Minecraft logo
Minecraft, a world of fun for tweens and teens

If you have older tweens who love to create, imagine, build and destroy in a virtual world, Minecraft is an downloadable Mac/PC/XBox 360 game you’ll love exploring with your kids. Since it launched in 2011, it has become very popular with kids 11-15 who enjoy either solo play or within a moderated or non-moderated community. With millions of players worldwide, Minecraft is simple to download and easy to understand, and very addictive!

Minecraft boasts no plotline, major objective or even set characters, and allows players to create and explore a world of trees, mountains, lakes, animals, villages and other natural landscapes made entirely of bricks and blocks. Parents will get a kick out of the low-tech graphics, chunky 80s-looking pixilated creatures, animals and players that walk, make noises, and appear and disappear randomly – definitely a throwback to our own days with Atari and Intellivision.

Minecraft is incredibly simple, and you can sit back and enjoy watching your kids engineer and problem solve while trying to “survive” in a non-violent, no-blood game. Kids simply need to learn how to construct shelters, gather food and resources, and be creative without boundaries.

Like Lego building (only less pricey), the fun here is in the limitless worlds, buildings and items you can create with blocks and using items you find or “harvest”. A wandering pig can be fought with an axe to create much-needed food for your adopted “wolves,” and we’ve watched entire islands, castles, bridges and ships appear independently and collaboratively. Players are encouraged to save tools and resources for later, and achievements and ideas are available to kids who need more guidance… great lessons for this age group.

A note of caution: online community play might be best for kids 13+, as the “worlds” are actually hosted, private, non-moderated servers so kids could encounter offensive content in the form of profane text messages and suggestively shaped player-created structures. The servers are actually moderated but things do slip through and bullying can easily happen… like many online gaming communities. Minecraft is a great online game to play with your kids and help them navigate potentially tricky social situations (“we are all building this, and you can’t play”) inevitable in any online community.

Toy Insider Mom thumbs up to Minecraft, a virtual playground for budding engineers, urban planners, geologists, and architects, as long as you keep an eye on unmoderated play. Look for the game at your local Best Buy or GameStop either as a disc or download card ($18.99-$26.99)

Julie Dennehy is a member of the 2013-2014 Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board. She is also a blogger at MyShinyMonkey.com, a blog by and for tweens (kids 8-14). You can follow her on Twitter at @myshinymonkey.