Are games a waste of time?
Not always! Games can help your child to learn and develop English language skills.
There are games specially designed to help children learn English. A great place to start is the Cambridge English games and social media webpage. There are lots of games and activities that your child can do alone or together with you.
There are also some types of games that require players to communicate with other players, all over the world. The language most often used is English. This can be a great way of developing language skills and other social interaction skills.
How can games be good for learning?
Games can help with learning in a number of ways. Here are a few examples provided by Constance Steinkuehler, Professor in Education and Games at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:
Games can help children learn challenging material
Good games designers think very carefully about how users will play the game. What will users do in the first 20 seconds, 2 minutes, 20 minutes? In this way, players get a sense of achievement as they progress and are motivated to keep going, even when it’s challenging. This process is actually very similar to what teachers do in the classroom
Games provide a regular source of English language
It helps enormously to have real reasons for using English on a regular basis. This can be tricky if you live in a non-English-speaking country. Games are full of imaginary and real-life activities, and authentic language.
Games get children actively involved
Children have to weigh up the options, make choices and determine the outcome of the adventure. This can be great for learning.
Games can be a great source of motivation
Even the most reluctant learners tend to enjoy learning when it involves games. Researchers have found that children who are ‘struggling’ with reading in school are reading at a higher level and with much better understanding in games. Interest is crucial. When children are given texts and activities they care about they will keep trying, even when it’s challenging, and become better readers.
Is it safe to use digital tools?
Games and the internet are amazing learning tools – they provide children with a great number of opportunities to improve their English.
There are certainly some risks involved too. So it’s important that you help to protect your child online. For example, set up parental controls and tell your child not to give out personal information.
But these risks shouldn’t stop you and your child from accessing digital learning tools. In the world we live in today, more and more things are done digitally. It’s important to teach children how to use these tools effectively and safely. Children growing up in a supportive digital environment are learning the skills that they will need for their future studies and careers.
You can help your child with their learning by showing interest and encouragement. Get involved in what your child is doing online and with technology. For example, ask your child to show you the games they play, and explain how they work. Children respond to this differently depending on their age, but most are excited to share what they are doing and what is happening in their lives.
Will digital tools distract my child from other study activities?
Digital tools, such as phones, computers and tablets, can be used both for fun and for study activities. As parents, we need to help children understand how to achieve a good balance, and to develop their study skills as they become more independent.
It can be a good idea to set time limits for some of the less educational digital activities. You may want to involve your children in making the rules about how and when to use technology for different purposes.