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Mission: Minecraft learning?

Mission: Minecraft

Description: Rainy day fun and learning. Gaming with a purpose.

Difficulty: Low – Medium


You can plan lots of weekend activities only to have them all come unstuck. You still want to have some fun when plans don’t work out, but also spend some time doing something meaningful with your children – how about Minecraft?

Video games often get a bad wrap in parenting circles and there is no shortage of inappropriate games for children. I’m not advocating any game as a babysitting service, but let’s have a look at the things you might do in Minecraft.

The basic premise of Minecraft is simply to survive. You enter a game world without any equipment and must ‘craft’ your tools and collect resources to build structure in order to protect yourself from the creature that come out at night time. This called ‘Survival Mode’ and the Minecraft graphics mean that visually it is suitable for younger children as the creatures (including Zombies) have a blocky cuteness about them. You can also adjust the difficulty, turn off monsters, or play in ‘peaceful’ mode in which monsters exist but do not attack.

‘Creative Mode’ is an alternate playing style which allows you unlimited resources to build whatever your heart desires. It can be used as a learning tool to introduce and discuss colours, numbers, counting, and patterns. This is where I started with The President (4 y.o.). We dug holes and laid blocks. We talked about how many blocks there were in a row, or how many blocks high things were, and quickly moved into building simple structures.

The President enjoyed simply exploring the game world and it lead to discussions about snow, waterfalls and his favourite – lava! He also discovered that blocks ‘drop’ items and a new game of collecting items began. Some blocks drop obvious things: dirt blocks drop – you guessed it – dirt. The revelation that pigs dropped raw pork chops took our play into a deep conversation about where food comes from. We built a farm, planted crops, and crafted a furnace to cook items.

As The President’s play has developed we’ve had great learning experiences and discussions about resources and needing patience to collect items in order to build or use something. He talks about how big things are in terms of the number of blocks high or deep things are. I can set him a challenge to complete and we have started a shared world that we are both playing and building in together. It also adds a layer to our Lego play, with the simplicity of building being reflected in Lego models.

Yes, sometimes he just wants to kill Zombies, but honestly, who doesn’t want that? Minecraft is a deeper learning experience than I had expected and provides a number of playing styles that suit a wide range of age groups. Sharing is of course the best experience and I’m looking forward to building things together.

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