Like most parents, my husband and I worry about the barrage of media our three children are exposed to every day, and we struggle to set limits. We don't own a Wii, an Xbox, or any other big video game system. With only one TV in the house and a very short list of interactive websites that the kids are allowed to visit on our shared computer, these are some severely deprived children.
Just ask them.
My oldest daughter, Didi, 9, did manage to save her own money to buy an iPod Touch, but according to her, the half dozen games she owns have gotten boring (but sadly, she needs to come up with the cash herself if she wants to add more.)
Swimming against the tide isn't easy, especially when other parents rave about the benefits of Wii Fit, and even scientific studies claim that video games make kids smarter. I know and I don't care. I don't want one more device in my home that requires parental supervision, period.
So, imagine my surprise when, out of the blue, Didi recently asked for a game that we were willing to buy: an old-fashioned game of Monopoly, which she'd tried out at school. As soon as we broke the seal on the box, the kids transformed into obsessive little real estate tycoons, devoting every spare moment since to mastering the game.
Monopoly has turned out to be the perfect learning activity for my second and third graders. The game demands that they practice their reading and math skills, master new vocabulary like "inheritance" and "utilities," and negotiate peacefully with one another. Not that they care, of course. From the kids' point of view, Monopoly is all about the fantasy: going to jail; buying a railroad; building a hotel; and amassing a small fortune, which they would gladly blow on Cheetos, Pepsi, and video games, if only their parents weren't so mean.