Looms and Mines

Minecraft has arrived in our house.

Following hot on the heels of the loom band craze, which itself replaced the craze for anything Frozen, it’s not something you can complain about, what with it being all educational and stuff.

Loom bands are still big news but they’re no longer the only game in town, for Millie at least.  She’s moved on from bracelets to making small animals, then accessories for those animals, and is currently 48 hours through a project to make some finger-less gloves.  I kid you not.

This is as well as her project to build a castle in Minecraft.

I’m behind the curve with loom bands – only helping by unravelling Gordian Knots of the things or holding astonishing cat’s-cradles while esoteric twists or knots are added; oh, and I bought them both metal hooks because the plastic ones kept breaking.

And, of course, I wear a loom band bracelet to distinguish me as a parent.  Loom bands are a parents’ holy grail: keeping children quiet and being educational.  Millie and Amber can both concentrate on their projects for hours, following complex videos showing them how to build an internal combustion engine out of rubber.

About a third of the time these projects fail, although, that failure rate has been falling steadily as they (a) get more practice, and (b) realise that you can’t build an internal combustion engine from elastic bands.  So that’s all kinds of lessons there: concentration, following instructions and coping with failure.

Minecraft seems a similarly good thing for children, too: a computer game in which you build things from the environment around you: invention, architecture, chemistry, survival, engineering, it’s all there, at whatever level you’re comfortable with, and it can be as “girlie” or “boyish” as you want – there are no expectations, which is also a plus.

Millie’s Minecraft Castle

Millie discovered it via her friend Ben (whom we first met in intensive care when Millie was born – his mum, Sharon, was there at the same time as the Lovely Melanie).  Millie came home talking excitedly about it, I knew roughly what it was, and so bought it.

Minecraft is completely open.  Certainly on the building levels we’re playing you don’t have to do anything, other than the sunrises and sunsets (which are surprisingly beautiful).

What you can do is explore this fallow world and build stuff.  As I said, Millie and I are building a castle – but like no castle you’ve ever seen before.  This one is built of glowstone and glass, sits on top a mountain with a gigantic quartz staircase leading up to it, all topped by a glass dome.  An unlikely looking tower next door is reached by a glass bridge where Millie has built a greenhouse full of flowers.  At the base is an indoor swimming pool, and there’s a deep cellar lit by flickering torches.

It’s a castle in name only, really. 😛

Millie needed prodding to experiment with different materials and architecture – to let herself go and start exploring –  but she’s really getting the hang of it now, as am I: suggesting what we might do next and pointing out that the only rules we need to follow are the ones we set ourselves.  In that sense, it’s a wonderfully liberating tool, so let’s hope Millie’s interest continues and her imagination takes flight with it… 🙂

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