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What the Heck Is Minecraft?

Here's everything you never thought you'd need to know about Minecraft

Photo credi: Flickr, Mike Cooke

If your kid has been swept up in the Minecraft craze, you've probably realized that resistance is futile. It isn't only the game that kids obsess over. There are Minecraft YouTube videos, a whole Minecraft language, other Minecraft-like games and more.

Get the know-how you need to engage with your kid on one of the coolest games out there (or so we hear).

Minecraft games by recommended age

One of the best-selling independently developed and published video games, Minecraft immerses kids in creative thinking, geometry and even a little geology as they build imaginative block structures. Here's the scoop on the games that make up the Minecraft universe:


Age 8; platforms: Linux, Mac, Windows, Xbox 360

Minecraft is an open-ended, exploration- and creation-focused environment. Players create items and buildings from scratch using materials they harvest from the world around them. Given carte blanche to sculpt virtually any creation of their choice in this 3-D space, kids can try tons of possibilities while working toward simple objectives. An option to work with others on larger building projects can help kids develop collaboration skills.

Minecraft — Pocket Edition

Age 8; devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Minecraft — Pocket Edition is a mobile version of the popular PC game. Players can build essentially anything in this game, so long as they're able to mine the appropriate resources.

Minecraft: Story Mode

Age 10; platforms: Mac, Nintendo Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iPhone

Though part of the fun of Minecraft is creating the story as you go along, Story Mode offers a set plot and characters for kids who prefer a narrative. This game offers positive messages about teamwork and diplomacy, and its learning curve isn't as steep as the original.

Photo credit: Common Sense Media

Minecraft 101 

Minecraft comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities for adults. Learn the lingo, discover the most important aspects of the game and get tips on managing your kid's playtime.

The Minecraft Glossary for ParentsDon't know your mods from your mobs? Impress your kids with your newfound Minecraft vocab.

10 Things Parents Need to Know About MinecraftThis video offers a quick rundown of all your essential questions, from exactly how to play to the dos and don'ts of multiplayer mode.

Q&A: Is It OK to Let My Kid Play Minecraft for Hours?: Sure, Minecraft has learning potential, but how much time is really OK for kids to burn playing it?

Minecraft on YouTube

Since Minecraft is a game that appeals to many ages — and has infinite possibilities — not all YouTube videos will be appropriate for your kid. Here are some of our faves for young players.

12 Best Kid-Friendly Minecraft Channels on YouTube: This guide offers a round-up of the most popular kid-friendly channels and explains what they offer.

Wonder Quest (for age 6+): This YouTube program is inspired by Minecraft, and its central character hails from creator Joseph Garrett's other internet hit, Stampylonghead. The videos do an excellent job of blending comedy, adventure and quality educational content under the premise of its heroes' efforts to thwart a villain's plan and return a collection of gems to their town. There are even social lessons that promote cooperation, kindness and perseverance. 

Photo credit: Common Sense Media

Games like Minecraft

Because of its complexity, mild violence and online community, we recommend Minecraft for kids ages 8 and up. So what if your younger kids want to play but aren't quite ready? These games can occupy them with a very similar style, without some of the tougher stuff. (Check out our full list of games like Minecraft.)

Blox 3D Junior

Age 5

With a style similar to Lego and Minecraft, this app's 3-D creation environment empowers kids to create, encourages visual acuity and fosters critical thinking.

The Robot Factory by Tinybop

Age 6

This exploratory app for early elementary school-age kids is tailor-made for players who love to create, design and experience free play.

Toca Builders

Age 6

Toca Builders offers sandbox-style play where kids can create worlds. It's easier to pick up and play than Minecraft, and there's no fighting or monsters.

Hovercraft — Build Fly Retry

Age 7

Kids can learn about physics and problem solving as they design, test and rebuild a hovercraft.

Originally published by Common Sense Media, written by Caroline Knorr

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