My three year old boy loves to play games on the iPad. I mean he REALLY loves the iPad. All my daughter wants to do is draw but whilst he likes that too, he would probably rather be thwarting super-villains in app land. Obviously we have to meter out the time he's allowed to play games in this way but every now and then I think to myself... "Is he too young to be playing video games?" The moment this pops in to my brain I'm immediately aware that it is fuelled by standard issue parent paranoia and not by any logical reasoning or astute observation. So rather than succumb to an irrational fear I have started to make extra effort to observe exactly what is going on and how the experience might be affecting him. The results are overwhelmingly positive in my view.
He loves it, he talks about it enthusiastically, his hand eye co-ordination is insane, he solves problems, he improves and he's just really really good at it. If video games are bad for him, it certainly doesn't look like it from where I'm sitting. Check out this wonderful TED talk on the subject from Gabe Zichermann.
I have my own opinions about the profound benefits of game-based learning having seen first hand the incredible work of the Consolarium in Scotland, a team who support schools wanting to use mainstream video games to enrich the curriculum. However, it's something else to watch it happening in your own home with your children. Games are new, the idea of a three year old playing games on a touch screen tablet is certainly new, so it's natural that as parents we would feel cautious. But I think we can relax, watch closely and even better join them and get involved. Even if how we play looks very different in the future, I think what matters most for our kids, is that we're playing in it together.