Building a future: enriching your child’s learning and life through games

As I write this song All ages editorial, my daughter is sitting next to me, her face buried in my phone. She finally asks me what “beta” means, and I tell her. She plays a game called Wordscapes, an excellent tool to help children practice spelling and discover new words. My daughter and I made a deal that if she plays Wordscapes for 20 minutes, she can run upstairs and play Roblox with her friends for the next two hours. She didn’t like it at first, but she started to enjoy Wordscapes. She occasionally asks me for help and redeems her in-game coins for answers if she has any, but the game helps her learn, and I’m thankful for it.

Wordscapes is for ages eight and up. It’s a free download, but it’s one of those wretched apps full of ads. You can remove them all from the in-game store for $5.99. One of the great things about Wordscapes is how it constantly presents the player with new challenges to create a playthrough without stops or getting kicked into a menu.

Word pictures

Learning to organize, clean up and construct

I’ve lived many virtual lives through The Sims games and learned a few things about myself in the process. One of my big takeaways was liking how clean and organized my Sim’s life was. One day I stopped playing and reorganized my comic book room. I hope my daughter has similar observations while playing Unpacking, a beautifully crafted game about putting items where they belong in rooms.

All you have to do is open a box, take out the top item and place it where you think it should be. When you pick up a book, you can place it on a shelf, desk or in a drawer – all of these locations are correct. Some items, such as a backpack, can be placed anywhere, but the game doesn’t always allow this. The ambiguity of some of the placement can be frustrating – because you can’t move to the next room until it’s properly sorted. However, these moments are rare and my daughter had a blast playing it. Did it teach life lessons? Not yet. She still leaves candy wrappers on the counter over the trash can, and her room always looks like a tornado rolled through it.

unpacking

Welcome to Bloxburg from Roblox, a sim-like game developed by Coeptus, helps my kid learn to build in 3D space. The focus of the game is to live a complete virtual life, right down to owning a house and vehicle, going to work and getting to know your neighbors. My daughter’s interest is solely in the building aspect – something she discovered herself while watching one of her favorite YouTubers, Frenchrxses. Some of her videos are tutorials that take the player step by step through the construction of elaborate mansions. My daughter spent days working on Frenchrxses’ Christmas house. She would play the video for a few seconds, match the architectural construct at play, and when it came time to add small details to the room, my daughter would add her flair.

After completing the extended build, all of my daughter’s future builds were much more dynamic and beautiful. Watching her play one day made me smile because I knew she was learning about game design and developing skills that could be useful in other creative areas later on. She enjoys doing these kinds of things and is eager to learn how to do it better. Just know that Bloxburg has a steep entry ramp. Your child will need to work on it and become fluent with the construction tools before attempting elaborate constructions. Bloxburg’s items are also unlocked with an in-game currency, which is earned through play, but chances are you’ll probably need to spend some real money to get the Robux to buy them.

Bloxburg

Minecraft is another game that allows for creative expression. For the younger kids out there, the parent or guardian should put all Minecraft game sessions in creative mode to remove the combat elements and the need to hunt for supplies. At that point, the focus is on building whatever you can think of. Both Bloxburg and Minecraft support cooperative play. I recommend being in the same room as your child with a different play setup if you want to join their creative endeavors.

If your child usually plays on mobile devices, Toca Life World is an exceptional game that appeals to a wide age group. The input is easy enough for novice players to understand, and the amount of creativity speaks loudly to my daughter at age nine. Toca Life World is a free-to-play decorating game, where you can freely place items wherever you want, almost like sticking stickers in a book to create a scene. You can also customize a variety of items, such as selecting hairstyles and clothing for the characters.

Toca Life World

When you download the game, you get eight locations and 39 characters for free. That’s only a small fraction of what’s on offer, though, and you’ll have to pay to unlock more. If you want to add a little more, spend a few bucks on new buildings and props to expand the options your child has. To get everything – the route I’d recommend if you think your kid will play the game extensively – unlocking everything will cost about $70. Doing this will allow your kid to dive into over 100 locations, choose from more than 500 characters and communicate with 500 pets. It’s a huge game with a lot of variation in the environment. Getting it all also makes the inevitable “Will you get this for me?” ask your child when they start the game. Make sure your little one gets the experience before you even venture down this path.


My plan for the next All ages is to share my thoughts on playtime and how much is too much for your child. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and what approaches you are currently using. If you have any input, drop me a line at Reiner@GameInformer.com


This article originally appeared in issue 345 of Game Informer.

Leave a Comment