Unpopular opinion: TV & computer games CAN enrich your children

On the morning of Indie’s second birthday, he was introduced to Monster Trucks. A ten-minute Monster Jam video on youtube that became the catalyst of a year long obsession. He had always been interested in wheels, or rather, the rotation of wheels. He’d lie on the floor and roll his Hot Wheels cars across the carpet just to watch the motion of their wheels. Jarrod figured that since wheels were so intriguing to him, he might like the giant wheels of a monster truck. Well, he wasn’t wrong…

hot wheels monster truck

Months later, Indie had a decent collection of monster truck toys, and wouldn’t go anywhere without them. Without ALL of them. Somewhere within the bowels of a misplaced backup hard drive, there is a pictorial documentary of just how much monster trucks became a focal point of his life. Photos of Indie attempting (and succeeding through dogged determination) to climb a ladder at our favourite playground – with up to eight monster trucks in his hands. Freestyle tracks carved out of Narrow Neck sand.

Finally – sometime during the age of three-ish – the monster truck obsession wore itself out. I admit I was kinda relieved. Maybe now he’d take up a new interest! In something that wasn’t so… one-track.

But he didn’t. Try as we might to engage him in other interests, Indie floated lost in his own little apathetic world of Complete Disinterest In Most Things. He couldn’t engage in anything. And he was unsettled because of it.

Finally one day – and I can’t remember how but I’m guessing it had something to do with Iron Man – we engaged him once again with… Superheroes! At last, he was revitalised. Intrigued by flying metal suits, indestructible shields, and magical hammers. (As a family of Marvel fans, ┬áthis was an obsession we were all happy to jump in on. ;))

free comic day auckland

Angry Birds followed. First the app, then the little plastic figures with their catapults, which gave him hours of fun setting up intricate towers (our Jenga blocks were sacrificed for this cause) and finding the perfect place to set up his catapult so as to knock it all down again. There was a fair amount of real-life, physical play that was inspired by that game, too.

After that; Plants vs Zombies. I wasn’t so rapt about what was a fairly pointless and brain-numbing computer game. But that game did have its positive side-effects. In an effort to draw for Indie real life connections – inspired by the game – we planted flower gardens with Sunflowers and Snapdragons. Then once an interest in gardening began to take hold (for both of us) we moved to growing herbs and veggies. Because of that initial interest in a pointless computer game – and my determination to forge a real life connection from it – Indie’s interest in gardenings remains to this day.

And the game inspired him to draw. Intricate, amazing drawings that were packed with more details than I had ever seen come from him before. Those drawings were stories in themselves.

 

plants vs zombies drawings

 

Minecraft followed. Connecting with him on a creative as well as constructive level.

Almost all of his interests have been generated initially from a movie or computer game, but they have all managed to tap into other areas of expression and interest for him. They’ve resonated with him in a way nothing else has, and enriched so many other aspects of creativity.

Of course, this can be hard for others to understand. Particularly teachers who hear him talk non-stop about a computer game, without actually seeing how this interest has inspired him to create his own incredible ideas and concepts.

indies mazes
These mazes have been inspired by computer games, and contain trap doors and bad guys that have to be defeated before you can get to the prize

 

Bree also has a single driving obsession which she has carried with her since she was two and a half. She lives, breathes, eats, sleeps and probably even poops… Dinosaurs.

We created this garden specifically with Bree’s dinosaur play in mind.

 

No one ever blinks an eye at the fact that, nine times out of ten, all of her imaginary play, her drawing and her story telling revolves around dinosaurs. No one ever questions whether such a long-standing all-consuming obsession is healthy for her. And why would we question it? Dinosaurs are educational. Dinosaurs are science. Dinosaurs are history.

But questions are frequently asked as to whether it’s healthy for the majority of Indie stories, drawings, and general thought processes to stem from movie and gaming related topics such as superheroes and Minecraft. These interests are unhealthy! They’re corrupting his mind! His attention span! His behavior!

On the contrary – and this is something I feel people find hard to believe or accept – these interests help him. These ‘pointless’ things have inspired in Indie an interest in science. And technology. And innovation. He dreams of a future where he can build his own flying suits. Where he can build robots that carry out certain tasks. Even where he builds his own apps or games. He doesn’t yet know the intricate details of ‘quantum physics’, but he has long dreamed of creating wormholes and portals into different dimensions. Is that not educational? Is that not science? Is that not innovation?

Is that not educational? Is that not science? Is that not innovation? And is that any less valuable than Bree’s love for dinosaurs and paleontology?

One dreams of our planet’s history, while the other dreams of its future. But isn’t it great that they dream?