What Games Can Teach You About How Your Child Learns

10 Sep 2020

Stanley Han, CEO and Co-founder of KooBits explains that games your child plays can tell you important things about what motivates your child — and how you can help your child learn.

What Games Can Teach You About How Your Child Learns

Every child likes to play games, but every child is different. Just like different players are motivated in different ways, different learners are also motivated differently. To help your child excel, you need to understand what motivates them.

Rule-based Players

The rule-based players are likely to flourish in schools. They may enjoy games like chess, a highly structured competitive game, with many rules and few players. We have found that these players are motivated when they are rewarded for abiding by the rules and excelling at the rule-based challenges.

Recommendations for parents

If your child is a rule-based player, they will do best in a structured environment with regular positive reinforcement. For them to excel, you need to define the rules, setting clear boundaries and milestones. Articulate what you expect from them, and the rewards and consequences — for example, achieve a set of learning targets for an exciting family outing. Most importantly, these should be tasks that the child can complete independently.

Principle-based Players

Principle-based players do best in an environment with rules, but they are not motivated by solo challenges. Rather, they are motivated by figuring out the “hidden” social dynamics and rules in a complex world with many other players. If your child enjoys duking it out for rankings in competitive video games like Fortnite and Apex Legends, they might be a principle-based player. Conversely, they are unlikely to be interested in games without an element of social complexity, like chess.

Recommendations for parents

If your child is a principle-based player, they flourish in environments with complex rules that they must figure out on their own. Set challenges with complex and layered tasks and give them freedom and space to make sense of it on their own. Let them figure out the rules and social dynamics and define their own principles to success in a complex environment. They might do well in roles of student leadership, navigating the challenge of maintaining high academic scores with the additional social challenge of leading their peers.

Relationship-based players

Relationship-based players blossom when there are many players, but few rules. This group of players don’t enjoy the fierce competition that rule- and principle-based peers gravitate towards but do best when working together with other players in games with very simple rules that anyone can learn. Minecraft is an example of a relationship-based game, where there are few competitive stakes, but plenty of opportunity to socialise.

Recommendations for parents

Most of these children do not favour strict environments with many rules. As such, it would be best to avoid placing them headfirst in environments with many rules or instructions, or with fierce competition or peer pressure to achieve. The social element is a big motivator for them: Get them excited about learning something new, or enrolling into them in a new class, by emphasizing the social element — like the opportunity to work with their peers, or to make new friends.

Situation-based players

Most situation-based players are not interested in too much competition or socializing, and most enjoy solo play of games with simple rules. The games, however, cannot be static: Situation-based players require a dynamic environment to keep them engaged. If your child enjoys games like Temple Run or Candy Crush — with intuitive, simple rules, but dynamic level design — they might be this sort of player.

Recommendations for parents

Like relationship-based players, these children do not prefer competitive environments with peer pressure. However, they flourish in stimulating environments that constantly challenge them. They also handle independence well, if the rules are simple, and they are given the freedom to proceed at their own pace