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August 18, 2015

MacKenzie Masten

Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out (And Turn Off)

Topics: Learning Through Play

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We understand - putting your child in front of the TV for a couple of minutes gives you some well deserved peace and quiet. Giving them an iPad or iPhone on the way to school or while at dinner keeps them entertained and out of your hair. But if passing them the screen becomes an easy “babysitter”, it can drastically affect the way your child develops and interacts with others. 

In a world where computers, televisions, cellphones and tablets are easily accessible, it’s hard to completely prevent your kids from using screens – and, of course, there are benefits with moderation. Depending on the type of media children use, language and number skills can greatly improve. But if your child is sitting down everyday playing Angry Birds instead of NOGGIN, the educational value that can come from a screen will be lost, and problems can occur. Studies have shown that too much screen time can cause increased dopamine levels in your child’s brain, like sugar, or even drugs. Then, when you eventually decide to take the screen away, you run into trouble. You can read more on Wired Kids, but suffice to say that too much screen time for children is a serious concern.

Many parents are looking to prepare their child for the new career opportunities of the 21st century – technology based jobs. Giving your youngster an iPad might seem, on the surface, like the best way to do that, but familiarity with new technology isn’t the most important factor. These new-age jobs, like software engineering, call for people who are able to think in a very logical, structured way while still being creative enough to deal with unexpected challenges. The best thing you can give your child isn’t an iPad, it’s problem-solving skills, and that’s where puzzles and board games come in – they’re a great way to teach your child the skills they’ll need without the risks we discussed above.. 

There are a number of great puzzles and board games that effectively focus on teaching problem solving skills. A few of our favorites are…

RoboRally: An old board game with lasers, conveyer belts, and missile launchers that help your child master the basics of programming.

Snap: Another structured logic thinking game that requires children to create pathways using dragons.

Rush Hour: Our personal favorite logic processing game and traffic jam puzzle. 

Robot Turtles: Released last year, this is a computer science game for 4+ year olds that teaches problem analysis and computational thinking. We're following it up this year with Code Master – a similar game geared towards children 8+ that takes those concepts to the next level.

There’s a time and place for screens. Valuable skills can and should be learned online, but too much time online will do more harm than good. Substitute in puzzles, and board games for family fun, and your child will learn all the 21st century thinking skills they’ll ever need.

Robot Turles