fun, less fighting. Parenting win!
So those are the main things we learned in our first year of allowing our son to join in on gaming. Here are a few games that we played this year, and a few specific notes about them:
Ducktales Remastered (Multiple Platforms, we played on the PlayStation 3): This was the first game we completed with our toddler. It’s a short and simple 2.5D platformer available on all the last generation consoles, as well as on Steam and Mobile Devices. Click here to read my full review and about our experience.
Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch): Our son loves Mario, so we decided to let him sit in on our playthrough of Super Mario Odyssey when it came out. It’s a very fun, almost open world 3D platformer with the typical Mario charm. Watch out for the Tyrannosaurus Rex! Click here to read my first impression, and about some of the experience. I recommend at least finishing the main story; the ending is hilarious.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch): We loved letting our son join us, with his own controller, in this great racing game. I actually was invited to a Mario Kart tournament by a friend of mine, and I brought him along with me; he got to watch people play a bunch of versions of Mario Kart. It was a great afternoon of bonding time for the two of us.
Miitopia (Nintendo 3DS): This simple and silly turn based RPG is a really fun game utilizing Nintendo’s now defunct Mii System. You are able to put anyone into any role in the story. My son and I built Miis of our entire family and he got to fit them, as well as a bunch of fan made Miis available online, into the story, making it entirely our own. It does involve a lot of reading, so silly voices and bad imitations abound as I’ve been going through this game with him.
Pokemon Sun and Moon (Nintendo 3DS) While we didn’t let our son play the main game with either of us,(we each played one of the versions) we let him play with the Pokemon Refresh mini-game. In this mini-game you get to pet and feed the Pokemon in your team. As you do this, your Pokemon bond with you, and will perform better in the game. On my game he even has a pet Pichu he named Dave, and he loves getting to take care of his little virtual pet.
Toca Life: Town (Android, Amazon Fire, IOS): This app by the Swedish children’s app developer Toca Boca is a bit like a virtual dollhouse. It gives you a bunch of items and characters to manipulate, dress up, and combine. What you can do within the game is entirely up to your child’s imagination. My son loved having swimming parties at the lake, and going to the grocery store to shop.
Well, there is a summary of some of the stuff we learned in 2017 about gaming with toddlers. I’m looking forward to introducing my son to children’s board games in 2018!
What are some special hobbies you are sharing with your kids?
*This Post contains Affiliate Links