For many children, playgrounds are being replaced with the online worlds of Call of Duty or Minecraft. Children are spending their free time immersed in these worlds, playing with friends and making new ones. While the benefits of games like Minecraft are becoming apparent to educators and parents, these digital playgrounds are not without their risks. Online games create a sense of anonymity and players say and do things they simply wouldn’t in other environments. Cyberbullying is a serious concern within online games and children with autism can be easy targets.
Minecraft is being used in schools around the world to promote creativity, problem solving, and teamwork. The educational version, MinecraftEdu, is specifically designed for school use and provides teachers more control over the server and functionality. Children everywhere have fallen in love this game and educators have taken notice.
What makes Minecraft so fun to play (and also why it is a perfect game for children with autism) is there are no rules, no clear objectives, and no winning or losing. Kids are free to create and experiment in the world as they wish. For younger children developing early play skills, a lot can be worked on in the realm of Minecraft, including imitation, taking turns, observational learning, and pretend play. Setting up a server and playing Minecraft with a child is a good way to work on these skills that can be difficult to target in real world situations.