Are you considering getting a VR headset for your kids? It’s something a lot of parents are considering and if you are one of them, I’m betting you have a million questions, so today I am going to dive in to the world of virtual reality and in particular VR for Kids. I will explore some of the incredible options, safety considerations, and educational games available for kids to use on VR. Including some ways virtual reality can be a valuable addition to a homeschool or classroom.
Educational VR Games for Kids
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Our exploration of VR (virtual reality) began about 3 years ago when we went to our very first VR Arcade where we played on Oculus Rift systems. It was an incredible experience for our whole family to be playing video games together through these machines. We were even linked up so we could chat, play together and take on challenges as a team. It was surreal, fostered some incredible connections, created lasting memories, and was incredibly fun.
I also immediately saw some amazing educational benefits. I was surprised at the number of educational apps and game options and for a while we started going to the VR Arcade as part of our homeschool learning every few months. It was a great “field trip”!
At the time the technical requirements of VR were beyond what we could provide or afford to have at home, but fast forward 18 months, and the playing field changed significantly with some major technical advances. Thanks to the popularity of VR, we could finally purchase the Oculus Quest, a wireless VR headset. And it has sent us on some epic adventures right from our home.
Those educational benefits are now right at our finger tips, with the kids begging to do more. It’s been an incredible journey and the field of VR is advancing quickly.
So what are some of the benefits we have seen with VR for our kids?
Learning and Moving
Do you have a kid that loves to move ALL THE TIME? For some kids they crave and need movement.
I have kids that need physical activity constantly. However, there are times when getting out and running is not possible. We may be stuck at home due to weather conditions, health concerns, or simply need a day at home.
VR is a great way to get kids moving. The games are multi-sensory, and some of them end up with the kids sweating they are physically working so hard.
Pro Tip! Provide each player with their own bandana to wear while playing. This helps absorb the sweat and helps keep the VR headset clean and dry for the next player.
If we are trying to do book work and I notice the kids just can not sit still, I can have them play on the VR for 30 minutes, get that physical movement they need, then afterwards (once they have had a drink and they have caught their breath!), we can get back to work.
That said, precautions do need to be taken.
Is VR Safe For Kids?
Take a look at any VR system and it will say the recommended age is for 12 years old and up. Many wonder about the reasoning behind these age restrictions.
Scientific studies have shown that if children (especially those under 12) use VR excessively it could lead to vision and cognitive issues. Dizziness, anxiety, eye fatigue, motion sickness, eye strain and nausea are just a few issues that can affect all VR users. But the biggest concerns for young ages is that a child’s eyes and child’s brain are still developing. So we want to use caution and common sense. The key is moderation, like any screen time. If you chose to use VR with kids, they should have proper adult supervision. Time limits for everyone should be in place. Even my teenagers limit their playtime. We have had rules in place since the beginning and it has become a natural thing for them to self limit their VR time now.
Safety must also be at the forefront of all VR activities. If your child can not stay in the “zone” (the safe play area you outline to ensure they don’t hit anything), or can’t hang onto the controllers (always use the safety wrist straps), or will run about possibly tripping (never run when wearing a VR headset), or is too small to fit the head straps properly, then they should not be playing VR. Wait until they are older even if they are over 12 years old.
Pro Tip! Make sure all pets are safely out of the way. You don’t want to trip over the beloved cat or dog risking injury to them and yourself.
Once the parents take precautions for the safety of their children, then VR can be a fun bonding activity. As a family, we have really enjoyed playing VR together. Even the grandparents have played with the kids.
Kids Not Ready For regular VR sets?
If you decide your children are not old enough or ready for the Oculus or other VR sets, I highly recommend Nintendo Switch with the LABO VR kit. We are big fans of the LABO and their VR kit has kids building their own VR system. There are a ton of incredible educational games for the Nintendo Switch, find our favourites here.
Why the Oculus Quest
Our experiences have been with the Oculus systems, so that is what I am going to focus on. There are other systems out there, but since I haven’t used them, I can’t speak to them. That said, you can find many similar games for other VR systems.
For our needs the wireless capabilities of the Quest have been perfect. The kids can set up in any open space and play away. No need to deal with cords or having to be close to a powerful computer. It’s all self contained. For kids I really feel this system is perfect. I know how excited kids can get and I would always be worried about those cords. Being cordless is definitely a winner in our books.
We have two of the original Oculus Quest systems, which allows the kids to play together and will be getting an Oculus Quest 2 for under the tree this year (2020). This means some good deals can be found on the original Quest system, but there are also some incredible improvements that come with the Quest 2. When it comes to the kids, the biggest benefit is that the Quest 2 is lighter and more comfortable to wear. But there are a ton of other advances.
Now onto the games!
Educational Apps for the Oculus VR
So what are some of our favourite educational games for the Oculus Quest? I will try to group them so you can look for specific themes that can be tied into your studies.
My kids LOVE to travel and learn about the world, geography and other cultures. There are a few different VR games that tied beautifully into this:
- National Geographic Explore VR – currently there are only two destinations, Machu Pichu and Antarctica that you can explore, but hopefully more will be added.
- Google Earth VR (yes you get to walk around virtually in Google Maps!)
- Anne Frank VR – This incredible VR takes you through the experiences of Anne Frank and her family in 1942, during the Second World War. Anne Frank was a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl who was forced to go into hiding with her family to escape persecution from the Nazis. This is an outstanding way to learn her story.
Discovery VR provides nature documentaries appropriate for kids that make them feel like they are exploring the most incredible aspects of our world.
Got kids that love Space? One of our favourite things to do to supplement our Space Activities is to hop on VR. Two of our favourite games right now are: Mission ISS (yes you get to explore the International Space Station!!) and Star Chart (which is a great VR experience to do with our Pipe Cleaner Constellations project)
Yes you can do art in VR and it is spectacular!
- Color Space lets you colour just like you would on colouring sheets, but instead all around you!
- Sculptr VR is perfect for building geometric shapes and designs.
Kids need to move and with VR my kids get SWEATY! As we discussed earlier, VR can be a great way to get moving and burn off some energy.
- Beat Saber is a fun game where you hit objects to the beat of different songs. It can get crazy hard at the advanced levels. And boy you get a work out! This game has been my kids go to game for a long time. They love it!
- For the dancers, Dance Central is a great way to get moving, and work up a sweat.
Teaching English and Language Arts through VR is not really a good fit. But there are some innovative VR experiences that could supplement teachings. There are a number of VR films, plus the amazing Quill Theater that is an immersive, animated story telling experience that is simply stunning. You can also create your own animations if you have the right additional equipment.
Learning with VR
This is far from an exhaustive list. Oculus Quest and their developers are constantly coming out with new and exciting VR experiences. With the Oculus Quest 2 being released soon, I expect we will see even more innovative games in 2021.
Have fun VRing!