Five Reasons Why You Should Play Minecraft with Your Child

I know. Your eyes are rolling to the back of your head and you’re thinking, “I’m so sick of my child talking about Minecraft!” That’s all my six-year-old has talked about for the past several months too. On the iPad, he plays Minecraft: Pocket Edition. He watches YouTube videos from a lady called Cupquake. He bought the Xbox360 version with his own cash. He wakes up in the middle of the night, sleep-walking into our bedroom like a Zombie and crying, “But I really like that MOD!” I thought his interest in Minecraft would come and go, just as it had with Angry Birds and Skylanders. But his obsession seems to be coursing steadily through his veins. Having no quick antidote to cure him, I did a parental unthinkable: I took a swig of the poison. I immersed myself into his pixelated world of mining and mobs. And if your child is Minecraft-crazed, you should play with him too.

Here’s why I’m glad I did:

  • I had no idea what my son was talking about 75% of the time: diamond swords, iron ingots, exploding Creepers. All day long, he would tell me about these strange things, and the only contribution I had to those conversations were alternating responses of, “Wow… Sounds neat… Huh?” Who sounds like the zombie now?
Photo Credit: www.minecraftwiki.net

Photo Credit: www.minecraftwiki.net

  • After the first few minutes of playing with my son, I started to get it. I didn’t see validity for the obsession yet, but as he gave me the initial tour of Minecraft I finally began to understand the game. Suddenly, those bewildered half-conversations I’d been having with my child had a new perspective. The pixelated images made me feel a little nostalgic, and the different biomes of the Minecraft worlds are actually somewhat… pretty.
  • The way I pictured Minecraft in my head–based on phrases commonly uttered from my son like, “Whoa! I just blew up that dude with TNT!” or “Oh shoot, there’s a spider comin’ at me! I’m gonna die!”–was so much worse than the game’s actual images. The zombies in my head belonged in Night of the Living Dead. Instead, I found the kinda-cute Minecraft Zombie pictured above. When someone dies the screen gets reddish, but there are no gory death scenes to the extent I had envisioned.
  • It’s an opportunity–albeit a virtual one–to promote teamwork. When my son and I play together, he naturally takes on the hunter/gatherer role and I become the homemaker. Even though it’s not gory I’m still not fond of killing things. I build our shelter, and he gathers our supplies and hunts for food.
  • Most importantly is knowing that my son still wants me involved in his interests. He is my oldest child, and I know that a time will soon come when he won’t really care whether or not I like what he likes. Someday, he may be content to shut the door to his bedroom as he runs amuck in a virtual world. Or to run out the door into the real world with his friends. But for today, his face beams with pride as he escorts me around the Minecraft worlds that he so genuinely enjoys sharing with me.

Are you familiar with Minecraft? Have any tips to share? My son is still better than I am at the game, so I need all the help I can get.


Family Game Night: “Minute to Win It” Theme

Here is another fun idea for a family game night. Like the last post about game nights, I didn’t come up with this idea. But it was so much fun for the adults and kids alike that I had to share it!

Last week, my son’s elementary school had a PTO meeting which was followed by a “Minute to Win It” themed parent involvement night. The kids and parents divided themselves into teams and used a map of the building to visit various rooms that had different challenges set up for the kids. Some of the ideas were from the game show, and some of them were tweaked to be a little more kid-friendly. Some of the challenges were easier than others for the young children, but all were fun and there was a TON of laughter. These kinds of challenges can easily be setup using household items for a fun family game night at home! Each activity is done with a one-minute timer. You have one minute to win it! Here were some of our favorites:

Game #1–Set up glue bottles (or other similar sized items around the house) like bowling pins on a coffee table. Put a soft ball or a ziplock bag filled with beans into the bottom of a panty hose. Tie around child’s waist. Be sure that the area is clear of any breakables, and stand back as the child spins and spins until their “tail” knocks down all of the items or until the timer runs out!

What’s at work here: Gross-motor skills. Depth perception.

Look out!

Game #2–Fill one empty soda bottle about 3/4 full of marbles, and then tape another empty soda bottle on top of the marble-filled soda bottle, so that the openings are taped together tightly. (Tip: Use duct tape!) Grab hold of the bottle with one hand (two for small children) and you have one minute to shake all of the marbles from the full bottle into the empty bottle. It’s harder than it seems, but my six-year-old was able to complete this one!

What’s at work here: Gross-motor skills.

Shake, shake, shake!

Game #3–Set up a stack of solo cups, with twenty cups of one color, and one cup in a different color. Start with the different color cup on the bottom. When the timer starts, you have one minute to move the cups, one at a time from the top of the stack to the bottom, until the different color cup is at the top. The hard part: You must switch hands each time you move a cup. Left hand, right hand, left hand, right hand. It’s tricky to remember that part!

What’s at work here: Hand-eye coordination. Memory skills. Balancing objects.

Game #4–Line up four forks, spaced slightly apart, and taped to the floor (needs a flat floor surface, or can be done on a tabletop). Tape another line a couple feet away for child to sit behind. Roll quarters to see how many you can “catch” in the forks within one minute. This is really difficult to do, and my son wasn’t able to get any in the forks, but he did come very close! I think next time he will nail it! Once they get the hang of rolling the quarters in the right way, it gets easier.

What’s at work here: Fine motor skills. Depth perception. Hand-eye coordination.

So close!

Game #5–Place a ball on top of empty toilet paper rolls. Blindfold child. Give child directions to the ball, “Forward! Left! More to the left! A little to the right! Right there, bend down and get it!” It was a little frustrating at times to not be able to see where he was going, and he kicked the ball away from him when he was so close a few times! But he did great!

What’s at work here: Listening skills. Spacial vocabulary. (forward, backward, left, right, etc. )Following directions.

There are so many good skills being practiced with all of these games, and it’s all in good family-friendly fun! Be sure to check out NBC’s Minute to Win It site for a complete list of these games and many more, or think up some of your own! Have fun!


Easy Family Game Night Idea: What Am I Building?

Does your family have a “family game night?” We didn’t have a game night often when I was a child, but I remember absolutely loving the few times that we did. Maybe I loved it because it was a rare occasion. Maybe I loved it because it was a chance to sit at the table, face to face with my mom and dad and little sister, and just play a simple game. Don’t get me wrong, we were always going fun places and doing fun things as a family when I was a child, but there is something that I have always loved about game nights.

Now that I have my own family, we play games often. We don’t have a specific day of the week that we play, but whenever it strikes our fancy. And in our home, game night isn’t limited to conventional board games. We make up our own games too. My son loves having the control of creating his own game for us to play, making up the rules, and then getting to explain it so that I can understand how to play (and I ask a lot of questions to make sure I have it straight… and that he doesn’t change the rules and “cheat”). ;)We played this particular game yesterday after school, and I wanted to share it with you, although I can not take credit for the game… It was all my son’s idea!

How to Play “What Am I Building?”:

You need:

-Blocks of any kind! (we have a ton of small Lego blocks, but with a newly mobile baby, we have gotten out the Mega Blocks again. It’s perfect, because the baby can play with and chew on his own set of blocks while we build!)

How To Play:

-Taking turns, one person builds an object out of the blocks while the other person guesses what is being built.

-If the other person needs help with guessing, the builder can offer clues.

-If the person who is guessing guesses correctly, they get a point!

-If the person who is guessing can not determine what the other person is building, they can give up by saying, “I give up,” but the builder then gets the point.

 

That’s pretty much it! Even though it is super easy, I love that it involves fine motor skills and creative thinking. It is also refreshingly simple (don’t the games with a million rules and exceptions give you a headache sometimes??), but you can add different variations on the game like keeping it to a certain theme (i.e. animals, buildings, etc) or adding a timer. I preferred my son’s way of keeping it open-ended. A game of endless possibilities. 😉

Here are some of my favorites that we built:

A flower (by Mommy)

An alligator (by Son)

A dog (by Mommy)

A wall (by Son)

 

Have fun!

 

**I’m linking today’s post with the Weekly Kid’s Co-Op! Click here to find so many more fun and creative kid-friendly ideas and activities! Or link up something of your own by following the directions once you’ve clicked over. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!**

 


At Three Months Old…

**Warning: You are about to be bombarded with a ton of cute baby pictures.**

My baby boy is growing, growing, growing! It’s been a while since  I have given an update on him, and I wanted to let everyone know that his health is doing extremely well right now. CF symptoms don’t typically begin surfacing until they are a bit older, but other than an occasional cough, his health is pretty much perfect so far. His weight gain is right on schedule, as his height/weight ratio was at 49% at his last clinic visit, when the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation recommends that it be at 50%. We hope to cross that fiftieth percentile mark at his next visit in September, but that number is up from 17% when he was three weeks old. Between nursing well and the addition of special vitamins and enzymes to his diet, he is growing exactly as he needs to.

Developmentally speaking, he is also chugging along right on track. Although there is a huge range of what is developmentally “normal” (having a baby with special needs has made me dislike using that word!) at this age, all of the things that experts say a baby “might” be doing by three months old, my little guy is doing them.

He’s rolling over from his tummy to his back, and he’s lifting his chest off the ground while resting on his elbows during tummy time.

“What’s up with all the flashes today, Mom?” PS-He LOVES this little radio that sings nursery rhymes and spins when you punch it in the nose.

He makes eye contact and has a lot of coos, giggles, shrieks of joy, and a new “gurgle” sound that he has learned to make. He recognizes his dad, big brother, and me, and he greets us with a big toothless smile!

Talking to Mama.

He’s rolling from his back to his side (this one is very recent!). He has found his hands and loves to put them together or put them in his mouth.

Yum.


He’s swatting at and grasping for toys. He’s opening and closing his hands, and he can also hold onto and shake toys and sometimes put them to his mouth. When he gets ahold of something, he has a pretty strong grip! (Just ask my hair…)

“I got him!”

Another of his faves. We call them Mr. Orange Giraffe and Mr. Blue Giraffe. (Creative, I know.) He pretty much ignores the ball in the middle.

He likes being read to and looking at books. As long as he’s not hungry or sleepy, he will sit still and listen to just about anything I read to him. Sometimes, he likes to give me his input and read along with me. (He is definitely going to be a talker like his brother! And his dad. And his mom… No wonder?) 🙂 Some of our favorite things to read are:

Sandra Boynton books. The sing-song words of her stories are so much fun to read to a baby.

Books that have bright colors and bold illustrations.

Books with textures. He loves making the books crinkle or feeling soft fur.

Magazines. Sometimes I read the articles to him, sometimes I just point out interesting pictures and talk about what he sees.

He listens and looks just as intently with magazines as he does with board books. Babies love real photographs. He seems to particularly enjoy pictures of space, weather, faces, and animals.

And we can’t forget an all-time favorite at this age: Peek-a-boo! He also loves other interactive games and songs like “Pat-a-Cake,” “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and this fun exercise game that goes to the tune of “Wheels on the Bus!”

“Where’s the baby….?”

“There he is!”

He loves sensory activities. He isn’t afraid to get messy with paint, crinkle some tissue paper, or splash in water! He also has started following things with his eyes, and he loves to watch me blow bubbles while he’s in the bathtub! Also, with being able to sit supported and better head/neck control, he is able to use his Bumbo seat (or a highchair works just as well) to do this!

“Sorry about the couch, Mom!” PS-As long as it’s washable paint, a baby wipe will probably get it out. Feel free to do messy activities away from furniture and carpet if you want an easier cleanup…

“Hey, that’s a neat sound!”

Some other things he’s loving right now are:

  • Flying through the air like an “airplane” or Super-baby. He just squeals with delight at this game!
  • Going outside. He gets so quiet when we do anything outdoors. We love to sit on the porch or walk around the yard and talk about how the wind feels, what the birds and bugs sound like, and watch a car or two go by.
  • Music and dancing. I already mentioned the toy radio that he loves, but he also loves when we sing nursery rhymes or lullabies. I also like to put on some dance tunes and hold him as I dance around the living room. And other times, I put on some classical music to relax to.
  • Being tickled. He loves “This Little Piggy” and being tickled when the littlest piggy goes “Weee Weee Weee” all the way up to his armpits!
  • The stroller. I went on my first run with the jogging stroller last week (that is SO hard to do!), and while he slept through most of that, he does enjoy a leisurely walk in the stroller, just taking in the world around him.
  • Snuggles. He is doing so many new things, but one thing that hasn’t changed yet is his love of being held, rocked, hugged, and kissed. He’s my little cuddle bug, and I hope that doesn’t change for a while!

So there you have a day in the life of our three-month-old! I hope you enjoyed it, and if you did, I will be posting another one at his six-month mark. It will be here before we know it.