Benefits of Minecraft


Hi there. If you’re new to my blog, and unschooling, I suggest you start here. To read our views on technology and children, go here.

We do not shy away from technology. And we have found that our children really do have their own flow and rhythm with it too. During the summer they were so busy playing with friends that many days they did not play or watch much of anything that had a screen. Then the kids go back to school and they have a couple of weeks transition with finding their own groove again. How do they want to spend their days? We have been in an art flow recently so many days our table is covered with crayons, paint, and endless amounts of paper.

We have also been soaking up the last of the warm fall days and going to the park sometimes. I’ve been getting my book published, and working through some emotional things. Some days I worry we’ve “accomplished nothing.” I put that in quotes because by just existing on earth for another day with each other we have accomplished a lot. Learning how to live with 6 different personalities, how to navigate emotions, learning our body’s need for movement, rest, and knowledge.

Anyway, this post is about Minecraft.

Jordan and I are not gamers and so although we try to be enthusiastic about their interest in different games and the different things they learn through the games, it does not come naturally. I try hard to pay attention when they built awesome creations, like the massive rollercoaster (and the animals they took for rides in the roller coaster), the different big and small houses, and I have looked up quite a few different videos to help them learn to do something new (such as create an enderportal which teleports you to another world in order to find a dragon egg to spawn their own dragon).

Jordan decided he wanted to connect with them and meet them where they are. So, he downloaded Minecraft. He decided to learn how to play it and within an hour or two had it down pretty well and decided that it was very similar to lego but with so many more options. He started building a house in the side of a mountain complete with different rooms, passageways, and made each of the kids their own room with a special animal inside for a pet. Then they all played hide and seek. It has bonded the kids to Jordan even more. He understands their Minecraft lingo and also understands the complexity of the game much more now which helps him appreciate their viewpoint and just how smart and capable they are.

I asked him to share some of his thoughts on what can be learned from Minecraft. Note: We are sure there are so many more, so feel free to comment below. He’s been playing for a couple months and this is where we are so far.

  1. Math. There’s addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. We can probably add fractions in here too. On survival mode you have a limited number of supplies unless you collect more. If you are building something you’ll need to do the math to discover how many blocks you’ll need (height x length).

  2. Reading. This is just a given because there are words in the game. However, we LOVE that the game is able to be used by little kids that cannot read. It is a game that pull most of the family together because it is so easy to learn but can become as complex as you want it to be.

  3. Creativity. You have to be so creative to have to come up with different textures with the different blocks, and the endless designs you can create: ships, buildings, tunnels, rollercoasters, homes, gardens, etc. Mimi just started playing and created her own underground home. I thought she was just wandering around but since she had watched her siblings play for awhile, she knew most of what she was doing. So, she created this large underground house with a stone roof to keep out the rain. Now she’s decided to build a pink home in the sky. And because of that creative idea, FredHead has decided to build his own blue house in the sky.

  4. Real life application. There are so many opportunities for real life application in this game. My mother-in-law bought bone meal and just the day before Rico informed me that I needed to add bone meal to some trees I had put around a building to make them grow faster. So, when his grandma bought bone meal, he knew exactly what it was for-to help plants grow faster. We were walking by a wildlife reserve behind our home a few weeks ago looking at trees. I mistakenly identified some, and Rico informed us they were birch. I asked how he knew and he said because of Minecraft. He knew what the bark looked like (Which is even more funny because if anyone has seen the graphics in Minecraft they are definitely not the sharpest). We looked it up on Google, and he was right-they were birch trees.  This type of thing happens often.

  5. Problem-solving. There are some items that are not available unless you collect other objects and then “craft” them together on a crafting table. They can craft all kinds of armor, torches, swords, axes, and so much more. You have to have the right amount of the different objects and enter the objects in the right proportion onto the table to craft the object you’re wanting. It can get really complex.

  6. Cooperation. When they are on the same world together, they are usually trying to create something together too (or at least close together). This fosters cooperation and team work in creating sometimes huge projects.

  7. And those huge projects take SO. MUCH. PATIENCE. Patience. Patience. Patience.

Then we get into mods and that means you can create even more. Then we can talk about hosting servers which gets into learning about computers and networks. They do not connect with people outside of our home, but they do connect with friends at their houses. This adds yet another dimension to their friendships.

There is so much more that I am probably missing, but there’s a start. Once we decided to let go of our preconceived ideas about this game, we found greater connection and even more support for our kids where they are in the present moment! Consider connecting with your kids in the things they are interested in. It may just help them open up more, you may find more connection and a better bond, and you may learn something new too!