About three years ago a Wii made its way into our home. For my oldest son, it was a novelty and a result of years of negotiating for a game system in a home without even a basic cable package. I naively imagined us all playing Wii sports resort together and dancing up a storm with Let’s Dance. Little did I know that Skylanders Trap Team and their quirky characters would end up dominating the Wii.
We have experimented with a few different methods for limiting screen time in our home. We currently have the 30 minutes per day rule across all devices. The kids can choose how they use the time. They can bank it, but they can’t borrow it. My older two are good at self-regulating their time and will plan ahead for a movie they want to watch or a evening with friends where Wii is on the menu. My youngest, however, is a different story. He is only five and doesn’t know a time without the Wii in his life. He exhibits a frightening level of competency while playing the game and I’m horrified that he can recite the name of every single character on the Trap Team poster.
My instinct was to move to ban the game all together in his company, but I knew this wouldn’t solve the problem. The proverbial horse had left the gate. So we got creative. We asked what he loved most about the game, and it turned out the imaginative characters are what drew him to the game. Awesome! We can work with that. I’ve written lots on this blog about the importance of dress up and imaginary play before. The babysitter we rely on is amazingly creative and started crafting a costume of Chompy Mage. That was followed up with a Wolfgang design crafted at the kitchen table. The result was weeks of imaginative costume and dress up play that gave all the other costume bits in the bin a new life too!
From March to June our Wii was unplugged while we worked on a renovation of our
basement. What was initially an outcry of “what about Skylanders?” became months of imaginative, creative and awesome play with the costumes, characters and various other action figures. My kids are 10, 8 and 5 and they play for hours at this game. The characters have homes and lives and listening to each of them tell how the game works is a bit like reading Kevin O’Malley’s Once Upon A Royal SuperBaby! (If you haven’t read the book, it is great for getting kids with different interests to weave their story telling or imaginative play together into one plot line.) My daughter reports that “everyone is friends and we have a store where you can buy stuff you need with the pirate coins”. My youngest tells me it is all about setting up for a battle… At least they all agree it is the best game, ever!
Skylanders Trap Team may hijack their minds while they are plugged in, but they’ll use the characters to start weaving storytelling with imagination and, yes, even a bit of gaming, into their everyday play. I’ve made my peace with the wii and know their interests will change again soon enough!
If you are looking for creative ways to engage your kids in unplugged playtime, come join me on Pinterest!