This week we celebrate another kooky holiday – Mario Day. The reason for this holiday? Well, if you abbreviate March 10 without any spaces – Mar10 – it can kind of look like the word MARIO. So which Mario is celebrated on this day? Why Super Mario of course!

I don’t know about you, but I loved to play video games when I was young. And Super Mario Bros. was my jam! If video games are not currently a part of your family’s life, they will be soon. Over the past couple of decades video games have gotten a bad rep with comments like “video games lead to violence” or “video games interfere with social skills since your child is sitting alone in a room”. But there are actually many positives to video games.

Canadian based pediatrician Dr. Michelle Ponti has said “What might just look like a fun waste of time to parents can actually be teaching kids valuable life skills including problem solving, how to make and take ownership of choices and how to control their own behaviors and goals.” So, let’s break this down, exactly how can playing video games benefit kids? Playing video games can:

Improve Coordination

Although it may not look like it, when playing a video game, you are not simply sitting motionless staring at a screen. Many of these games are interactive and the activities and actions that are being portrayed on the screen provide you with a lot of mental stimulation. Playing a video game requires the coordination of visual and auditory stimulation with physical movement. (yes, moving your fingers is considered physical movement)

Improve Problem-Solving Skills

All games have rules and challenges. This means that if you’re playing the game, you have to think carefully about your next movement to ensure that you are playing within the rules and advancing toward your goal. Games offer kids a chance to take on a problem and work to find a solution. In order to advance to the next level, you have to follow the rules and solve the problems at hand – sometimes very quickly.

Enhance Memory

Think about how often you see something/read something at the beginning of a game that you then need to remember for a more advanced level in order to successfully pass the level? Or what about the fact that pushing “A” makes you run, but “B” makes you jump? Aspects like this are actually improving both working and long term memory.

Improve Processing Speed & Multitasking Skills

Your brain is constantly receiving stimulation from multiple sources when you are playing a video game. You are simultaneously processing information that is visual, auditory and motoric. As these stimuli are provided, your brain is working hard to process them. In time, the speed at which you process this information increases. In addition, because you have so much coming at you, you are learning how to multitask through the activity – you are watching what your character is doing, what is coming at you, what obstacles you need to avoid, how to make your character move the proper way…there’s a lot going on!

Making it a Family Game

Video games are not inherently bad. In fact, in addition to the above-mentioned benefits to the individual, video games may actually bring your family a little closer together. So, let’s rethink this whole video game concept. Let’s not think of it as a solo endeavor, rather as an activity that multiple people can participate in together.

A study from 2018 investigated the effects of video game co-playing among family members regarding family satisfaction and family closeness. The results indicated that the more frequently the family played video games together, the higher the level of family satisfaction and closeness.

A month or so ago my two teenage nieces, my sister, my mother and I all sat down to play the new Super Mario Bros – we rotated who played since it only allows for 4 players. Here were 3 generations of individuals that all had knowledge of the same game. Yes, this new edition offered some pretty cool upgrades compared to the version that my mother, my sister and I played when I was young. But the basic structure of the game was exactly the same. I knew where those hidden extra life mushrooms were because I remember finding them when I was younger. I cannot tell you how much fun we had. We have not laughed as hard as a group in quite some time.

So, go ahead, get out your gaming system, iPad, smart phone or computer and spend some time as a family playing some games. I think you’ll be surprised by the amount of fun you will all have. 😉