Minecraft is a sandbox game, and, like a real sandbox, kids make their own fun, their imagination being the only limit. Exploration and discovery are tantamount. And cooperation and competition are the social building blocks. But that’s only scratching the surface of the good things Minecraft can do.
We see so much value in Minecraft, we built an entire afterschool program around it. We were the first MinecraftEdu site in Oregon, Since those early days, we’ve come to know firsthand there are at least five excellent things it does for children:
- Minecraft teaches practical math skills. Math is a large component of MInecraft, and players will not survive if they don’t build their houses or factories by counting and engineering blocks correctly. Resources must be mined and managed, pistons and levers fire up using electrical engineering concepts, and children calculate all of this in their heads, and on scraps of paper. Crafting recipes works only with precise measurements. Coordinates to meet with friends must be correct in order to find them in these life size worlds.
Remember asking teachers when you’d ever need to use the binary code later in life? Kids use it in Minecraft in engineering with redstone for wiring and circuitry of their homes. These skill sets, learned early in Minecraft, can come in handy down the road when creating machinery or industrial complexes. Sound like skills you’d want to arm your kids with now?
- Minecraft produces good readers. As Wired pointed out in the December 2014 article How videogames like Minecraft actually help kids learm to read: “The secret lies not inside the game itself but in the players’ activities outside of it. Minecraft is surrounded by a culture of literacy. The game comes with minimal instructions or tutorials, so new players immediately set about hunting for info on how it works. That means watching YouTube videos of experts at play, of course, but it also means poring over how-to texts at Minecraft wikis and “walk-through” sites, written by gamers for gamers. Or digging into printed manuals…”
If that’s not telling enough, in the immortal words of John Dewey, “To get kids reading and writing, give them a real-world task they care about.” The best way to show a child how to read is to give them something that matters to them, and to many children, learning to play Minecraft through reading is motivation enough.
- Minecraft encourages good Digital Citizenship This is a term we use a lot ‘round Fidgets2Widgets because we see a gap in what educators are trying to accomplish. Yes, many take video games into the classroom for education. But are they also teaching kids to make good choices online, similar to what they’d do in real life? Minecraft does this for us. By design, Minecraft requires kids make good choices about being good digital citizens. For instance if they don’t ask permission to use tools and resources, there are natural consequences within the game. Kids soon learn that there is more to be gained by collaborating than competing.
Patience, persistence and hard work result in being a good citizen in the Minecraft world.
- The brains behind Minecraft will lead tomorrow, and positive communication skills help cognitive learning. We’ve all heard the MIT study showing game based play raises cognitive learning, acquisition of problem-solving abilities and with intelligence and conscious thought. But did you know they cited Minecraft specifically as one game that could help children become better doctors? According to neuroscientists at Iowa State University, “Surgeons performed better, and were more accurate on the operating table when they regularly played video games.”
Scientists and researchers are drawing a connection between skill on the operating table and Minecraft building kids’ spatial reasoning skills and their understanding of planning—much like fixing a human body so it works now, and hopefully will be engineered to work years into the future.
- Minecraft provides children the opportunity to learn collaboration, conflict resolution and leadership at a much younger age than happened a decade ago. Children collaborate with Minecraft, trading minerals and resources like fire, air and water. Children help each other build inventory. Like real life, they also have the choice to collaborate—it’s not necessary.
On the other side of the collaboration coin is conflict resolution. In fact, conflict is prevalent enough where children have given one aspect a name—griefing. Griefing is when one player causes harm to the other’s property. No griefing is a common rule in F2W, as is no trolling (stalking), swear words, guns or name calling of any kind. With these rules firmly in place, children are better able to resolve their own conflicts when boundaries are crossed.
Introverted children can rise to the rank of leader within gameplay of Minecraft. Leadership is a muscle that needs exercise and if kids learn it early, through mastery of a game, they are better armed with the skill later on.
Above all, Minecraft can make kids happy. One Fidgets2Widgets pupil observed and remarked upon leaving Disneyland with his family, “Disney is NOT the happiest place on earth, Fidgets2Widgets is.”