“Mom, can I play a game on your phone?” I hear this question no fewer than five times per day, I’d wager, and I almost never consent. Whining ensues, but that’s okay with me, because I know my son — the one that asks this question. Once he gets sucked in to a screen, he almost never emerges willingly, and quite honesty, it’s not worth the fight or the eye-glaze.
There is something strangely alluring about video games for Reed, my four-year-old, which is rather odd since we don’t have anything as of now beyond our phones and computers. All he’s seen are alphabet-learning games and perhaps the occasional ill-tempered aviary flying across the screen.
So with my reluctance towards video games, it might surprise you that my kids are getting an Xbox 360 + Kinect for an early Christmas gift this year. Hear me out.
1. It involves movement.
I’d much rather my kids be up and about playing a video game than submerged in the couch, staring at a screen the size of their palms. A Kinect game requires physical movement, and that’s exactly what Reed needs.
He has a slight fine motor delay, but he’s also a very typical, wiggly, has-to-dance-while-he-eats boy, and if he doesn’t get his energy out, we pay for it by the end of the day. I’m floored at the different sort of day we have when Reed is given adequate run and wrestle time.
I’ve learned that his fascination with video games—or anything electronic and gadgety—is pretty innate. I’m not going to convince him that he’d have more fun water-coloring, because his favorite baby toys were calculators and he could turn on Netflix by age two.
So if we’re going to allow games, I want them to be games where he moves. I want him wiped out when he’s done playing, in the best way.
2. We’re going to seriously monitor game time.
We’ll continue to reward reading, good behavior, and extra chores with closely monitored screen time. No way are we just going to allow game time whenever the kids are in the mood or when they’re bored. Time on the Xbox 360 will be a sweet reward for accomplishments, and as the parents, we’ll decide the best time to enjoy it.
I like the idea of creating a chore or ticket system, where the kids get punches in a card when they check off certain jobs or tasks (such as reading for an hour). When their ticket is full, they can redeem them for an hour of game time. Or something like that. I haven’t ironed out all the details.
3. I’ll benefit from it as well.
You may remember that I deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winters here in Oregon. As a native Texan, it gets hard to drag my body out of bed in order to run through the ice and snow—but when I lie dormant in the winter, bad things happen. One of the best antidotes to my depression is exercise.
Xbox 360 + Kinect has myriad fitness “games,” and you better believe I plan on using them well this winter. This will be one of my main tools to stay active and fight off the lethargy this winter. And if the kids join me? Even better.
Physical video games played with a Kinect don’t replace outdoor time, for sure, so we won’t eliminate quality family time in nature. But having a video game console that works for our family’s values instead of against them may just be part of our arsenal of tools that help us stay active together. I never thought I’d see the day when I brought in a video game console—but I’m surprisingly okay with this one.
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