What Age Is Best to Get Child a Video Game?

Updated on August 15, 2010
T.F. asks from Hollywood, FL
17 answers

I have a almost-4 year old and a 5-year old who is about to start kindergarten. We do not have any video games in our house because I just don't like them and my husband and I aren't "gamers". My daughters have been spending a lot of time lately playing games on my computer (barbie.com, nickjr.com, sproutonline, etc.) and they really enjoy it. I do limit how much time they spend on the computer, as with TV time, but at the same time I am happy that they are becoming ever so slightly computer savvy. Okay that may be a bit of an exaggeration - they know how to get to a website from the history list and they know how to use the mouse and how to get to the games, etc.

Whew - all that to get to my question (sorry) which is: Is my daughter (5 y/o) too young for a portable gaming device, like DS or something else? Should I even bother? Honestly, I don't even know what a DS is or what else there is available....

I appreciate any input!

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So What Happened?

I'm getting a lot of great answers here - thanks to everyone! I have always been against video games and I should stick to my gut feeling and many of you have reinforced that. I think sometimes I have a bad habit of "trying to buy my kids' love" - I know they love me no matter what, whether I buy them "stuff" or not, but I get carried away at times when I see something that I know they would "love" - does that make sense?? Again, thanks for all the great answers! I think perhaps I'll look into getting some educational software for our home computer and stick with that, limiting its use, of course.

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answers from Miami on

I have 2 girls, 7 and 4, both love their Leapster! Lots of learning, and great for car rides ,dr appts and not to $$. DS is way far off for us... the 7 yr old wants one... but doesn't need it, the leapster is still plenty challenging, and new games are always available. About 60.00, games 19-25$ each.



answers from Jacksonville on

My 4.5 loves playing dora and diego games on my nintendo ds. She gets to play them on long trips or when i want her to have some quiet time for a bit.

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answers from Jacksonville on

My children both have a Leapster and a DS. There are so many educational games for both systems! A DS gives you more options, though. At about age 5, my son lost interest in the Leapster, but a DS brought back the interest in games--there are some that help with reading, some that help with math, and some that are just plain fun! Most games that are rated E (for everyone) have helped with critical thinking skills and have encouraged him to read more and to explore options. My almost 4 year old will still play the Leapster from time to time, but with better graphics and more to choose from an older (used from Game Stop) DS works great for him...:)

As for the attitudes of others-- I grew up playing games and now have 3 doctorates, and very skilled social skills. As a matter of fact, children find more social opportunities if they have things in common with other kids. That being said, it is common to see children with portable gaming devices. This sparks conversations, and has even helped my children find friends! :) If you look up the research studies on gaming, you will find that they show improved critical thinking skills, and better problem solving skills.

Not to mention happier parents because having a DS can help with car trips, grocery shopping, doctor/Dentist appointments, haircuts and even those moments when you just need a bit of peace and quiet.

This is a personal family choice, but may I suggest that you put your feelings aside and see what she wants? If this is something that you know will make her happy than perhaps this is a good thing--especially if she has friends who also own gaming systems. I would keep her feelings in mind when making the final decision...and yes, they run about $120-$160 each. Amazon is the best place to get games, for the prices are less expensive.

And you can always check out the games ahead of time online...there are always lots of reviews to read! :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I know my answer will not be popular, but I don't think it is appropriate at any age to get them a video game. There are so many other wonderful things in life that children can do.
Now, with that being said, when my son was 5, we did get him his own computer (I have a great computer repair/tech guy, and we bought an older one from him that he refurbished).
We purchase educational computer CD's from this company:
My son enjoys playing the "games" on there.
Just my two cents,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on


My husband and I don't play video games and we are not introducing our 4 year old to them. My son does see the occasional video on the computer but it is counted with his TV time - we only allow 45-60 minutes per day.

My son doesn't need to have computer skills at this age and I would rather he be working on coloring, cutting with scissors, painting, and pre-reading.

So my answer may be unpopular - but you certainly don't need any games or devices for your girls. My son will get a gaming device when he can buy one on his own or moves out of my house - whichever comes first!!!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I'm not sure why you would want to get her a DS. If she loves to play games on the computer then why stray from that? I personally don't like the portable devices. We do have a Wii in our house but our son can only play the Wii Sports and for a limited amount of time and only on Saturday or Sunday. If you put a portable device in front of her I would think that that would be more of a baby sitter than any. Sorry just my opinion.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tallahassee on

Hi there, My son has been playing vided games since he was 2. He has a V-Smile and they have lots on educational games. He now is almost 4 and has great hand/eye coordination and has learned many things through the games. Yes, I do limit the time he spends on it but while cooking dinner or on our commute to daycare/work (45 min one way) it has helped keep him occupied. ( We found our V-Smile at a garage sale for $17)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

kids are plugged in enough the last thing need is a video game they can take on the go. If we are out of the house its for a reason not so that my kids can be occupied w/ a video game if I wanted them to play we would stay home and give them a half and hour or so on the wii or computer. I say don't bother.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

I know that you have already answered - but here goes one more opinion! My daughter is 6 now, and received the Leapster for her 4th birthday, and a Leap Frog Tag Reader for her 4th Christmas. We travel extensively for my husband's business, and often times we are at a race track and she is sitting in the timing and scoring booth with me, or we are hanging out at the trailer. She almost NEVER plays the tag reader at home, ocassionally yes, but I can't even say once a month at home. However - they have both been invaluable while traveling and hanging out at the track. They are somewhat portable, and with the Leaptser - she has received additional games - they all have some entertainment factor, as well as educational aspects - as there are fill in the missing letter, answer this question, what is the correct spelling etc.. games on each cartridge. As far as the Tag Reader goes - I got it for her to "read" books - but I didn't really know how great it was until we started using it. She can scan the pend alond and it will read the book word for word, if there is a word that she is having trouble with , she can go over the word again, and again and again. At the bottom of the page - there is a little legend - and she can choose for it to be in reading mode - or can choose quiz mode, or game mode for each page. At the end of the books - there is a reading comprehension quiz. I knew that each time you buy a new book - you hook the reader up to your computer to download it, but I didn't realize that it is pulling information off of the pen as well. I get emails as to her reading comprehension, quiz scores etc... If you register online at Leap Frog - you will get emails with various promotions throughout the year, and Target has had new Leapster cartridges and Tag books on their Black Friday blow out for the last two years - and they were like 1/2 price!
Good luck!



answers from Pittsburgh on

Well, when reasonable controlled and supervised, I don't think a DS is going to doom your child! lol But snce you have two kids, you might need to get two--and they are roughly $190 each. There are some really plug & play Jakks games for your tv--easy to plug in (yellow-to-yellow, white-to-white) and they're cute! Just control the time they spend gaming!



answers from Austin on

We have a Didj and a Leapster for our (almost) 4 and 5 year olds. I like them better than the DS because the games are all educational. You have to spell words or do math to get to the next level. My mom is the one who bought them. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have gotten them. BUT. They can be lifesavers. When I have a doctor's appointment or just need 10 minutes then I know that they can play their games and be fine.



answers from Tampa on

My advice would be WAIT as long as you can. They will become interested in them soon enough. I held my kids off as long as possible and they learned to play board games and with each other much better. The DS games and such just alienate them from others. My son has wanted a DS for several years, and he just bought his own DS at age 10 (I would never buy them), but I limit the time he can spend on it. And because I made him wait so long, he gladly puts it up to play with his sister, play cards or board games or hang out with his family. Good Luck!



answers from Tampa on

A lot of specialists say that children should not be introduced to video games or computers until after they learn to read and write correctly. Go on Facebook and see how many people are on there that can not spell at all. I am not talking about young children. I am talking about teens and adults. My girls were not introduced to computers or video games until around seven years of age. By then they were both reading and writing. They have both graduated from USF with double majors and honors. I honestly think holding off on video games and computers is very wise. Also, my girls did not sit in front of the television all day. They were allowed a half hour after homework was done and an hour at night. When they got home from school homework was done before anything else. I see little kids walking around playing video games and they don't even know how to write their own name. I think you should wait awhile and let her go to school and learn before getting her hooked on more electronics..Just my opinion...and my neighbors..



answers from Los Angeles on

T. - fyi before you but any educational software know also there are many great websites out there that are free too i.e. Cool Math 4 Kids.com. Scout out those before you spend any money. Save the money for the trips to the museum, etc. =-) Enjoy! T.



answers from Benton Harbor on

My son had a V-smile at age 4. They have a portable one which is great for longer road trips. They are a lot of educational games. He is now 7 and I regret to say that at this age most of his friends have a DS. The daycare that he is at lets them play everyday, once in the morning and in the afternoon when they are waiting for their parents to pick them up. When you walk into the room they are all lined up against the wall all playing. I wish that he would spend a little less time on it, but being and only child in a neighborhood where there are not a lot of kids his age to play with it seems that is what he wants to do.



answers from Miami on

I have a child the same age and I personally think it should be educational and so I bought the V-Smile Motion with educational and fun games.



answers from Miami on

Never get her one! It ruins children's visual processing skills by having them fixate on one place on the screen. I promise you every kid who has these things is in vision therapy! One eye eventually gets lazy and turns in because children's eyes are still developing till they are 8 or 9. Sceens of all kinds set up bad habits and addiction to them. The brain keeps sending out that norepinephrine...the addiction hormone. Kids can live very happily w/o them. Get kids outside more so they have to use their far vision and not their near vision. That's why it was different for us growing up because we played games outside for many hours and then came in and watched a show on TV and it didn't affect us. Today's kids are doing waaay toomuch near work and screen time so it is hurting academics before they even get to school. Think twice, as I work with these kids and you don't want it for your kids. I know this sounds crazy but the better thing to do would be for them to have crawling races, crawling games and any crawling they can do.

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