Looking to Boost Your Child's Creativity? Let Them Play Minecraft
Playing Minecraft increases creativity, according to a new study. There’s a catch though—it only works under the right circumstances.
Minecraft is a video game that allows its players to build complicated structures and entire worlds in three dimensions. Essentially, it is a limitless, virtual Lego world.
Researchers at Iowa State University compared children’s creativity levels after playing Minecraft or doing other screen time activities. The participants were in four groups: they either played Minecraft with instructions, played Minecraft without instructions, watched TV, or played a racecar video game.
After their activities, the kids’ creativity was measured by asking them to draw a creature from a different planet. Creatures with less human-like features scored high for creativity, while those that more closely resembled humans scored low.
The kids who played Minecraft were the most creative, but only those who did not receive specific adult instructions before playing.
It might be easy to accept that playing Minecraft would foster creativity better than watching TV, an entirely passive activity. The same goes for playing a racecar video game, during which the player acts entirely reactively. A racecar game directs the child, while in a proactive game like Minecraft, the child directs the game. But why did only the kids who played Minecraft without instructions show increased creativity?
The study posits a few possibilities, the most compelling of which is the suggestion that “the instructions may have changed subjects' motivation for play.” The kids’ choosing how to play and what to build was important in how creative they were.
In the study, those given instructions were told to “play as creatively as possible.” In reality, that direction was more likely to decrease creativity as players tried to meet vague adult standards. While building, children should be thinking, “What can I imagine and how will I make it?” not, “Is this creative enough? Will the adults be impressed?”
What Does This Mean For Parents?
Parents can feel confident allowing their kids to play Minecraft, keeping in mind a few caveats. First, make playing a free choice. In line with the study’s findings, do not give any specific directions. It’s fine to ask children about their creations, but it is important not to put judgment on them, including excessive praise. Praise can lead to increased pressure to “do well” in the future. It’s fine to express interest, but avoid gushing.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to one hour per day. Minecraft should be counted towards this daily maximum. If parents observe any problematic behavior issues, reducing total screen time should be considered.
Minecraft increases creativity because it puts the player behind the wheel. Unlike traditional video games, this one fosters children’s imaginations. Parents just need to make sure that they keep it that way, by letting their kids play freely.
Looking to boost your child's creativity? Here are our Guidelines for Optimum Creativity.
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