Wii for a 3-year-old?
November 20, 2012 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Do 3-year-olds like video games? Tell me about your experiences.

My wife and I are thinking about getting a Wii/WiiFit as a family present this Christmas. However, I'm not sure I'd want to get it unless it would be something we could do with our 3-year-old son. Neither of us knows much about video games or video game consoles, but the Wii looks like it's slightly more physical and kinesthetic than the consoles I remember from my youth. So it seems like it would be fun for a small child.

But what are your experiences playing Wii (or other console) games with a little kid? Is there a lot of frustration, or do they tend to pick it up right away? And if they do enjoy it, what's the likely attention span?

Perhaps most importantly, are there specific games that your 3-ish kid has enjoyed or that you've had a good time playing together?
posted by thehandsomecamel to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Don't be surprised if your kid picks it up faster than you do.

I've seen little kids playing Star Wars and Lego games and what's more terrifying than the hand/eye coordination these guys exhibit is the glassy-eyed stare they get while playing.

There are Dora the Explorer games, Sesame Street games, etc. We like the dance ones, because there's no wrong answer and it's fun to dance!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:15 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend against introducing a young child to video games. I believe you will be taking a big risk in terms of impairing his/her cognitive development, both because you may make books and games like puzzles, etc., from which he/she can learn much more, seem relatively boring and uninteresting, and because it's not known what the constant motion and cacophony of sound in video games might do to a young developing brain. If you want to do something that is computer game-oriented with a 3 year old, I recommend doing something educational like Starfall or various educational games on an iPad instead.
posted by Dansaman at 9:18 AM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

My 3-year-old is kinda drawn to the Wii, but most games frustrate him. The exception to that is Just Dance, which he can play ALL. DAY. LONG.

Now, the iPad ... that's another story. We tricked that thing out with a bunch of educational games, and he is incredibly proficient at it. Learned shapes and alphabet and that kind of stuff early, to boot.
posted by jbickers at 9:18 AM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Given this recent post, this question seems like something that might be worth MeMailing our own mhoye about. (His daughter is 3.)
posted by sparkletone at 9:28 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

My son is 4.
At 3 years old, he was getting first place in Mario Kart Wii (single-player) races.
He's also a big fan of New Super Mario Wii, and is at least able to finish levels in that -- and loves playing cooperatively with mommy and daddy.

He would play either of these unattended for hours and hours on end if we let him.
posted by jozxyqk at 9:50 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know a two-year old who can solve most of the problems in Portal (her dad holds the controller, but she'll point out what to do).

Wiis are totally different from other PC/console games - and easier to pick up. I know that generally, it's recommended that you limit "screen time" for small children (esp TV but maybe also video games), but I can imagine that a dance game is totally different from sitting very still and passively watching something.
posted by jb at 9:57 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My 3-year-old daughter really loves watching me play Super Mario World. In the past she has been a big fan of A Boy and His Blob (except for the boss fights against giant scary monsters), Super Mario Bros. 3, and New Super Mario Brothers Wii. Her attempts to actually play these games have not been successful. I don't think she understands the connection between the D-Pad and movement onscreen.

She is also a big fan of playing around with Nick Jr. Draw & Play HD on our iPad. Sometimes she manages to send her results with my wife's email account to friends.
posted by mkb at 10:12 AM on November 20, 2012

There is a one player game, A boy and his blob, my 3 year old loved. We didn't try him on the controllers until later, but we played a boy and his blob as a family. You have to solve problems and he participated, very effectively, with this game. I think if we had played often he could have done the controllers, but his exposure was limited to once or twice a month.

And as for attention spans for a game? If my son could he'd watch his older brothers play ALL DAY.
posted by beccaj at 10:16 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Our daughter was 2.5 when she got Nickelodeon's Just Dance. She was around 3 when she finally decided she liked it, and now she could play it endlessly. She also likes to watch other games, but would rather "play" on the ipad - or do other stuff. But I bet by the time she's 4 she could absolutely play mario kart, among others.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:16 AM on November 20, 2012

I know a 3-year-old boy who has been playing Angry Birds on his parents' iPhones since he was 2. I believe he also plays other games on the iPhones, but I'm not sure what games. I'm not sure if you would count those as video games; I do.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:00 AM on November 20, 2012

My boys are almost 5 and have been playing the Wii for about 9 months. They were *very* frustrated with the controllers at first. I must have said "POINT IT AT THE TV!" a million times before they got it. But they picked it up fairly quickly, and now one of them is almost as good as me at Super Mario Galaxy.

I'd say the racing and dance games are your best bets, but there's also some drawing game (you buy a separate pad) that looks fun. Oh yeah, and mine also love the Wii Fit.
posted by pyjammy at 11:36 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

My daughter has enjoyed "playing" the wii fit since she was about 2.5. I say "playing" because she lacked the coordination (and often time the actual weight to register) for the first couple of years, so we would stand her on the board and "steer" her feet.

She's still not great at console games in general, although I suspect that's because we haven't really let her practice with any regularity. She's a fiend on the iPad - the touch screen is just crazy intuitive for the littler set.
posted by dadici at 11:56 AM on November 20, 2012

At 3 my kid loved to play Rock Band (he'd bang on the drums) and Just Dance, and do some of the Wii Fit balance games. If you want it, and you're okay with him begging to play it, do it! It's a lot of fun, and all the games I mentioned taught him skills besides just how to stomp a bad guy.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:02 PM on November 20, 2012

Oh yeah! My daughter loves Angry Birds, but she's terrible! (Sends the birds the wrong way, wanders off to do other things)
posted by mkb at 12:09 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

When my nephews were 3 and 5, the 5 year old could beat me at Mario Kart but the three year old could only barely play it, even with the steering wheel accessory - similar results with the Wii Fit games like Ski Jump. However the three year old still loved playing all of them: it might just be more frustrating for you to 'play' with him ;)

We never tried a Kinect with them, but it seems like that might be slightly easier for a very small child to pick up, because it removes the 'tool using' aspect of trying to connect the behaviour of the remote control with the action on screen. I don't know where you could try out a Wii but there should be a demo Kinect setup at the Microsoft Store, if that's anywhere near you.
posted by jacalata at 1:35 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

My three year old is a wiz at all the toddler junk I put on my Nexus; but I'm not sure how into the console games she is. I know she hangs out with the boys when they play Mariokart, or Monster Hunter, but I don't think she's much of a participant.
posted by thylacinthine at 1:59 PM on November 20, 2012

For my little guy it was Just Dance Kids, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games and Wii Sports. Now at 4.5 he still loves the Olympics and also Mario Party.
posted by wallaby at 4:38 PM on November 20, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks to all for your answers! The consensus seems to be that Just Dance is a huge hit with little ones, so we will perhaps try that first. (We also have our eye on this ocean exploration game, because our kid loves nature documentaries.)
posted by thehandsomecamel at 12:53 PM on November 21, 2012

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