As a self-professed geek, my three sons might as well have been born with dice in one hand and a video game controller in the other. From a very early age, they were playing all sorts of board games and video games. They are very comfortable with the geek gaming culture and all three still embrace it. It is a wonderful hobby that can stimulate the imagination, build intellect, and develop social skills, just to name a few of the many benefits. However, I also wanted to make sure they were exposed to other experiences besides gaming in order to help them be well-rounded individuals. As parents, my wife and I thought it was important to give our children opportunities to participate in other activities that they might find enjoyable and enrich them as individuals. The first was sports.
I’m a sports nut who loves to play and watch sports. I played lots of sports in my youth and for the past 25 years I’ve participated in organized softball. As a result, I know first hand how sports emphasizes the importance of working as a team, respecting authority (ie. the coach), accepting victory or defeat with dignity, and of course the many benefits of practicing to obtain improvement and discipline. With all three boys, I gave them the choice of whatever they wanted to participate in, from baseball, to football, to basketball, to karate. For me, it didn’t matter. I just wanted them to participate in some sort of organized sports activity. If they didn’t like a certain sport, we encouraged them to try another. They are now ages 15, 11 and 9-years-old and all three still participate in some form of sports. In addition, we love to go and watch sporting events as a family. These family outings have given us great memories that will stay with us forever.
Obviously, another huge benefit of playing sports is the physical activity. Geeks have a negative stereotype of being overweight individuals who just sit in front of a PC or gaming table all day. Sports helps instill the importance of physical fitness that they’ll need to maintain through their entire lives to remain healthy and active.
A second form of activity I have supported with my sons is learning how to play a musical instrument. I took piano at an early age and it’s an activity I’ve enjoyed my entire life. I currently play in a band at my church and in a local rock band, too. The discipline it takes to learn how to play an instrument is invaluable to an individual. Even if a person never becomes proficient at playing, the work ethic established can last a lifetime. So when my oldest son came to me when he was 10-year-old and said he wanted to learn how to play guitar, we supported him. We got him a cheap starter guitar and lessons. Five years later, he’s now a pretty good guitar player, plays in a jazz ensemble in high school, and spends more tine in his room practicing than he does in front of the TV.
My second oldest recently decided he wanted to learn how to play the bass. So this past Christmas, we gave him a beginner’s bass and he has started learning how to play. In addition, he is playing the trumpet in his middle school band which is developing his music reading and playing skills. He might decide he really isn’t into being a musician and that is fine with us. We just wanted to make sure he had an opportunity to try it out.
Another activity we thought was important was community service. It’s so easy nowadays to get caught up with our own self-interests. In a time where the “culture of entitlement” can be a strong influence on our children, we believe that helping and putting others first shows our boys how good they got it. Serving others shows them how they could make a difference in people’s lives and, in return, receive that joyful feeling when helping those in need. Whether it’s doing service through local charities, the church, or the school, we’ve seen our boys’ level of maturity grow as a direct result.
These are just three examples of non-gaming activities that we believe to be good for our family, but it could be any activity like creative writing, painting, learning how to dance, art appreciation, theater, and even geocaching! The list is limitless. Don’t get me wrong, gaming is a fantastic hobby that my family spends many hours doing and enjoying, but taking time to put down the dice and turning off the video games has helped cultivate an appreciation for many different activities that our boys will enjoy for a lifetime.