Video Games, Childhood Development & A Skylanders Give Away!

If you Google video games and childhood development, you will come across pages and pages and pages of links all shouting out how bad video games are for your child, how they will increase violent thoughts, violent feelings and increase aggression and how they can even stunt brain development.

But what if I told you that exposing your child age appropriate video games in a controlled environment could actually be beneficial for your child?

Don’t believe me? Well Dr Cheryl K. Olsen (*) has written a research paper called “Children’s Motivations for Video Game Play in the Context of Normal Development”  which was published in the  Review Of General Psychology.

Here are her 8 reasons why video games can be beneficial to you child:

Video Games Teach Problem-Solving Skills and Creativity

Video games can help children’s brain development. When my son was a young adolescent, I watched him play Legend of Zelda games. He had to search, negotiate, plan, and try different approaches to advance. Many recent games, such asBakugan: Defenders of the Core, involve planning and problem-solving. “Modding,” the process by which players customize gamer characters’ appearance and develop new game levels, also allows for creative self-expression, deep understanding of game rules and structure, and new ways of highlighting personalities and interests. Video games don’t have to be labeled “educational” to help children learn to make decisions, use strategies, anticipate consequences and express their personalities.

Video Games Inspire Interest in History and Culture

The content of certain video games can encourage kids to read and to research. Video games such as Age of Mythology,Civilization, and Age of Empires may spark a child’s interest in world history, geography, ancient cultures and international relations, especially if parents are alert to opportunities. To quote researchers David Shaffer and James Gee, “When children have parents who help turn Age of Mythology into an island of expertise, tying it to books, Internet sites, museums, and media about mythology, cultures and geography, the children pick up a wide range of complex language, content and connections that serve as preparation for future learning of a highly complex and deep sort.” What’s more, these games often allow children to design and exchange maps or other custom content, helping them acquire creative and technical skills while having fun.

Video Games Help Kids Make Friends

In contrast to their parents, most young kids see video games as a social activity, not an isolating one. Video games create a common ground for young kids to make friends; allow kids to hang out; and provide structured time with friends. In our research, boys were more likely to play video games with a group of friends, either in the same room or online. Plus, young boys said games were a frequent focus for conversation among their peers: One boy revealed that his peers at school mostly talked about “girls and games — the two Gs.” Our research found that children with mild learning disabilities were likely to choose “making new friends” as a reason they played video games.

Video Games Encourage Exercise

In my own research, players (specifically boys) talked about learning new moves from sports video games and then practicing them at the basketball court or on skateboards. Some took up new sports after being introduced to them in video games. As one boy revealed in a research focus group, “In the games that are real, which are mostly the sports games, you see them do amazing plays. If you go outside and try them and keep practicing, you could get better.” Research showed that playing realistic sports video games (excluding tournament fighting) lead to an increased time spent playing sports and exercising in real life.

Video Games Let Kids Share the Joy of Competition

It’s normal and healthy for kids, especially boys, to compete with their peers as they jockey for status and recognition. In my surveys and focus group studies with young teens, “I like to compete with other people and win” was one of the most popular reasons for playing video games — again, especially for boys. Video games are a safe place to express those competitive urges, and can give children who aren’t good at sports a chance to excel.

Video Games Give Kids a Chance to Lead

When children play video games in groups, they often take turns leading and following, depending on who has specific skills needed in that game. In studies by Nick Yee of the Palo Alto Research Center, teens who had played group games online felt they had gained leadership skills such as persuading and motivating others, and mediating disputes. Online multi-player games offer teens a rare chance to participate in, and sometimes lead, a diverse, mixed-age team. And nobody cares how old you are if you can lead the team to victory.

Video Games Provide an Opportunity to Teach

Roughly one-third of the children we studied said they played video games in part because they liked to teach others how to play. As one boy’s dad revealed during research, “Most of the interaction my son has with his buddies is about solving situations within a game. It’s all about how do you go from this place to that place, or collect the certain things that you need, and combine them in ways that are going to help you to succeed.” Some children gain status as the “go-to” kid who knows how to beat the toughest parts of a game. Teaching others builds social and communication skills, as well as patience.

Video Games Bring Parents and Kids Together

Recently, I watched a friend’s 10-year-old daughter teach her how to play Guitar Hero. The game happened to include favorite songs from my friend’s teen and college years, which helped draw her in. The best part was seeing the daughter become an expert and share gaming skills with her mom–a reversal of the usual parent-child roles. Now that some video game systems are friendlier to novice players, it’s increasingly possible to share game time together. Plus, playing a video game side-by-side encourages easy conversation, which in turn may encourage your child to share her problems and triumphs with you.

Skylanders: Spryo’s Adventures is exactly the type of game you want to be playing with your children.


Skylanders Logo
Skylanders released in October of 2011 and it has revolutionized kids gaming. A toy/game hybrid is has become the No. 1 must have game for kids aged between 5 – 12. Highly collectible and with new characters being periodically released with Skylanders Giants set for release later this year, this is an absolute must have for all parents with gaming consoles.
I could go on and on about all the amazing features, from the collectible characters bought to life on your portal of power, to the vivid environments, secret worlds, puzzles and challenges to complete but I’ll rather let the video speak for itself.
[embedplusvideo height=”365″ width=”600″ standard=”″ vars=”ytid=UV_0aw1gVaM&width=600&height=365&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep1256″ /]


Skylanders is available at all major retailers. To start your collection you will need to purchase the starter pack which includes the portal of power and two characters and is available for 3DS, PC, PS3 & XBOX360. From there you can then purchase the Adventure Packs, which open up new up new worlds as well as single character packs and triply toy packs. The starter packs range in price from R700 to R800 depending on which platform you require, the Adventure Packs and Triple Toy Packs retail for R249 and the single character packs retail for R129. These make the ideal gifts. Mom & Dad buy the starter pack and Granny, Grandpa, Aunties and Uncle’s can add to your kiddies collection with single character packs!

Skylander Starter Pack Contents


Now for the kicker…. I have one starter pack to give away to one lucky reader. All you need do is tell me what gaming console you have at home and which games you and your family enjoy playing together and then share the competition details on Facebook and Twitter!

And if you’re not the lucky winner, I have a little secret to reveal, Skylander Starter Packs will be on special end of June, just in time for the school holidays and you’ll be able to purchase it at a promo price with a R200 saving!

The winner will be announced on Freebie Friday this week! Good luck!





(*)  Cheryl K. Olson, Sc.D. is an expert in health behavior change and healthy child development. She is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the co-author of the book Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games, and What Parents Can Do.



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  • Reply blackhuff

    I can’t applaud this enough. I love it that there is someone who agrees with me. That video games in a controlled environment which is age appropriate, can be beneficial with regards to development. Bravo! I love this statement.
    I have tweeted this and placed it on Facebook as well.

    May 28, 2012 at 3:52 pm
  • Reply Sharon

    OMW I agree totally. As a mom with an introvert son games have made it so much easier for him to make friends and also spurred his imagination on in leaps and bounds. We have an Xbox 360 Kinect 🙂

    May 28, 2012 at 8:52 pm
  • Reply Sharon

    I forgot to mention we love playing Star Wars together and also enjoy the Kinect sports

    May 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm
  • Reply Jenny

    I have none! and my son is forever playing games on the computer using our bandwidth. Can I win 😉

    May 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm
  • Reply Kate

    Tristan has just gotten a PSP from his uncle which we are keeping aside for his 3rd birthday and would love to add this set to his gift so he can start playing. It may free up my iphone which he loves to play games on.

    May 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm
  • Reply Joni

    I totally agree with the article! I had someone on twitter who said that kids, iPads & Computer games are tantamount to child abuse… BS! Everything in moderation and done together is the key! We play all sorts of games with Adam on all the different gaming platforms! BALANCE is important. We play our games on XBox, PC, Wii, PS, iPads & laptops. In this day and age I believe children who don’t learn to use technology will lose out in the long term. Adam’s school has an iPad class with the whole Montessori curriculum in App format.

    Adam’s favourite games/apps are Dinostampf, Animals, any of the kiddy books, 101 Dinosaurs, Talking Tom, matching, counting and colour games on iPad, he loves playing tennis, bowling and hoola hoops on Wii and on XBox he loves Pinada, Lego etc.

    We restrict his access to the above games, he still loves to read actual books and spends the majority of his time outside.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:22 am
    • Reply Joni

      Ok, I’ve linked it to Twitter & FB!!!

      May 30, 2012 at 11:26 am
  • Reply Richard

    Wii sports and the Lego series (Batman, starwars) are great games for all ages to play and it doesn’t really matter how many times you die in the game :).

    May 31, 2012 at 10:01 am
  • Reply Adele

    PS3 – My husband’s big on games and my little girl is starting to show interest – sad to say – I cannot recall any ‘game names’ LOL

    May 31, 2012 at 10:29 am
  • Reply Reluctant Mom

    We have an old playstation, my kids have a DS and a 3DS, and a wii.

    Most of the games are played by Connor and his dad, though Georgia really loves her Leap Pad (and so does Isabelle).

    I am not a gamer, it is just not my thing – I prefer to read or sleep. But I think there are games that are really great for small motor skill development, and hand-eye co-ordination. I find it incredible how quickly my kids get around a console or a new game and figure out the details, whilst I am still trying to get the packaging off.

    The games that my son enjoys are things like Zooville, Cityville, Angry Birds and a few others. He loves fishing games … go figure!!

    May 31, 2012 at 10:48 am
  • Reply Joyce

    We have nothing yet, but Kirsten (15 months old) gets so excited when we show her kiddies songs and stuff on Leon’s iPad. She already knows how to move her fingers over the iPad and to switch it on and off. I will definitely need to invest in some gaming for her in the near future.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:18 am
  • Reply Charlotte the Stiletto Mum

    oooohhh awesome. We have a Playstation 3 at home and to be honest I don’t play games with the kids, my 16 year old brother does. But they will love this.

    May 31, 2012 at 1:08 pm
  • Reply Tan

    My Girls love there Wii and so do I but do find as long as I limit the use we are fine but their moods do change if they use it for hours on end.
    They will play wii sport or Hanna Montana, Mario Brothers, and ABBA

    May 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm
  • Reply Louisa Wolvaardt

    We Have PS 2 & 3 xbox & Wii! There is NO WAY ppl can tell me that gaming is not good 4 my child!!!!!!! Wii is the best out of the lot as the kids get involved and it helps with there development! But my TOP reason 4 all my gaming consoles is the fact with all the crime & kids going missing I have my child at home safe & all his friends come to me & the parents KNOW THAT THEY SAFE !

    May 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm
  • Reply Sharon

    I’m entering here again, just for the “numbers on your side” thing 🙂 Giggle.

    I told J about the game and the boy is now DESPERATE to get it. LOL, I didn’t tell him about your competition, but did mention it’s a long wait till Christmas. ha ha ha (am I mean?)

    May 31, 2012 at 3:12 pm
  • Reply julie

    We have the PS3 and love the Move games.

    May 31, 2012 at 8:16 pm
  • Reply Julia

    We have the Xbox360 and I don’t play. My DH and Child1 love it and are trying really hard to convince me to join in. I’d rather read or watch series or something like that. I was actually thinking of getting a game that would be more suited to Child2. He gets VERY excited when they put the games on.
    They are both into these games where you race. They love sonic superstars. And they LOVE Call of Duty.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:05 am
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