Video Games: How Good Are They?

Our current era, which is concurred by technology, has benefited humankind on one hand but left them living in a dilemma on the other hand. We find ourselves living in a constant trial of catching up with the fast developing beneficial technology while trying to protect our children from its harm and negative consequences. What makes things worse is that studies come out looking at the same issues in different perspectives and analysis. The next epoch is the decade of the virtual world, and our children and grandchildren will be part of it. Video games, in particular, have been available for more than 30 years, but with the new sophistications and upgraded storyline, users find themselves immensely mesmerised in this virtual world!  How good or bad are they for the young generation?

Recent studies reflect some advantages for certain games which people are obsessed with.  One study in the American Psychologist, shows how video games, including some violent shooter games, can enhance children’s learning, social and health skills as well. They claim that such video games help children become quick problem solvers. When a player confronts a certain problem, he has a limited time to solve the issue and has to come up with the right decision to win the game. It is also mentioned how video games help a child accept defeat and learn how to cope with it. Spatial navigation, memory, reasoning and perception all fall under the umbrella of certain types of video games and can be boosted. www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/video-game.aspx

Similarly, StarCraft, one of the most popular games created by Blizzard, requires gamers to have complex problem solving abilities, be able to make decisions and implement them at the rate of five actions a second. Moreover, it is expected of the consumers to have an unconscious understanding of economics and higher math – which includes differential equations, linear algebra, analytic geometry, and calculus. Isn’t that something?

Minecraft which is another famous video game tackles many concepts like logic, history, math, goal setting, and many other important notions. I came across an article written by Bec Oakley who explicitly describes its boundless advantages.

minemum.com/minecraft-parents-things-to-love

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Jane McGonigal Ph.D. in Performance Studies is a world-renowned designer of alternate reality games, which means games that are designed to improve real lives and solve real problems. She believes that game designers are on a humanitarian mission where her number one goal in life is to see a game developer win a Nobel Prize in Peace or Medicine. In her presentation at TedTalk, she explains how game playing can make us create our own future and solve real world problems (www.ted.com/speakers/jane_mcgonigal). She sums up the importance of video gaming into four main categories:

Urgent Optimism:

The desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with a belief that we have a reasonable hope to success.

Social Fabric:

She explains how such games build trust, cooperation, and teamwork.

Blissful Productivity:

Gamers feel happier and more motivated as they feel themselves productive at doing something beneficial. Moreover, they are willing to work hard all along the time they are playing as they get instant feedback on their performance all through.

Epic Meaning:

People simply love to be part of an epic story, and they get involved in it simply by being part of it.

video games chart

Now our real concerns lie in knowing when we can expose our kids to the virtual world and what type of games they can play. The American Academy suggests that children under the age of three should not spend any time in front of the “screen” including television or Video Games (Ezine Articles). That may be unrealistic especially when you have other older kids who get engaged in screen in front of the little ones.

So when should children play video games? Which video games are age appropriate? And how can parents choose the age appropriate video game for their children? In my opinion, setting a balance between the virtual world and the physical outdoor play time helps in providing our children with a healthy lifestyle.

Here are a few tips that help in managing Media Consumption:

Setting limits:

As with many issues in child rearing, setting limits and certain rules to video gaming would definitely help your child. After all, you cannot and will not cut them off from the reality we live in. They need to be exposed to it, but with limits. Lawrence E. Shapiro, Ph.D. who is an internationally recognized child psychologist and parenting expert suggests the following time limit for children. Thirty minutes a day for children between 3 and 5. One hour a day for children between 6 and 12, and two hours a day for teenagers.

Installing the equipment:

Having the video game equipment installed in the family room keeps us as parents more involved with what our children are doing.

Talk to your child:

Discuss the games your children play with. I usually ask them to tell me about the games they play, and I try to get myself as involved as possible. Having them express the feelings they get whilst playing makes them release any tension or violence if included. Moreover, explaining the ratings for them and clarifying why they should avoid certain games, make them accept and consent to the rules set for gaming.

Talk to other parents:

Sharing our worries and/or knowledge with other parents, gives us new insights about gaming in general.

As parents we can always guide our kids in choosing the right game which is age appropriate and knowing the rating of the video games leads them into virtually playing in an advantageous way. If you do have the time as a parent and you participate, they would enjoy the company much more and they would want to spend time with you and play together.

Finally, as parents, we need to be aware of the ratings and the child friendly video games suitable for the age group of our little ones. For example, The Amazing Spiderman is not a game designed for 10 year old children as shown here.

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Below I included the rating symbols that are currently in use based on the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) Web site:

  • Early Childhood (EC) Content should be suitable for children 3 years and older and contain no objectionable material.
  • Everyone (E)  Content suitable for persons ages 6 and older. The game may contain minimal violence and some “comic mischief.”
  • Teen (T)  Content suitable for persons ages 13 and older. Content is more violent than (E) rating and contains mild or strong language, and/or suggestive themes.
  • Mature (M) Content suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Content definitely has more mature sexual themes, intense violence and stronger language.
  • Adults Only (AO) Content suitable only for adults and may contain graphic sex and/or violence. Adult Only products are not intended for persons under the age of 18.
  • Rating Pending (RP) Game has been submitted to the ESRB and is awaiting a final rating.

To sum it up, the more involved we are with the continuous and rapid development of technology the better the awareness we provide for our children, and that is their best weapon.

Happy Father’s Day

For Father’s Day, I felt the importance of advocating for the fathers’ crucial role by highlighting a few significant attributes that dads can do in order to help build structured and confident family members. In my opinion, the presence of a mature male figure in a child’s life is an essential factor that helps in contributing to the rearing of stable future citizens. Nowadays, modern dads are more involved in parenting issues as they are not the only bread winners of the family. Since their role has considerably changed, I will site a few ideas on how dads can play a beneficial role in child rearing.

However, before I discuss how a dad can be involved with his family, I would like to go back in time and briefly tell you, my dear readers, about four great male figures whom I have been blessed to have in my life. Those extraordinary male figures were as distinctive as the formation of dew in the lovely mornings of Spring – whether it was my grandfather, my father, my brother, and now my dearest husband.

My grandfather was known for his wisdom, strong beliefs, endless generosity, boundless thoughtfulness and consideration for his family and people as well. Those who have known him were marvelled by his uniqueness. Being a school principal and having lots of worries on his mind, he never missed a chance of waking up his five children every morning with an affectionate smile and warm cup of milk served to bed! My mom always reiterates how he insisted on never sending an angry child to bed as by bed time a child needs to feel love and compassion. His unconditional love and wisdom were also felt by his grandchildren. He made it a point to spend quality time with us where he taught us about life, morals, of great people in history – you name it – and he did it with pleasure. He made us feel loved, valued, and respected as he treated us like mature people.

me and jeddojiddo and us

When I was young, my dad had a job opportunity that required him to stay away from us but gain unimaginable amounts of money. However, he refused simply because he knew what the essential purpose of his life was, and that was us! We came first! Knowing this as a child, I knew that his love for us could not be restricted to all the materialistic things in the world. He continues to shower us with his adoring generosity and compassionate watchfulness until this very moment.

wael daddy and medaddy me

In our young years, my dearest brother was my guide, my mate, my confident, and my tutor. Being close in age, we did everything together! What made things perfect is his endless attentiveness and courage that made him a great role model to me. We created a special bond that still expands with the years, and his love and care doubled with the presence of my kids whom he sacrifices from his time to be around them and enjoy them.

wael me mickeywael me hat

I do not know if a girl unconsciously gathers these attributes because when I married my beloved husband, I found in him the affectionate companion, the supportive husband and the loving dedicated dad. With a remarkable character and personality, he is also a person who is always willing to improve oneself. As a hands on father, he makes it a point to enjoy our children and be involved in their lives.

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In his books Raising Boys and Raising Girls, Steve Biddulph elaborately explains the importance of a dad’s role in being present in the lives of his children. A father’s affection and increased family involvement promote children’s social and emotional development. Similarly, Sheryl Sandberg eloquently describes how paternal involvement greatly benefits our youngsters. In her book Lean In, she illustrates how children growing up with an involved and loving fathers have enhanced cognitive capabilities, greater levels of educational and economic accomplishments. I recommend that fathers read such books as it gives an insight and help them be aware of the various strategies in parenting. Realizing the importance of the father’s role in a child’s life, the founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, has announced that his company will provide each new dad one year paid paternity leave. (www.telegraph.co.uk/men/relationships/fatherhood/11662170/Richard-Branson-offers-new-dads-up-to-12-months-paternity-leave-on-full-pay.html)

So fathers of this generation, like moms, I think you do have a massive load on your shoulders as well, and like us, you have an essential role in childrearing.

Despite my husband’s congested work schedule, he always tries to find time for us. Like my own father, we always come first! Here are a few things that he enjoys doing with the boys and other ideas which other dads do as well with their kids.

Baby Care:

It all starts when they are still babies. Dads can shower, feed, and even change the diaper of their babies. This bonding can start even before the child is born where the dad can attend pre-natal courses and be present at the doctor’s appointments.

Fun Activities:

Preparing dinner to give mummy a break once in a while teaches children, especially boys, to be considerate and thoughtful of others. Unlike European countries, in the Middle East, many men still wait to be served by their spouses. So if you really want to change that, it starts at home. Many dads accompany their children to after school activities which gives them a good opportunity in bonding together.

Playing social games, video games, watching a movie while eating popcorn, doing sports together, visiting museums, etcetera are all fun activities that dads can enjoy with their kids. (These ideas were discussed before in one of my articles Bonding Time with Dad)

School Involvement:

A dad can drop off his kids to school in the morning. At that time of the day, usually kids are calm and they do absorb what you tell them. Even if you feel that they are not focused, they are in fact listening to every word you are saying. So a Dad can take this opportunity and talk to his kids. Moreover, if a dad is involved in parent’s meetings and follows up with the child’s academics, this makes the child feel that he has both parents’ support and concern. Finally, participating in school outings and activities also enhances their relationship.

Family trips:

Planning family trips is essential to all the members of the family. First of all it gets the couple out of their tedious routine. Since there are no deadlines and commitments, or stressful duties, the family can enjoy their time together. Second, it revives loving and caring emotions. This is where you can build good memories with your children and wife.

Family time:

The best time for a family to spend some quality time together is at the table, where each one can talk about their concerns or comforts. Parents can involve their kids in the conversation and listen to them attentively. So if you cannot lunch together, find time to have dinner on a daily basis – if possible.

Bed time routine:

Like moms, dads can and should be involved in bed time routine. Reading a short story with them, or simply hugging them satisfies the child by all means.

Couple’s Communication:

Communicating with your partner is essential to make the family project work. When the children are soundly sleeping and the parents are enjoying some quiet time together, they can take the advantage and discuss what parenting skills they need to improve. Sharing ways to help each other overcome a certain issue your child is facing, and to review conducts that you like your partner to change will have a positive influence on the whole family. If the couple is solid and understanding, they will help in sharing the parental duties together. Sometimes moms interfere during father-child interaction because the mom is used to being in charge when it comes to kids. But mummies you need to back off and have the dads learn the way we did, and when you are both alone you can discuss it and help each other learn and grow. It is best not discuss these issues in front of your children as it might grow into an unnecessary argument in which the whole family will be stressed.

Express your emotions:

It is O.K. for a dad to share his feelings with his kids by telling them how much he missed them, loves them and feels proud of them etcetera. Let them know that dads also have feelings and help them express theirs. It is not a weakness and it does not modify a man’s masculine figure. In contrast, it makes him a superman.

Finally, I dedicate this article to all the outstanding dads who are working hard for their families’ happiness and well-being.  It is never too late to start being the modern dad and enjoy being him.

To the four great men in my life and to my four cherished sons whom I have great trust and foresee a blooming future – in God’s will, I want to tell you I love you.

Happy Father’s Day.

Eggplant Fritters

Having a variety of nutrients in our daily life is essential. Eggplants are known for their nutritious benefits. For example, they help in reducing the cholesterol level and thus protect the heart. Being a person who loves eggplants, I always try new recipes. I found this one in an Italian Cookbook, and I did the recipe as it is. The result was  incredible as we munched those crunchy mouth watering fritters.  I strongly recommend that you try it out.

Ingredients:

2 large eggplants

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup plain flour

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped parsley, extra

Method:

Place the eggplants and the unpeeled onion on the range and cook over direct fire for almost an hour or until soft.

toasting

Let them cool down for ten minutes then peel the eggplants and the onion.

eggplant and onion

 

Cut the eggplants into quarters, squeeze, to remove excess liquid, finely chop the flesh and the onion.

Combine eggplant, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, parsley, egg, cheese and flour in

bowl and mix well.

ingredients in bowl

 

mixture

Heat oil in pan, drop 1/4 cup mixture in pan, flatten slightly. cook patties in batches until well browned from both sides.

frying

Drain on absorbent paper. Serve patties sprinkled with extra parsley.

Makes about 10 pieces.

serving plate

 

In this hot toasting weather, nothing beats having such a snack in the afternoon along with some red pepper or some yogurt. Kids will love it. Enjoy.

N.B: for a healthier choice.the patties can be baked in the oven using was paper.

 

 

It Drives me Crazy

It drives me crazy when you take a shower and leave the bathroom soaking with water.

In my mind I would say; “How many times do I need to repeat that you need to close the curtain firmly before you start with your showers?”

But when I look at you and see that you have been too occupied playing with the water that you didn’t even notice the flood you created.

wet floor sign

After all you are still living your playful childhood.

It drives me crazy when you rush into the toilet, have a pee and leave the toilet seat sparkling with a smelly mess.

Even the sign that says; “Please, lift the seat,” and it is right there in front of your eyes doesn’t even remind you of what you need to do.

 

But when I look into your eyes, I can understand that you were in such a rush – you don’t want to miss a second of play with your brothers.

After all you are still enjoying your pleasurable childhood.

It drives me crazy when you wake up the twins because of your loud tones.

“Gosh, they have just slept! When will you talk in low voices?”

silence image

But when I observe you I realize that you can’t relate loud noises to disturbing someone from his sleep.

After all you are still experiencing your booming childhood.

It drives me crazy when I call you saying it is time for showers, and you continue to kick the ball as if nobody is talking to you.

It is because I cannot comprehend that you are so indulged in playing that you didn’t even listen to what I said. You heard me well, but not listened.

After all you are still fulfilling your entertaining childhood.

It drives me crazy when you miss  on writing the correct answer in your quiz even though we made that same exercise at home and you got it right.

 

But if I were with you in class, I could have perceived that you were busy thinking of what games you will play in recess with your friends.

After all you are still dwelling in your busy childhood.

It drives me crazy when I spend nights thinking and planning events for you and when I ask if you have enjoyed it, you focus on what was excluded.

But when I look into your mind, I comprehend that you still don’t know what real appreciation means.

After all you are still encountering your magnificent childhood and at this stage I should not expect you to behave all the time, or to value life, or to abide by the house rules every minute.

I know that one day you will reach those goals, but you are still at the bottom steps of the ladder. And the road is still ahead of you to set your values and flourish …

How can I mature as a parent if you do not provide me with such learning opportunities? And most importantly how can you develop and grow if you do not compose mistakes, learn from them, and pave your life bit by bit?

 

So yes, my beloved sons, experience your beautiful childhood the way you want. Quench its thirst from the rivers of discovery and help me in aiding you to enjoy this journey together. So when you look back, like me, you would say, “I have had the best childhood ever.”

 

 

 

Salmon Pie

My passion in the kitchen is not only limited to baking cakes and preparing cookies, but I also enjoy cooking flans, different types of quiche and pies! Here is a simple yet delicious salmon pie recipe;
Ingredients:

5 onions cut in wings

1 whole diced leek

1/2 a cup of milk

1 tablespoon flour

3 eggs

300 grams of grated yellow cheese ( I use a mix of emmental, babybel, cheddar)

Seasoning to taste: a dash of salt, fresh ground pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger powder

250g salmon baked fillet

I usually marinate the salmon fillet in the following ingredients;
1 squeezed orange
1 tablespoon grain mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves of garlic

Salt, pepper, and ginger powder

Bake in the oven until cooked.

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Flake the fish and set aside. The interesting part, is that you can use leftovers of a salmon fish from the night before. In this case, I would heat the flakes of fish using a knob of butter.

Now that the salmon is ready, spread the ready made pie crust in the desired pan. Cover with wax paper and add some beans on top. Bake in a preheated oven until the sides become a bit golden in color. (around 20 minutes) I usually use Marie or Carrefour brand for the puff pastry.

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Now for the filling. Cook the onions in some cooking oil or butter until caramelized. Add the leeks and continue cooking for five more minutes. Set aside to cool. Beat the eggs along with the peppers until fluffy. Add the flour, milk, and some of the grated cheese. Fold in the onion mix.  Fill in the crust with the mixture. Sprinkle more of the cheese on the top.

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Bake in a preheated oven until the eggs mixture is set – around 25 minutes. Serve warm along with a green salad.

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