Thursday, September 8, 2011

to wii or not to wii

i don't know about you, but i was against becoming a video game mom. i held out for a really long time and listened to my son's begging and pleading for a gaming system for years before i finally caved. i grew up with atari back in the retro days and loved it but i somehow had pictures of my son as a 30 something man up at 4 am playing video games and then sleeping all day long instead of looking for a job. i know, i have a flare for the dramatic.

then i started to do some research and i had some very patient friends who carefully explained the pros and cons of gaming. here's what i learned.

one of my friends has a little boy with some very slight learning challenges. his physical therapist suggested that they buy a wii gaming console to improve both his fine motor skills and his gross motor skills. the pushing of the buttons for certain games help with the fine motor skills and the movements while doing the motions that the wii requires help with gross motor skills.

i asked my parents what they thought about the wii. my mother is a retired speech therapist, has worked with special and regular education students and finally switched to teaching regular education classes focusing on the second grade. my father is a retired elementary school principal with 39 years of experience. i take their education advice seriously. they confirmed what my friend's physical therapist suggested. the wii can benefit both fine motor and gross motor skills. certain games help develop hand-eye coordination which can help with reading scores and the problem solving involved in video games can help with other education areas.

as much as i hated to admit it, it looked like the wii won against the anti-gaming mama. so, we started to do our shopping. after having the wii for over a year now, i have to say that we are fans. there are games that we enjoy playing with the kids and a ton of games that are appropriate even for very small children. with christmas just around the corner (yes, i know it's september but it's never too early to think about gifts), here's what you'll need if you decide that the wii is for you.

a wii game console: your basic wii console comes with one wii remote and the wii sports game. this is definitely not the best deal. find a console that is bundled with a game, a wii remote and a nunchuk (i'll explain about the nunchuk later.) i've found a bundle that is only two dollars more than the normal console. you can't get a nunchuk for two dollars so get one that is in a bundle. i like this one. it comes with the console, one wii remote, one nunchuk and two sports games. the sports games are appropriate for all ages.

an extra wii remote (or three): you'll ideally want one wii remote per kid. we have four of them so that each child can have one remote. the most kids that can normally play a game at a time is four. you probably won't need more than four remotes. the wii remotes are often bundled with games too. it is worth it to pay five dollars more for a game+remote combo. you'll see next week, wii games are expensive. save yourself some money in the long run and get an inexpensive game with your wii remotes. here are some possibilities.

nunchuks: these oddly named devices are attached to the wii remotes for certain games. certain games cannot be played without these little attachments so you'll want to have some. we've gotten by with only two. again, these can be bundled with wii remotes for a better deal.

a wii remote charging station: wii remotes need two aa batteries to work. this can end up costing a bundle over time. charging stations for the wii come with rechargeable batteries for your wii remotes. there are many varieties to choose from. your wii remotes come with plastic covers that can protect the remotes if they are dropped. i have small kids so my wii remotes are dropped often. i like the chargers that are able to charge with the cover on the remote. here is one i like.

that should get you started. next week i'll share some of my favorite wii games for younger children. there are some games out there that i don't want my kids to play but there are many that are fun for even very small children. whatever you decide for your family, this has to be a decision that is right for you. hopefully these tips will help you decide what you may want for your own little gamers. if we've forgotten anything or you can give this mom some tips, i'd love to hear from your expertise. play away!

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