Money Makes the World Go Round…


This may sound like the most cynical title, but we know it’s true. There are countless poems and songs with this very line in it. Lets talk about teaching special needs kids about money management and financial responsibility. I know many parents’ goals is to help foster independence with their special needs kiddo so they may be able to function as an adult with minimal help, or when it is our time to go… (I understand this isn’t possible for every situation, but these steps will help in higher functioning cases). This is also going to be a long article because there are options available. I’m doing the leg work so you don’t have to.

Step 1) Identify Your Biggest Hurdle:

This is key. Individuals with vision issues will need to learn how to use apps on their phones to identify and count money, along with being able to identify money by touch (there are many ideas on folding paper money differently based on its denomination). Individuals with intellectual disabilities or Autism often deal with concrete truths rather than abstract ideas. People with dyscalculia may need help with the money calculations, but may be able to understand the concept of money management.

Step 2) Start Early, Start Young

Teaching children to count is as natural as teaching them the alphabet, shapes or colors. However, most people don’t think about teaching them about money identification until the school starts doing it. Down here, it is in 1st and 2nd grade (two different ISD’s).

colorful play money
realistic play money

Something to keep in mind about teaching them about money early on is be aware of the play money. Up until recently most play money was brightly colored and looked nothing like real money. (to be honest, we do use these in lieu of an allowance, I will explain bellow). But they don’t help the kids learn how to identify money or count it. I had to find play money at Staples years ago. Now they’re everywhere and even Melissa and Doug has a nice set. If your child has learning issues, repetition is key, recognition is key, so getting something as close to the real thing as possible is important.

Take them to the store. It may make the store trip take longer, but once they understand the concept of counting and higher/lower or more/less, you can start teaching them about sales and to look on the price tags at price per oz and such so they can learn how to spend their money better. Just because it says it’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s a better deal than getting the larger pack… bulk shopping won’t save them any money if the products expire before they use them… teaching them what sales tax is (if you live in an area that has it). Teach them early the difference between “WANT” and “NEED”.

Step 3) Practice, Practice, Practice

Talking about money with your kids can get extremely stressful so here’s some ways to make it easier:

Classes/resources:

Some schools have classes they can take. Ours offers “Dollars and Sense.” Thing 1 took it last year, Thing 2 doesn’t want to waste the school hours on it as she’s aiming to take college courses by her senior year, so she’s wanting to learn outside of school. Thing 3 will probably take it in high school, unsure about the other 2.

Some SNAP (Special Needs Assistance Partners) offices offers life skills programs that focus on how to purchase items and services they may need. Including, but not limited to planning ahead, becoming familiar with prices, taxes, and budgeting.

¢ents and $ensibility. This is a guide for people with disabilities regarding money management. It can be used by the individual or by their family as a teaching tool.

Practical Money Skills is an entire website for kids, parents, and educators to learn about money management. Under the teaching tab, there are lessons for special needs kids.

Check with your caseworker or regional offices to see what classes are available in your area.

Hands on Practice:

Let your kid practice buying things in a store with you there. When you feel confident enough to give them more financial independence get them a “debit card” you can control remotely.

We use Greenlight for Thing 2. She is entering into high school and is in extra curriculars. She has the freedom to be able to walk to the convenience store with her friends and grab a snack. She can access her card via her account on her phone so she always knows her balance so she can budget. Her card has her face on it as a protection feature. Any money she earns, she gives to us and we “load” it onto her card. We can give her any additional funds we want or as needed. We also have the ability to shut off her card if she is grounded or it is missing (in her room) or is lost/stolen. We can also restrict her purchases to disallow certain stores or only allow certain stores. As the other kids get older, we will get them cards as well. There is a monthly fee, but it’s per family, not per kid and rivals that of a checking account. I like getting the alerts of her spending habits so we can talk about her financial decisions. “Thing 2 spent $2 at Taco Time.”

I do have a referral code for Greenlight, if you click on the link or scan the QR code, you will get $45 when you set up your account. (This is as I write this, the amount may change in the future, a couple of months ago it was $30).

Board Games:

Of course you knew we were going to get to this…. this list is taken from several websites, but I have weeded out the more advanced games and listed them in the honorable mentions. The following games are sorted by age per the manufacturer, as always, the suggested age doesn’t always fit the age of your child’s needs.

Ages 5+
The allowance game

Ages 5-11, 2-4 players

Kids do chores to earn an allowance and can spend their money however they see fit.

  • Money management
  • Make change
  • Identify monetary values
  • Basic math
Exact Change by Continuum Learning
Exact Change

Ages 5+, 2+ players

It plays like UNO, except it uses coins and money in place of numbers.

  • Money familiarity
  • Make change
  • Basic math
Ages 6+
Buy it Right by Learning Resources
Buy it right

Ages 6+, 2-4 players

Kids learn how to make educated purchases and can set their own prices for items they sell. They learn how to correct errors.

  • Buy and sell
  • Identify monetary values
  • Make change
  • Basic math
Ages 7+
Money Bags by Learning Resources
Money Bags

Ages 7+, 2-4 players

There’s not much to this game, except it a gamification way to encourage money recognition and counting of money. It also comes in a European “pounds” version.

  • Make Change
  • Identify monetary values
  • Basic Math
Ice Cream Empire by Empire Games
ice cream empire

Ages 7+, 2-4 players

It’s a competitive game to build your ice cream franchise across the board. Order and sell your ice cream at varying rates depending on location. The player with the most profits wins.

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Running a business
  • Inventory management
  • (Bonus) Geography US
Ages 8+
Payday by Hasbro/Parker Bros.
Payday

Ages 8+, 2-4 players

This game IS about finances and budgeting. The game board is 31 days long, but you can decide how many months you want the game to last. Each “day” has events such as a buying “deal” or “mail” which includes everything from bills to insurance offers. It even includes loans with interests. It’s thorough.

  • Earn and save money
  • Basic money management
Monopoly from Hasbro/Parker Bros
Monopoly

Ages 8+, 2-6 players

I’m sure everyone knows what Monopoly is…

How it helps: kids have to lean the importance of budgeting their spending so they don’t bankrupt themselves. Cheat your taxes? Go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

  • Real estate basics
  • Buying and selling
  • (bonus) Anger management
  • (addl bonus) Who plays cut throat?

Confession, I refuse to play the board game because I am mean. I prefer playing the computer game because then I don’t have puppy dog eyes staring at me as I destroy them.

The Game of LIFE by Hasbro/Milton Bradley
The Game of LIFE

Ages 8+, 2-4 players

Life happens…

Granted LIFE is more of a game of chance, you don’t manage your money as much as make decisions that impact your financial outcomes. They learn the financial consequences of losing a job, “kids are expensive pets”, car and mortgage payments, taxes, debt. Oh, the joys of life.

  • Controlled spending
  • Assets vs liability in a visual manner

This game is the most replaced game in our home due to tiny pieces… tbh, we haven’t replaced it…

Budget City by Attainment Co
Budget town and budget city

Budget Town: Ages 5+, 2-6 players

Budget City: Ages 8+, 2-6 players

These games are unique as as they were designed with special needs individuals in mind. Budget Town focuses on cash transactions. Budget City is more advanced, even includes five difficulty levels so you can tailor the game to the abilities of the player. This game introduces checks, credit cards, interest rates on savings accounts, in addition to cash. This teaches concepts like budgeting and banking.

  • Budgeting
  • Identify monetary values
  • Basic money management
  • Make change
  • Basic Math
  • Intro to banking
Honorable Mentions:

I was going to list a bunch of other games, but after listing 20 games, I deleted this whole section except ones I actually own or have played and can tell you why I can’t recommend them.

  • Act Your Wage (not a bad game, but you’re not supposed to go under your emergency fund… which is $1000… a disabled person on SSI disability is only allowed to have $2000 in assets. This game could cause undue anxiety as a result of unreasonable expectations if they expect to have a minimum of $1000 in their bank at all times.)
  • Catan (I like it, but it’s more bartering goods than money)
  • Machi Koro (no negative value repercussions, click for full review)

Video Games:

Video games are an excellent resource for kids to learn money management skills. There are no real life repercussions so they can learn from their mistakes in a safe environment without harsh consequences.

I discussed this list with the kids. We decided we would not list any games where you get money or loot from killing things, as that’s just not how things work in real life… so most RPGs are out, even if the store or trade system is excellent, but we just don’t see many treasure chests fall out of mobile skeletons these days. (There may be exceptions to these rules). I know people will say there are good sports games that teach money values, but we have no sports games in the home, so I cannot judge them.

The Sims on PC-Origin
The Sims

Ages Teen (due to WooHoo/sexual themes, crude humor/cartoon mischief, violence). Note: all “nudity” is pixilated out. However, there are mods out on the internet… so make sure you pay attention if your kid is computer savvy.

The Sims is probably one of the most expensive and expansive universes out there. The base game of any of them has you design your sim and you start from scratch. You have to help you Sim budget their funds to buy their first home, pay their bills, buy food, get a job, and slowly improve their skills so they can get promotions and find new opportunities. Through the series, more career paths have opened, reactions and AI are more realistic.

  • Budget skills
  • Realistic representation of money
  • Realistic consequences (hunger, utilities shut off, pets run away, CPS, etc)
  • Realistic goals and rewards

Thing 4 and I love playing this game. We still don’t have all the DLCs because it never ends.

House Flipper on PC and consoles
House Flipper

Ages Everyone (except maybe one haunted house…)

The name is the game. Your job is to flip houses. Some have specific jobs they want you to do, some are yours free to design. There are several free and paid DLC available. The developer is also great and dropping a free special event house on occasion (holiday houses). This game teaches hard work yields results and when you “study” your market, you can yield higher profits. (Potential buyers tell you what they like and dislike). I will do a grander review of this game at a later date.

  • Money management, you can run out even on a job
  • You can set the currency (which is a cool feature so you can see average exchange rates)
  • The potential of real estate investment

Thing 2, 4, 5 and I love this game.

Slime Rancher on PC and consoles
Slime Rancher

Ages 10+ (mild comical violence)

The game revolves around you rebuilding a farm and completing tasks. You use the money you earn and (should) invest it into better equipment so you can complete your tasks more efficiently.

  • Money management
  • Investing = potential

Thing 2 did a power point presentation to us parents on why she should have this game and why it isn’t a “dumb dumb game”. She loves the game.

Animal Crossing on Nintendo products
Animal Crosing

Ages Everyone

This game disguises personal finances into a quaint adventure game. It’s not all fun and games, cutesy quests and décor

  • Mortgage, but without interest
  • the “Stalk” market

Thing 1 has every Animal Crossing game. Thing 2 has a few, loves New Horizon. Thing 4 originally had New Horizon, but got so frustrated with the game, she gave it to Thing 2.

Stardew Valley on PC and consoles
Stardew Valley

Ages 10+ (alcohol and tobacco, simulated gambling, mild language, mild blood, fantasy violence)

Stardew Valley is a retro style game but with more modern color palates, making it beautiful. You manage a farm. Like most games on this list, you start with a very limited budget where you have to balance running the farm day to day and investing to improve it.

  • Money management
  • Investment opportunities
  • Entrepreneurship

Thing 5 loves this game. It’s growing on me as I grew up with Harvest Moon.

Graveyard Keeper on PC and consoles
Graveyard keeper

Ages Teen (Fantasy Violence, alcohol, mild language, mild blood)

I wish I could say I was joking by adding this one to the list, but I’m not. It’s a weird one, it’s not for everyone. You are sucked into a portal and end up as a graveyard keeper. You make money by running your graveyard and other businesses, whether they be ethical or not is up to you. Hire (reanimate) workers to run your farm… (they’re zombies).

  • Money management
  • Investment growth
  • Entrepreneurship

The DLC’s don’t add to the money bit, but are great. Thing 2 and I love this game.

Almost any Real Time Strategy game

This isn’t all of them by any means, but these were the first ones we could think of

  • Age of Empires franchise
  • StarCraft
  • WarCraft (not to be confused with WOW)
  • Civilization franchise
  • Tropico
  • Sim City
  • Any Tycoon game (Zoo Tycoon, Prison Tycoon, Hospital Tycoon, Roller Coaster Tycoon etc)

Step 4) Stress the Difference of Plastic and Virtual Money

The most common issue I see is special needs individuals struggle understanding that credit/debit cards or electronic payments hold the same value as physical cash. Physically show your child your statements with the corresponding receipt so they can see they are connected. This is why I am such a fan of Greenlight over using a gift card. Thing 2 gets real time updates on her account balance when she uses her card. Even though she doesn’t physically have cash in hand, it is a constant reminder how much she really has.

Explain that using credit cards is a loan and you have to pay all the money back with interest. And always, ALWAYS talk about keeping card and pin numbers safe. Explain the scariest monsters in life are people (sadly) and there will always be people who will try to take advantage of their money either from your kiddo’s kindness or outright stealing from them. I admit this is always one of the hardest conversations I have.

Step 5) Mistakes Happen, so Let’s Catch Them While They Have Us

Every human being, even those without special needs will make financial mistakes. I remember running out of gas and it was a couple days until pay day and my mom having to drive 45 min to rescue my hide. College life, am I right? Who has gone through a phase of living on ramen and boxed m&c? Who is still in that phase not by choice? (not you Thing 1)

As you work with your kiddo, you will notice their financial strengths and weaknesses. Praise them for their strengths and continue to help them adapt with their weaknesses. Talk to them when they make mistakes, you don’t want them to be afraid of money or independence. Fostering independence will give them the best shot at life.

This isn’t going to be easy, I believe in you.

We’re having a heat wave…. but not a tropical heat wave.


School has ended. We unfortunately lost our older dog, Chessie, to a brain tumor. I won’t get into the specifics because it will make everyone cry, but I just wanted to explain my further delay in writing.

I’ve found as much as I wanted to do YouTube reviews, I cannot stand watching myself to edit them. I have no issues talking about games or answering questions, but I cannot spend hours editing myself. So for sanity purposes, I will rarely be posting videos.

As the daily temperatures are over 100, we cannot spend much time outside. So, [insert] indoor activities including gaming. A year ago, I did a blog on the benefits of video gaming in special needs communities. I said then I would do a review of older systems like the Nintendo Wii, the Sony PlayStation Move, and the Microsoft Kinect. I meant to do this in the height of the pandemic, but a heat wave seems like a good time, as well. (Due to the number of tables in this blog, I strongly suggest viewing this on a computer or in computer mode. I know all the lines are off in mobile version. It works okay on my husband’s android, and not well on iphone).

Why review old systems?

These systems were made with movements in mind using the TV screen. Unlike the newer switch, these were more durable… they were just built to last. Because they are older, if you go to a retro gaming store, you will often find these systems and games more affordable, which is a necessity for families with special needs kiddos.

I have owned all three.

Wii

Nintendo Wii

Pros:

  • Can be used for rehab/therapy
  • Low cost, everything is a set
  • Gamification of motor rehab
  • Bluetooth capabilities
  • Lots of cool accessories… sports and car shaped ones… all sold separately
  • Can download retro Nintendo games for it…

Cons:

  • Not suitable for all conditions, requires hand use.
  • Requires calibration for every player
  • Large amount of titles appropriate for children
  • Base set doesn’t work well for full body movement, can be fooled and play while laying down and use like a remote control
  • The Wii remote uses infrared lighting and detection on the bar… its similar to the same technology as modern tv remotes (think Roku, they often use IR) and sometimes you push the button several times because of interference. This means basic interface… up, down, left, right sensors.

My personal experience with this was I could never get the sensor quite right. I was constantly having to re-calibrate it. We were largely not able to enjoy the more physically oriented games on it, and ended up playing some MySims games on it, thinking we needed to get used to the controllers. After beating those at 100% (while laying down with our arms propped on pillows because pointing the controller at the TV was never at the correct angle…) we decided to sell the system. Unless you get it to play old Nintendo games, I cannot recommend it for physical activity, especially a special needs kid. I want to foster enjoyment and independence, not frustration.

When I had mine, they didn’t have recharging stations for the controllers, I used rechargeable batteries. You are expected to change the batteries… constantly. The battery life didn’t last long with them.

Some people swear by the Wii… others have tried the other 2 I’m about to talk about and don’t look back…

PlayStation Move

Sony PlayStation Move, PS3 version

Pros:

  • Rechargeable controllers, either plug into the system while it is on or use a charging station! 10 hour battery.
  • The PS Eye (camera) can locate the glowing orb in a 3D space, meaning not only can it tell where you are left and right, up and down, it can tell how close or far away you are.
  • High precision and accuracy
  • Rumble pack for player feedback
  • Unique accessories, all sold separately.
  • Compatibility: the Move controllers work on the PS3, the PS4, and the PS VR. (This means they’re not obsolete).

Cons:

  • Requires a PS3 or PS4
  • Sold separately from the PS console.
  • The PS Eye camera is not compatible across platforms, make sure you get the correct one for your console.
  • Joystick controller sold separately
  • Few games available outside of the use of “for the sake of gaming”

I thoroughly enjoy the Move. We have the joystick controller and the Wonderbook to go along with it. There are not enough Wonderbook titles, IMHO.

Here is a list of our favorite therapy friendly Move games:

Game:

Book of Spells

What is it?

Specs:

Physicality:

You are a student at Hogwarts and attend spell classes. Your controller is your wand and the Wonderbook is your spell book.

Solo play

10+, 7 in UK

This game is one of the most gentle games there is. It does use the wand controller, but it doesn’t require the joystick controller. The entire game is played while seated in augmented reality.

our thoughts:

Love, love, LOVE this game. I will admit, I wasn’t a good student. I apparently almost always caught the drapes on fire when using Incendio… thus losing house points. LOL. While progressing through the story line, the book reads lore from the Potterverse aloud with animation styles similar to the story of the Deathly Hallows. Not enough games like this. I have embedded a video at the end of this section regarding the making of this game.

Book of Potions

Once again at Hogwarts, this time in Potions class… with your Wonderbook acting as your potions guide.

Solo Play

10+, 7 in UK

This is still a sit down game requiring the lone orb controller.

our thoughts:

To be completely honest, this is a beast to find reasonably priced in the US, easy in the UK. We don’t have it, but want it terribly. As I’ve stated, there are not enough Wonderbook games, only 4, and of those 4, we are truly only interested in 2.

LOTR: Aragorn’s Quest

you follow a fun side story and play as Aragorn and Gandalf, the controller acting as a sword and staff.

2 player co-op

T for Teen for Fantasy Violence.

This does require both the orb controller and the joystick controller. Can be played seated the entire time. Easy enough my mother could play (with anoxic brain injury and mild strokes).

Most of the other Move games we have are for playing games. There is a variety of fantasy games where you use the controllers as wands or swords, most can be played while seated, which would work for wheel chair bound individuals. Most of these games are rated Teen and Mature, so outside the Wonderbook, a Move may not be the move you want to make until your kids are older, unless you also play.

Microsoft Kinect

Pros:

  • No controller needed! Just need the camera (If you don’t have voice set up, you may need the controller to get games started)
  • Has voice control you can use on many menus, including main menu of system.
  • Can be played in med and low lit rooms, will let you know if it needs more lighting.
  • Each gamer profile can be configured to fit the gamer’s physical needs. The Kinect will also auto recognize them.
  • No accessories needed.
  • Microsoft has designed games with the idea of therapy in mind, not only helping with coordination and mobility, but social skills and the ability to bond with their peers over video games.

Cons:

  • Camera sold separately, not compatible with multiple platforms. Sold separately for Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Windows.
  • Does not do well with tons of light, so cannot be played outside.
  • The more players you add, the more difficulty the Kinect has with tracking. Optimum is 1-2 players. 4 can be chaos, but is still fun.
  • Many games require the use of legs
  • More Kinect games are available for the 360 than the other platforms.

The Kinect is hands down our favorite. We originally got it for Thing 2 as a gift for physical therapy, which she was attending weekly. We lived in the south east on an island and she has a severe mosquito allergy. She had to stay indoors most of the time. The Kinect was a life saver.

We have a LOT of Kinect games, a majority of them being dance games because there’s no controllers! I will list some of the more unique ones outside of dance games, because I feel that genre is self explanatory. (Most of the dance games can host up to 4 players).

Game:

What is it?

Specs:

Physicality:

Disney Fantasia

Fantasia: Music Evolved follows more conductor type movements. During musical pieces, from classical to modern music, players can modify it with different styles and featuring different instruments. The combinations are near endless, allowing for enjoyable repeat gameplay for music lovers.

The campaign mode is solo. There is a co-play mode, but the story is so much better played solo.

Rated 10+ due to some lyrics.

While it is designed to be played standing like a conductor, you can do this sitting, however, you may need some adjustments to allow for all the arm movements.

our thoughts:

This is Thing 3’s favorite Kinect game. The music is pretty enjoyable. I would have loved to have had more classical music. This game is largely underrated and we wish there was a sequel.

Disneyland Adventures

This game is the virtual theme park. The rides are mini-games. There are tons of things to do if you or the child isn’t particularly active that day, like search for hidden Mickey’s, collect autographs and photos, hug your favorite characters.

This CAN be played with 2 players, but works best with 1.

I don’t know why it says E10+, it’s 7+ in other countries. Thing 2 played it at age 4.

When “walking” around the park, only arms are needed, we have played it sitting down, but the mini games are often full body.

our thoughts:

Not only does this game encourage physical movement within your favorite Disney movies, it encourages social skills as your character interacts with the park characters. An example is you can ask for a hug either verbally or with specific non-verbal gestures. It reinforces waving hello and goodbye, shaking hands, etc. This was used as part of therapy for Thing 2. Other than the mini games, the background noises of the “park” while walking around are not overwhelming.

I will admit I played it in the middle of the night, I wanted all the autographs. ~sheepish grin~

Rush: Disney Pixar Adventure

This is somewhat like the Disneyland one, but with Pixar characters and less focus on a theme park, more on the minigames.

Up to 2 players.

E for Everyone.

Full body

our thoughts:

While cute, we definitely enjoyed Disneyland Adventures over this one. It was missing the magical feeling in the park. I know it sounds silly, since its a virtual park, but I’m just being honest.

Fable: Journey

This game follows the Fable trilogy as a mage, but less choices, more path led… so no more “Chicken Chaser.”

Solo play only.

Rated Teen (12+ in other areas): mild blood, mild language, violence

This game is made to be played while sitting. I will admit it is quite physical in the arms and upper body. I used this as part of my rehab and it was very affective, made me very sore.

our thoughts:

While this game is not designed for kids, not only small kids have disabilities. This is story enriched and is beautiful to look at. There wasn’t anything majorly offensive I needed to worry about for my kids (unlike the original trilogy).

Kinectimals

Run a big cat and bear sanctuary and feed/train the animals.

It’s a better version of Nintendogs, Catz/Dogz…

Solo play

Rated E for Everyone.

Most care can be done while sitting. Some of the training requires full body movements and speech.

our thoughts:

This is a cute game, also probably one of the quietest games we have. The background sounds are peaceful without tons of music. Both Thing 2 and Thing 4 had issues with sensory overload when they were younger. This game was Thing 4’s favorite.

Star Wars

4 ways to play:

Jedi Destiny: Main story mode, become a padawan, use a lightsaber and the force to find your destiny.

Podracing: it’s racing podracers.

Rancor Rampage: mind control a Rancor and have them crush, crumble, and chomp.

Galactic Dance-Off: It’s a dancing game with parodies of modern music with Star Wars themed lyrics…

Co-op 2 players

Up to 4 for the dancing.

Rated T for Teen: Mild Lyrics, Blood, Violence

(If your kid is a huge Star Wars fan, this game is the least of your worries).

Depends on which mode you play. Podracing and Rancors require arm movements, while Jedi Destiny will require more movements overall. Dance obviously requires full body movements.

our thoughts:

I’ll admit, this game has some issues. If you are not a die hard Star Wars fan, pass and pass hard. The jedi controls are weird and cause some funny antics. We spend more time laughing at each other than we do actually progressing in the game.

I can think of better racing games than podracing… I like Rancors. ~shrug~

The dancing is debatable on whether it’s meant to be B-rated movie bad or Star Wars Holiday Special bad. I like B-rated movies. I haven’t been able to make it thought the Holiday Special in one setting yet. I was originally semi excited thinking of the cantina and Star Wars Galaxies… thought I’d get to be a Twi’lek dancer. Was in shock to see a bunch of storm troopers and bounty hunters dancing.

Boba Fett intro, Star Wars Holiday Special 1978

The Kinect is more versatile with a large game library, especially on the 360. I would suggest this route when looking into a physical video game.

Synopsis:

Wii

Sony PlayStation Move

Microsoft Kinect

  • Makes a better gaming system than a therapy adjunct.
  • The Wonderbook is amazing, but not enough titles for it.
  • Controllers are rechargable
  • Few child titles.
  • Excellent games that can be played from a seated or wheelchair position, but requires finger use for button.
  • No controllers
  • Lots of titles for kids of varying ages
  • Most games cannot be played seated
  • Almost half the game titles are exercise or dance games…
  • There are some really cool adult titles as well… we need exercise, too (Elder Scrolls V, to name one).

Video Games are… good??


(Cover image by artist Walter Newton: Gallery)

For decades, we’ve heard not to play video games because they will rot your brain, just like the “boob tube”. . Video games are harmful to a child’s development. Many of these people will sit in front of a tv show or a movie, but video games are “bad”.

What if I told you video games can encourage reading? Video games can assist with physical therapy. Video games can help develop critical thinking. Video games help to combat the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Gaming in Health Care:

Gaming affects health care
Physical changes

Studies have shown that preschool children who have played with the physically interactive systems, like a Nintendo Wii, Playstation Move, or an X-Box Kinect have improved motor skills. They are often able to kick, throw, and catch balls better than their peers who have not been exposed to said gaming systems. Many hospitals, therapy centers, and some nursing homes are using the Wii, Move and Kinect as part of their physical therapy. In a study of 20 elderly Parkinson’s patients who played for three (3) months in physical therapy, they found an improvement of 55% in gait velocity, 65% in stride, and 55% in balance. ICU’s have reported due to the lower costs of the Wii, they are able to save patients money and they still see a significant improvement in the 33-64 age range. These systems are now older and thus cheaper so families can also have them at home to encourage their child to move. (You can check online or at your local gaming store that deals in older systems). This is also great for children who have to stay indoors during certain seasons due to a medical condition or severe allergies.

I do plan on doing an article on the differences between the Wii, Move, and Kinect in the future.

Boston did a study on surgeons who use microsurgery. The results showed doctors who play video games were 27% faster than those who don’t AND made 37% fewer mistakes. So now its a good thing to have a surgeon who plays video games. In another study, they found eyesight improves with video games. (They have no idea how). In children with amblyopia (crossed or lazy eye), when they play games for a year, there was 30% significant, 60% moderate improvement to the crossed eye. In addition to sight improvement, people develop the ability to differentiate between more shades of gray. (Not a book reference). People who drive at night or are pilots benefit the most from this… and the poor people asked by their partner to pick a shade of gray to paint with. The Leap Motion combined with a VR (virtual reality) headset is often used to help with Occupational Therapy and “hands on” educational and training programs. In a study using virtual table video games (like tablets) for occupational therapy over one (1) month for children ages 3-15 with motor disabilities, they found 3x improvement in fine motor skills and range of motion, especially with manipulations over door knobs, zippers, and buttons.

Brain functions

Gaming affects a variety of parts of the brain. Games can help people with decision making. RPGs (role playing games) are some of the best ones that encourage the player to make decisions, whether it’s based on strategy for gameplay or options that will change the story line. Studies show that people who play games make decisions 25% faster than those who don’t play, and they do not lose accuracy. They also found that gamers can often make 6 separate decisions and act on them within one (1) second, which is apparently four (4) times faster than the average person. (This means the non gamer makes 1.5 decisions and acts them out within a second.

The University of Rochester, New York, found that gamers are able to multitask more than six (6) separate tasks at the same time and not get confused; the average non-gamer can focus on up to four (4) tasks.

RPGs, text adventure games (old school) which are like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book, and reading game guides are excellent ways to boost reading skills. Commodore 64 had tons of the text games that are still popular to this day. Classic Reload has them available to play online.

Off topic…

Interesting fact, a popular text based game called Jewels of Darkness was involved in a lawsuit. The game is actually a series of three (3) games that were based on stories by Tolkien (Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, Simarillion, and Tales from Middle Earth). Because of this, the game was originally released as the Middle Earth Trilogy. Needless to say, they didn’t have rights to his estate and so they had to change the name.

Psychological

The University in Auckland, New Zealand, had 94 young people play a computer/mobile RPG called SPARX, designed for ages 12-19 to teach skills that are often taught in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). In many cases, the game reduced symptoms of depression more than traditional treatments. There have been other studies with others young people and the total tested is 187 to date and they have found it also helps with anxiety and anger. 44% of players recovered completely from depression, compared to 26% who have standard treatments. 60% showed a reduction of symptoms by at least 30%. Unfortunately the game is currently only available in New Zealand. I hope it is more widely available in the future.

Oxford University found that people who play Tetris right after a traumatic experience can help reduce the chance of flash backs or PTSD.

The downside to this is individuals, especially males, who only play violent video games are foundto have a decreased activity in the prefrontal lobe, which can lead to altered mood states and aggression. It can also lower their empathetic response. It’s been found that those who only play excessively violent games have more anxiety than other gamers. Also, video game addiction can lead to decreased activity in the frontal lobe.

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Gamification in Health care

These are games that encourage patients to make healthy choices. A very common version of this is apps that link to your fitness watch and such. Some are literal games that will let you trade in the steps you take for gear for your game, some are audio books that will read about an apocalypse or adventure. These often have “action scenes” that encourage you to run just like the characters in the stories do. Some are using games for behavior modification to combat childhood obesity. This has been particularly effective in the preteen range. They get more game time in trade for eating 2-3 more servings of fruits and veggies a day and less junk food. Results are typically seen within 2 months.

Zen games are becoming increasingly popular, these often have techniques that are taught in Bio Feedback Therapy. Some biofeedback centers use games to encourage children to relax. For example, we’ve seen some that are linked to the child’s heartrate and breathing that had a butterfly or a bunny come out and move when the child was relaxed.

There are some amazing innovations in electronics to help children, whether for education, calming, communication, or tracking.

Jerry the Bear is designed for children ages 4-9+ with Type 1 diabetes. He has lots of features so he children can relate. He is available for purchase (and donation) here.
My Special Aflac Duck is amazing. It is designed for children with cancer, although it is gaining popularity for those being treated with sickle-cell anemia.
Sidekicks was designed to he a holographic personal assistant. He’s been found to be helpful with individuals with Autism, Alzheimer’s, STEM education, and just plain fun. The Kickstarter is scheduled to start this month…
Purrble was launched late 2020 and it’s been an amazing tool in helping children with anxiety. It’s technically an interactive toy rather than a video game. There is not an app for it yet.
Gululu may be pricy, but they help children who actively refuse to drink water. Their water intake directly affects their virtual pet .
Jennie, although not a video game aspect, is an awesome interactive toy. It was designed with people suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia, however, they are exploring it’s use for other people with disabilities who cannot care for an animal, but still crave the interaction. It was brought to life by Tombot and the Jim Henson Creature Shop.

Education:

In this day in age, many people have heard about educational games. Some commonly known ones are:

The Oregon Trail (Link will let you play online version. Oregon Trail has had many updates and expansions.) 1992 Remastered version.

Tinybop offers a wide array of STEM games for mobile platforms. We have several of them. Thing 2’s favorite was the human body. The apps explore anatomy, physics, nature, space, and engineering.

Note: the human anatomy doesn’t show the urogenital system unless you purchase it.

Toca Boca apps… when my kids were younger, they had all of the older ones. Toca Boca designs apps for younger children, or those with special needs. Many of these apps encourage human interaction so children who have social issues can learn from it (examples include Toca Store, Toca Birthday Party, Toca Tea Party). They designed a whole Toca Hair Salon series (I think there’s 5 games total) that can help with children who experience anxiety from the hair dresser. Tons of imaginative games, and even science games like Toca Lab, which is based on the periodic table of elements, and Toca Lab 2: Plants, which explores cross germination. (Update: I just got word they have also started releasing a box like Sago Mini.)

Sago Mini was also a favorite in our house. They design apps for toddlers and preschoolers that help them explore their world and emotions. They also introduced the Sago Mini Box which include playsets and activities that relate to the Sago Mini world. Sago Mini is a subsidiary of Toca Boca, so you know the quality is there, and it’s easy to transition to the next stage of play with Toca Boca.

And the list keeps going. There are online games that mimic school curriculums, games for subjects, games for typing.

One of the ways we help with education on “non educational games” is to have the kids design their own cheat sheets for the game. This is something my parents started with me. So I have PRIMA guides (which encourages reading and following directions) and tons of guides and maps I made myself.

In not so short, video games can be beneficial when used in the right way. If you are looking for ways to download games to your computer, our favorites are GOG and Steam for more modern games and indie games. Our favorite for puzzle games, including match 3, hidden object games, literal puzzles, and word games is Big Fish Games.

Please don’t hesitate to ask questions or recommendations for types of games.

I’m now headed off to see if I die from dysentery again.