Being flexible when your kids are in a state of flow may yield unexpected benefits.
- Parker Barry
When we talk about being in “the zone” or a state of flow, we tend to think of it in terms of athletes or adults and the workplace. But kids are easily engrossed as well, and when it comes to digital diversions the proliferation of sandbox games encourages that sense of losing track of time. Sandbox games are less like video games and more like a digital mash-up of traditional toys like Colorforms, Lincoln Logs, Little People and LEGO. The most popular of such titles is Minecraft, but there are an ever-growing number of options for kids and adults of all ages and skill levels.
Lately parents, developmental experts and educators are finding good reasons to occasionally suspend their regular rules about screen time as it applies to TV and video games, when kids are benefitting from being in a state of flow while crafting a realm or creature straight out of their imaginations.
Current thinking suggests that for both adults and children being in a state of flow is conducive to learning and creativity. Flow is that ephemeral endless moment when a book holds you captive, or you start work on a project at 9 a.m. and look up startled to find it’s after 5 p.m., you forgot to eat lunch and you’ve done way more than you thought possible in one day. It’s only when we lose ourselves in the trivial or passive that flow is unproductive. When the right diversion commands all our attention there are benefits.
I’m not suggesting that every time your child wants to jump into an immersive imaginary world in two or three dimensions that they be encouraged to do so at the expense of regular routine or other forms of learning and play.
I do suggest, however, that if you notice that your kid is particularly absorbed, being flexible to allow her thoughts and energy to reach their natural conclusion can yield unexpected benefits including better problem solving skills and increased ability to work toward complex goals. Sandbox games also appeal to creative adults as much as to kids. The time when one captivates your kid is an ideal opportunity to not just supervise screen time, but to join your child in their rich fantasy landscapes.
“There are both pros and cons with kids becoming engrossed in these games, but I believe at this point the benefits in most cases outnumber the drawbacks,” said Brad Spirrison, managing editor of Appolicious and appoLearning. “For a game like Minecraft in particular, the teachers I work with at appoLearning cite the spatial reasoning and critical-thinking skills that can be developed and refined while creating new worlds.”
The next time your kid seems to be staring at a screen for too long, take a quick peek at both what they are doing and what state of mind he’s in. If you think he’s in a creative positive “zone” it might be a good idea for you to let him go with the flow.