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Are Video Game Apps Really Helping Our Toddlers?

Do video game apps actually help kids or are they simply just time wasters?

Video games have long been a topic of controversy as to whether they are beneficial or simply just a waste of time that is rotting everyone's brains. While it is easy to assume video game apps are nothing but mindless entertainment, they do in fact help children.

Here are some of the many ways that video game apps help toddlers.

The subconscious mind

Our minds are constantly taking in information, every second of the waking day. Most of the time we don't even realize this unless we directly think about a particular topic. Throughout the day, we all do things that we don't realize. For example, I have often been told that I quietly speak the words I am typing without noticing. Other times I could make facial expressions without realizing it, particularly if I am otherwise distracted.

If we are capable of unknowingly making various actions, then the same must be said for when it comes to learning. So while playing video games it is easy to learn to pay attention to small details. 

As a kid, I learned from playing video games that if I want a particular item that costs money, I have to save up for it. This means that as a kid if I wanted a particular game, toy or whatever, I always saved up for it as oppose to spending needlessly. I didn't know at the time it was video games that taught me this, but they did.

Learning something subconsciously may not become apparent at first but over time the habit begins to slip into everyday life. The human mind is an immensely powerful thing capable of incredible feats. With the mind having such an ability, the possibilities of things to learn are countless. But what kids will learn will depend on what they play.

Improving motor skills and reaction time

Playing video games consists of continuously using your hands. At a young age, small children are still coming to grips with putting their motor skills to use. To improve those skills, they must use their hands in all different manners.

If a child has an interest in video games, there is nothing better to help improve motor skills. From handling a tablet or mobile phone to using the controls of the game, playing will put your handling skills to the test. With practice comes improvement and with different games come different usage.

It isn't just a child's motor skills that are put to the test, but their reaction time. Many games require you to act quickly or respond quickly to something on the screen. While children's reaction time is nowhere near as high as that of an adult, over time it will quickly improve.

As a child and teenager, I played a lot of fast paced games that required extremely quick reactions. Eventually, the speed of these games just became natural, as did my ability to react to something. In one instance a friend of mine was watching me play Quake 3 Arena.

  

I saw an enemy and instantly shot at them, defeating them. My friend hadn't even spotted the enemy due to his reaction time being slower than mine, making it look like I shot through the wall. The use of having such a quick reaction time may not instantly be obvious, but it is particularly in adulthood with the likes of driving.

The earlier these skills are put into practice, the faster they will improve. The faster they improve, the abler and readier children are for the challenges they face as they grow older.

Bringing out the artist in children

Art is one of the primary aspects of video games and their development. Everything you see on the screen is a form of art. Very often, video games inspire children to draw or paint their favorite characters. This then can turn into a talent that continues throughout their entire life.

Some even progress to work in the video game industry as artists. All you have to do is look on the Twitters of video game developers to see the amazing fan art that is created by artists of all ages. That is but one place to find the millions of pieces of video game artwork out there.

It isn't just in paintings or drawings, but eventually a child could become interested in learning 3D modelling, using the likes of Blender or 3D Studio Max. Having such a skill can later progress into any number of various careers in adulthood.

Being inspired to make video games

Anyone who plays video games has specific games that they have fond memories of -- sometimes to the point that the developers of the games can inspire them to want to become video game developers themselves. There is no better time to start having an interest in developing games than as a child.

While it is one of my life long ambitions to create a video game, it wasn't as easy to get started when I was a kid as it is now. In this day and age, there are so many awesome and easy to use game engines that are perfect to help get children started.

There are basic engines like Game Guru, RPG Maker and Game Maker. Alternatively, there are plenty of video game editors like Legend of Grimrock that allow you to create your own levels, plus add your own ideas and creations. There is no better place to start than with any of the above. Most of all, they don't cost a fortune either.

Some of the video game industry's most prolific developers and programmers started their journey into video game development at a very young age. Examples of this would be American McGee, John Romero and John Carmack.

All three of the above-mentioned industry titans have been a part of some of the biggest titles in video game history. If your child is to show such an interest and passion towards video games and their developers, they too could later become as successful.

What about children with disabilities?

Video games are just as beneficial to children with disabilities as those who don't. Kids with learning disabilities and even autism can learn from video games, it just depends on their interest level with them. My four-year-old son, who is diagnosed with autism, has an exceptional interest in video games.

When he was younger, he became extremely interested in one particular game. While he could not play it himself he would often sit on my knee while I played. Within a matter of days, he had memorized all the levels in the game perfectly. If I made a single mistake at any time, he would become upset.

For a three-year-old (at the time) with autism to be able to learn eight large levels by heart is an incredible feat. Not only was it something that improved his ability to memorize, but it encouraged him to interact. He figured out ways of communicating what he wanted in spite of unable to speak.

This later led to him using this method of communication with everything else. As time and playing games with my son has continued, he has found many ways of communicating with me. Sometimes it is through actions, other times it is through sound or facial expressions.

There is no denying that it is his interest in video games and playing them with me that has helped him with communication. While not all children with autism will have the same results with video games, the progression my son has made due to playing games with me is undeniable.

Video games do help our children

There are lots of varying ways that video games can help children. Those that I have mentioned are but only a few -- and ones that are not always thought of. I've played video games since the age of three. And now at twenty-seven, here I am writing on a video game website about what I am passionate about. Not to mention being an aspiring video game developer in my spare time.

Not too shabby for someone who spent a large percentage of his life with a controller in hand staring at a screen eh? Sure, video games have long had fingers pointed at them in an attempt to blame them for a variety of things. The one thing that media never does cover, however, is the positives of video games and how they can help people -- especially our toddlers. 

Published Oct. 30th 2016

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