The right age to introduce kids to video games

Our experts help parents find the right gaming experience at the right time.

By Jeremy Brautman

LeapFrog Editor

Posted on Wed Jul 02 16:16:44 PDT 2014

With each passing year, children experience screen time—and specifically video game screen time—at earlier ages. When kids should play video games is a decision for parents to make based on the best interests of their own children. Though once regarded as simply sedentary entertainment, video games now increasingly make the news for their active and educational values. In addition to explicit academic content, appropriate video games for kids are a form of screen time that can teach problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Video games are interactive by design, and when developmentally appropriate, they can be a good source of entertainment and education for children ages two and older. What age is considered too young for video games? Is now the time to introduce toddlers to gaming?

Ask yourself:

  • Can my child focus and defocus (look away from the screen) when needed?
  • Are my child’s cognitive and language skills developed enough to understand what’s happening on screen?
  • Does my child have the hand-eye coordination to interact with screen-based games?

If you’re able to answer those questions affirmatively, your child may be ready to begin playing video games for kids. However, each child is different, and there’s not one universal parents’ guide to video games. Instead, parents should carefully evaluate each video game to ensure that the age of their child continues to align with the specific gaming experience.

The best games for kids are games that are age-appropriate and:

  • Engage children to actively think, explore and experiment.
  • Encourage different ways to play—from touch screen and gestures to physical movements.
  • Attract children’s attention, but don’t overwhelm them with too many colors, sound effects, animations and visual effects.
  • Relate to things familiar or meaningful to the child.

Finally, keep in mind that video games should extend and enhance at-home play, but not become a substitute for social interaction—which is critical to young children’s development.