My kids are gamers, there’s no doubt about it. It’s not terribly surprising I suppose. Matt and I grew up in the video game generation. Between the two of us, we’ve owned every video game console created. Even into our adult lives we’ve continued to enjoy video games. We actually ran a virtual Wii Bowling league for about 2-3 years that was a lot of fun.
Brendan’s been playing video games now for probably 4 years. Wii bowling was simple enough that he was on a team in the bowling league during most of the sessions. Then one Christmas he got his first game console. It was very simplistic, the controls looked something like a computer keyboard and most of the games were “point and click,” and really helped teach kids simple preschool concepts such as shapes, colors, and counting. After about a year or so, he started to outgrow that console, and received his first hand held game for his birthday. Again, it was pretty simple (and educational) and taught him to use a stylus. Last year he really started getting into the Wii and mastered Mario Kart. Matt and I thought he might be ready for a DS (the hand held Nintendo system), but we weren’t sure. Luckily we had one that was a few years old that we didn’t use any more, and it had some games that would be appropriate for someone his age, so we let him try it. He took to it like a fish to water, and after doing some research we figured out that, while it wasn’t the most recent version, the DS we had was still compatible with the games being released and that we wouldn’t need to buy a new DS for him.
Cameron is about the same age as Brendan when he started on his video game path, so we hooked up the old console and introduced Cameron to that. He has the ability to do it, and will ask to play it once in a while, but for the most part he’s not terribly interested in it. For a while all he wanted to do was watch Brendan play DS. So our next thought was that maybe he was ready to play a hand held game. We dug out Brendan’s old hand held game and tried that out. Unfortunately the educational games it provided weren’t nearly as interesting as those that Brendan got to play, and so within a few weeks he had no desire to play with it any longer. We went through a rough patch for a while, with him shadowing Brendan constantly and unwilling to play any of his video game options, but then he started preschool. Amazingly, the preschool has an iPad lab. I would never have thought that 4-5 year olds would be responsible enough to play on an iPad, but Cameron absolutely fell in love with the iPad lab, and would come home from preschool and tell us all about it. That gave us a new idea. We had an iPod touch that used to be mine from when I was working. It doesn’t get much use these days since I’ve been staying at home. I didn’t even game on it much since I had an iPhone to do that. So we charged it up, and downloaded a bunch of kid games onto it. Cameron finally found his niche. The two boys could sit side by side for hours and play their video games without a single argument between them. Brendan does occasionally get into playing with the iPad or iPod but for the most part he still gravitates toward his DS.
For a long while we didn’t allow Kaylee any video games given that she’s only two. We figured that a) she’d break them, b) she wouldn’t know how to play them anyway, and c) that she’d lose interest in a matter of seconds anyway. Boy were we wrong. It started with my iPhone. At just over a year she took notice of my phone. Pretty soon she realized that to unlock it you needed to swipe across the screen and input a 4 digit code. She couldn’t get her pudgy fingers to work the process so she would grab my finger and swipe it across the screen then have me press 4 random numbers (not understanding that it had to be a specific 4 digit code of course). Then later, after we’d given the iPod to Cameron to play with, we found her one day with the iPod unlocked and playing around on the home screen. It didn’t take her long at all to discover that clicking on the pretty pictures from the home screen would open up a fun game for her to play. And now, she’s a pro at most of the games. We have a rule that we never ever walk around with video games, and she’s seen the boys sitting still with their games for her entire life, so it wasn’t hard to teach her to sit still and play with the iPod. As for her attention span, she’d play the iPod for the entire day if I’d let her.
I realize with every passing generation electronics get more and more sophisticated and that kids learn younger and younger how to use them. But it’s truly amazing to me to see that in my household each of my children learns younger than the previous one how to play with video games. Makes me wonder if we’d gone ahead and had a 4th child if that one would have come straight out of the womb knowing how to play with the i-products.