Why My Children Don't Need Wii-Hab

Why My Children Don't Need Wii-Hab


It's not every day that I feel empathy with Gwyneth Paltrow but something she said recently on Twitter about her kids' Wii habits won me over.

The steady stream of advice she dishes up about how to replicate her seemingly perfect, wholesome life doesn't really do it for me, and, sadly, it's definitely not the latest pics of her looking lithe and lovely in nothing but fishnets that make me feel a kindred connection to her.

But I laughed out loud in empathy when she posed this question on Twitter: "How the f do I get these kids off the wii?" Gwyneth added: "I swore I would never have one in the house, now they freebase Mario" and then tweeted a pic in evidence of her little Wii addicts, prompting one follower to reply "Get them to Wiihab!"

I'm the kind of Mum who banned TV until my kids were over the age of two on the basis of advice I once overheard being dished out by a speech therapist. Even now I legislate heavily on what can and can't be watched. I favour CBeebies or DVDs I've already vetoed over any of the telly junk that gets churned out for kids these days, and I have to stop myself from breaking into smug applause when my kids get up off the sofa of their own volition and declare the TV boring.

So I wasn't exactly thrilled when my husband smuggled a Wii into the house last Christmas and I was quietly pleased that it mostly provoked epic squabbles between my lads, which made me feel justified in flouncing in to confiscate the controllers and declare a Wii ban.

But last week I had to spend a few days away in London and I came home to find my sons transformed into full-blown gamers. It was clear they had spent most of my time away glued to the Wii. Initially I was horrified that my husband had allowed this to happen, but I quickly realised that our lads have made leaps and bounds in things like team-work and problem-solving as a result.

They might be blowing up Storm Troopers and Droids, and having the odd shouting match over who gets to be R2D2 and who can be Anakin, but there's no denying that gaming has been good for them.

I've heard all the obvious arguments about why kids shouldn't be encouraged to play Wii games - they'll replicate the violence endemic in so many videogames, won't get enough fresh air and exercise, and will eventually morph into pint-sized, monosyllabic, soulless geeks.

Nonsense. My kids clearly adored the hours my husband must have invested in helping them work out how to play Lego Star Wars, and their glee at mastering tricky moves in Toy Story is genuinely touching.

Clear boundaries help - they understand that they must take a break after 30 minutes, and that any hint of squabbling will still lose them their Wii privileges. That's one of the most effective methods I know of for stopping petty sibling squabbling.

Working out how to progress between levels within a game has been fantastic for their confidence, and listening to them negotiate how to solve problems and work together as a team is truly endearing.

So far my Wii concerns have been unfounded - they would still chose to be outside on the trampoline over playing on the Wii, and family Wii time is a guaranteed form of stress relief. It's hard to worry about work when you're busy being Princess Leia or rescuing orphans from Evil Dr Pork Chop.

I don't know about Moses and Apple Martin but my kids definitely don't need Wiihab. Yet.

What do you think? Are you a fan of the Wii and other gaming or not?