Thursday, September 25, 2014

Introducing Featured Fridays!

Over the last few weeks, I've developed a bit of a series-thing. I've been doing book reviews on Fridays, which was a great launching point. Together with the team from Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, an idea that kept me in post ideas for a good long while to come has become something more.  Allow me to present, GHF Resource Reviews!  Participating bloggers from Gifted Homeschoolers Forum will be using the Resource Review flag to promote and review resources across multiple formats, from the perspective of the parent homeschooling their gifted child.

My first (official) installment of Resource Review is central to life in our Mooselandia house: YouTube personality Stampy Longnose.  Mad Natter first found Stampy while wandering through YouTube listening to various Minecraft Parody songs. This was probably about a year and a half ago, and required a lot of parental supervision. YouTube, like the rest of the internet, is a wonderful thing, but for children, it has the potential to be a disastrous cesspool as well. We watch YouTube on the WiiU at our house, and there is a nifty feature that keeps the videos rolling - it goes from one you just watched to something similar, keeping a certain then-four-year-old in an endless loop of Minecraft parodies for hours on end, but with the occasional parental RUN for the WiiU game pad, having to turn off a Let's Play of Call of Duty, or a lot of things that just involve heavy use of profanity.

He's wanted to play since he was one!
Profanity isn't something I'm inherently worried about here. Mad Natter was dropping f-bombs in suburban Chicago IHOPs before he turned two, so it's not like he didn't know the words. But I am trying to work on context and appropriate timing - we do not curse like sailors at Hammie's house. We don't call names on the sidewalk. We can cuss at home, but really, let's just keep it there for now. This seems like a digression, but really it isn't. Because in the midst of all this perpetual surfing of YouTube, Mad Natter stumbled onto Stampy.

Stampy is, quite honestly, unique. He fills a niche many people wouldn't figure exist. I read an article not long ago that referred to him as "The Mister Rogers of Minecraft," and I absolutely agree. Stampy has several Let's Play series, from Minecraft to Terraria, LEGO The Hobbit, The Sims 4, really he covers just about everything. We deal, primarily, in Stampy's Minecraft Let's Play videos, the bulk of which are recorded in Stampy's Lovely World. Stampy has set up a cooperative game of what boils down to "build all the things." I remember the first day we heard Stampy in our house, largely because of his very distinctive laughter. He is perpetually happy. He's cheerful, he doesn't let setbacks get him down, he doesn't have to be first at everything all the time, and he models how to be happy for someone else when they win. People go on and on about how wonderful Elmo is for kids. I look at Elmo and cringe. Elmo reinforces a great many things to toddlers that we are waiting for toddlers to grow out of. Stampy has been modeling things to Mad Natter that I'm excited to see him growing into.

Since he's started watching Stampy videos, Mad Natter's imagination has taken off. He builds and builds, and he loves it. He's creating and enjoying it, there are no more half hour meltdowns over whether or not his cobblestone got destroyed by lava, and he's excited to play with other people. Having three logins to the game in the house means we get to do things like this - we all get to play Minecraft together, and Stampy has managed to single-handedly teach Mad Natter how NOT to be a griefer. This was a big issue - but now that he sees how much fun it is to build, how nice it is to build your own things, and how much it stinks if someone destroys things you were working on, he's become a better gamer. Even better, Stampy is working with Maker Studios to produce children's educational content as well - I'm looking forward to seeing what comes out when the channel goes live!

Essentially, while seemingly juvenile, Stampy and his Minecraft Helpers (my personal preference is for Squid!) have turned a computer game into a lesson on creativity, sharing, playing cooperatively, and how to do it without hard feelings, without cursing, without anything I wouldn't want to show to someone else's little kid. These are lessons that have been so very hard for Mad Natter to grok, as they are not logic or sound reasoning based, but are social constructs. For all his strong points, this is one of his weaker ones, and I'm beyond thrilled to find a reliably child-friendly channel that I know will be safe to watch, regardless of game, episode, topic or theme, and I will happily recommend Stampy to pretty much everyone who has kids interested in Minecraft, enjoys Let's Play videos themselves, or really is just looking for something to watch sometime.