I was just reading a post on Happy Families blog about whether to let kids have gaming consoles, or not. I find this really interesting, as we have recently gotten a Nintendo Wii.
I am not in favour of defending gaming simply because I have allowed my child to play, but because I find the topic really interesting.
Imaginative play is important, the most important sort of play that children need. But a balance between imaginative play and electronic play is still healthy, in my opinion.
Every generation feels nostalgic about the games and toys; the stories and the fantasies of their own childhoods. I certainly do; She-Ra dolls and Strawberry Shortcake, skipping ropes and elastics. But play needs to include popular culture as well, to prepare children for the world ahead of them. I think that the conventions of gaming play are as important today, as the conventions of family storytelling around the fire was, pre-television and radio. While we do sit around, as a family, and read aloud often -we also go hell for leather on the Wii sports games, and slouch in front of the T.V on cold winter days with popcorn.
I don't think that we have really found the balance yet, we still have dramas about the amount of time allowed on the games machine and computer, but on the other hand he has begun to understand some of the conventions of fantasy gaming. I say fantasy gaming, because I think that adventure and world play is more constructive for kids than 'kill 'em and smash 'em' games (although I do let him play these on occasion too) He will search through the landscape for objects before moving into a new landscape and try different objects through the worlds - summing up for me what he thinks will happen and what he needs to find to activate the next part of the game. Wall-e has been quite a good one - it has lots of puzzle and problem solving tasks. He is learning the game terminology, and about caring for disks and electronic equipment and even about using menus to save games and change chapters.
Popular culture is filled with the skills and lessons that a child of the period needs for their life. So, we have chosen to go for a balance - it is sometime fraught with tears and tantrums when mummy says no games machine right now. But I think, in the end it has been worth it.