My (almost) 6-year-old son and I were invited to check out Minecraft night at Game-U in Dublin. Game-U is an after-school program that teaches kids how to design and build video games and robots. From ages 6+ there are all sorts of STEM-based classes to choose from and explore.
I don’t know about you but since becoming a parent I have already started to feel a little maxed out on keeping up with the new technology that is out there. It can all be very overwhelming and I know I am not even in the thick of it yet with only a kindergarten aged son. This is what made going to Minecraft night such a fun experience for both of us. My son has not had an opportunity to learn about this game that he keeps hearing other friends rave about and I got to see first hand what is drawing all these kids and teens in.
Minecraft night is an opportunity for a large group of children to play together in a large group, collaborating and socializing with each other in real life. The night is about 3 hours long and they are fed pizza and a juice box (if you can manage to pull them away from their computers). This is also a great opportunity for parents to squeeze in a date night from 6-9 pm! I stayed the whole time due to my son being slightly under the age requirement and also so I could learn alongside him since I thought he might be intimidated as a newbie.
I can barely express how heartwarming it was to see these kids hopping out of their chairs and helping each other with different aspects of the game. The boy that my son sat next to spent nearly the whole 3 hours teaching him different things about the game purely out of the kindness of his heart. The stereotypes of children being secluded in their rooms gaming are completely shattered when you attend these classes and game nights at Game-U. The children collaborate with each other to build whole worlds and really stretch their creativity when they have other kids to bounce ideas off of. I found myself just sitting in awe of their interaction with each other and most importantly of all, in a safe environment.
If there is one thing I have heard about Minecraft it is that kids are basically addicted to this game. One of the main mantras of parenting this generation is to set limits on screen time and I love the idea that becoming a member at Game-U can be a time set aside just for this type of activity. Their creativity and education is being fostered and there is also a time limit on it. Similar to sports practice, music lessons, etc.
So for the other Minecraft ignorant parents out there, here are a few things I learned:
- VERY basic graphics at first glance.
- Build structures with building materials similar to Legos and collaborate with other players in multi-player mode.
- Free reign to explore and design with no defined end goal
- Creative mode is the best place to start off with young children. All the materials are at your disposal to create whatever you dream up.
- Survival mode means you have to scavenge for your food and materials, monitor your health and hunger, and fight off the “danger” at night. Don’t worry, if you die you are quickly respawned an indefinite amount of times.
- Multiplayer mode is a great way for siblings and friends to play together. Or even parents to play WITH their children.
Are there any risks? There is a chat feature where your child could be exposed to cyberbullying and profanity. Avoid this risk by using a private server for only your family and the child’s close friends to play on.
All in all, I believe Minecraft is a great game for encouraging interest in engineering and architecture and Game-U is a fantastic environment for children to learn how to navigate games like these as well as many more STEM related activities. Consider becoming a member, checking out their game nights, and/or their summer camps!