Minecraft. It’s one of those ubiquitous games that it seems most kids are playing at one point or another. I’m not too worried about the Minecraft fascination, though. The thing is, there’s a lot of educational value in Minecraft. Many schools are even adding it to their curriculum! At first, I really didn’t get the appeal… so it’s a game. With blocks. And… everything is super boxy. And there’s no real end goal* (I’m from the Mario generation… you play the game, you save the princess, game over) which just blew my mind. When we got it, I didn’t think much of the game, obviously. But there are 7 important things my son has learned from playing Minecraft every day.
Spelling and basic typing skills.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that a game that consists of building structures with blocks can help with typing and spelling. So how does that help improve spelling and typing? The beauty in the educational value in Minecraft is learning can sometimes be unexpected. There are certain codes and “cheats” you can put in, as well as various codes needed to make specific mods work. One of my son’s favorite mods has been a tornado mod. The mod allows him to spawn a tornado by inputting a code. As a result, he’s learned how to type words like “Weather” as part of the coding. He also has learned how to spell words to search for video tutorials for help within the game. This leads to better knowledge of where keys are found on a keyboard.
While these are skills he may have learned sooner or later, I’m incredibly proud that my 5-year-old is developing typing skills that will help him in a technologically-minded society. Lately, we’ve even started reading Minecraft-related books. As we read, he sits and reads along with me. It allows him a chance to point out words that he knows, which improves his overall comprehension. It also helps him learn to read even more words as we spend time reading together each night.
Problem Solving Skills
Minecraft, by nature, has situations that require extensive problem solving…. how can I keep a skeleton from shooting at me? One way is to use another skeleton as a shield. They’re trained to shoot at their target, but if another skeleton stands between them and the target, they’ll still shoot. If you use another skeleton as a shield, you only have to worry about one skeleton– the other will get taken out naturally.
He’s learned what happens when you do certain actions, like digging straight down, which can cause you to fall out of the world. Once he’s learned that, he can change how he digs to avoid it. He’s figured out that certain brick patterns cause things to transform into other things. If you combine a specific pattern of iron and pumpkins, an Iron Golem will appear. An Iron Golem helps you defend against mobs and monsters. It’s a good advantage to have.
If night is approaching in survival mode and you don’t have a shelter or supplies to build one, for example, don’t panic. You can dig up dirt, replace the blocks in the shape of a shelter. That will get you through the night, and you can gather more supplies in the morning. Using the things you know about Minecraft only helps you improve, and solving problems is a big part of that. It provides significant educational value in Minecraft, allowing for great learning options.
Design and Creativity
Minecraft isn’t just about survival. The creative mode opens up a world of possibilities that make it incredibly fun. The limitless number of blocks available to you in creative mode give so many options for building. Forget basic shelters– you can design mansions and labs, skyscrapers and even chain restaurants and coffee shops. No bench? That’s okay, make one from stairs and use signs as chair arms. No table? Put some Redstone under a piston and place a square of carpet on top and it looks just like a table. The design options are endless and allow fun possibilities.
In the same way my generation spent days designing fun, intricate houses on The Sims, my son’s generation is learning to build elaborate structures in Minecraft. The difference? In the Sims, we had a shower. In Minecraft, my son built a hole in the ceiling. He then created a ramp that allows water to flow down into the hole. Then, it required doors to keep the water in. Building a shower in Minecraft requires creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. In the Sims, the requirement is to place a shower on a tile.
Minecraft has drastically improved my son’s patience. When we first got Minecraft for PC and started adding mods, he wanted new mods all the time. At the time, it seemed like he barely played one mod before asking for a new one. Frustrating? Yes. Now we’ve set a policy where he gets new mods every Tuesday. That teaches him the days of the week, as he counts down to Tuesday/Mod Day. He also exercises patience in waiting for new mods.
But that isn’t the only way in which he has learned patience. Certain things in Minecraft take time… building a small shelter is fairly time efficient, but building a large, intricate home takes time and effort, and the larger he builds, the more he is working on an exercise in patience. You need patience to play the game of Minecraft. Some nights, there are too many monsters nearby, so you aren’t able to sleep. Having enough patience really helps in that scenario.
Resource Management and Risk Assessment
When my son first found out he could eat in Minecraft, he wanted to eat things non-stop. It’s just such a cool feature, being able to press a button and make your character eat. But when he realized how vital food was to survival and that it helped regenerate his health, he stopped eating non-stop. Instead, he saved his food for when he truly needed it to go on. It was a shift in mindset, on survival mode at least, that helped him figure out how to better manage the resources he had.
Once he was trying to survive, he had to determine if it was worth shooting an arrow and attacking at a distance and risk losing the arrow, or if it was better to wait and have a monster get closer so he could attack at short range with a sword. There isn’t always one right answer, either– what works in one situation doesn’t work best in another. But when you consider the risks and rewards, and the resources you have on hand, it helps you better learn how to manage those things.
It’s also worth noting that there is some need for risk in order to get a bigger reward. To find precious resources in the game, like gold or Redstone, you have to mine it. But sometimes heading into dark mines where those resources are present means risking running into mobs and monsters like skeletons or spiders. You need the reward (items that you can use for power or protection), but you have to risk to get it.
Sometimes it means finding a village and bartering for protection first, then going in. And sometimes it means going in, getting the resources you can, and turning back before you get hurt. Then you build the tools you need to try again in a more protected way next time. These basic skills may be ever-present in Minecraft, but they also have real-world applications that help kids and teens assess risks and rewards in real life, and better manage their resources, like money. It’s one of the best examples of educational value in Minecraft.
Basic Research Skills
Quick: You’ve seen a Wither in someone’s video on Youtube, but they haven’t shown you how to find one. You want to know if it’s located someplace special, or if it’s possible to make one. What do you do? If you’re like my son, you get help to research “How to make a Wither in Minecraft” or “How to find a Wither in Minecraft.” If you want to know how to find a resource, you can research it. If you want to learn how to make a mod work, you can research it.
My son has learned a lot about basic research skills just in trying to find out how to make things work. We often borrow books from the library so we can find the information together, or he researches online for the information. It helps him learn to find reliable resources for the information he is looking for. And, when he can’t read the instructions, he knows to get help from someone or find an instructional video for information.
Following Instructions and Patterns
In that same note, my son has learned so much about following instructions. Not only does my son create amazing things from his own mind, but he is learning to follow instructions by watching videos. Does he need to craft a sword? That’s fine. My son watches a video, memorizes how to craft the item, and then learns how to follow the pattern, again and again, to make as many swords as he needs. Did he want to build an epic mansion? Great. He watched a video and learned how to do it, and then followed the instructions to build it step-by-step.
Minecraft has helped increase his skills at multi-step instruction following, and now he is a better listener as a result outside of the game, too. Minecraft is helping his brain remember multiple steps, and it helps when I need to verbally tell him to do multiple things (like picking up his coat, putting his shoes by the door, and bringing his bowl to the dishwasher).
Making Friends and Working Cooperatively (Even Outside of Minecraft)
When I first heard about Minecraft and it having a multiplayer option, I knew it could be a really good option for helping my son learn to work cooperatively and play with others in a team. That said, I didn’t feel comfortable with him playing in a multiplayer mode at a young age. Often times, multiplayer mode can have its challenges. In multiplayer mode, there are sometimes unspoken rules my son is too young to fully comprehend, for example. However, the fact that he isn’t playing in a multiplayer mode doesn’t stop him. He has still learned how to work cooperatively and make new friends through Minecraft.
The surprise comes when he meets a new friend and finds out that this friend also plays Minecraft. They begin a game of “Real-Life Minecraft” where they use their imagination to fight imaginary mobs, craft tools, and build homes. Because they have that common interest, and because that common interest is so open to interpretation, they’re able to instantly connect and both know the unspoken “rules” of the game they’re playing. If both have experience with Minecraft, they know that you need an ax to cut down a tree. So when one says “I’m going to build an ax,” the other can say “Okay, then you can follow me to the forest for us to gather resources.” These things are natural to them, and allow a quick friendship to build.
Educational Value in Minecraft
Because of the amazing things my son has learned from playing Minecraft, it opens many doors for me to use it as a part of his school work. With books we can read together, and with the potential that he can take coding classes in the future, there’s a lot of opportunity. Minecraft is something that will be able to grow with him and give him many opportunities.
Given the clear staying power the game has shown so far, I think there will be many ways for him to continue learning from the game in the future.
What has your child learned from playing Minecraft?
Let me know in the comments below!
More on Homeschooling and Video Games
Where we find totally free apps for homeschooling
Why I sent my son to preschool, even though I planned to homeschool
My heart for homeschooling
5 Reasons Your Kids Should be Playing Minecraft from the Child Development Institute, LLC
10 Reasons why Minecraft is Beneficial for your Kids from Lifehack
Ideas for using Minecraft in the Classroom, from Andrew Miller for Edutopia
Where to Buy Minecraft
The links below may be affiliate links. At no cost to you, these links help support the site by giving MamaPlusOne a portion of your purchase cost. These are provided for your convenience in finding the resources mentioned.
Minecraft is available for several different platforms. You can start with Minecraft Pocket Edition for Amazon Fire, Apple Store, or Google Play (note that this doesn’t allow for Mods).
Minecraft is also available for other gaming platforms.
PC edition (which allows you to play mods)
XBox One (also available for earlier XBox systems)
Playstation 4 (also available for earlier Playstation systems)
Fire TV Edition
Books and More
List of Over 100 Free Minecraft-themed Books for Kindle from Hip2Save
Official Mojang Minecraft Construction Handbook
Mojang Minecraft Redstone Handbook
Minecraft Official Mojang Combat Handbook
Official Mojang Minecraft Essential Handbook
*Note: Yes, I know there has been an end goal added to the game with the End. But in general, Minecraft is a sandbox game that can be endless.
**MamaPlusOne is not liable for any problems you may encounter from downloading mods that damage your computer. We have not tested all mods on this list but instead, have used some mods from it.