The second Little Miss thinks her homework is done, I have the same question every single day. Mom, can I play Minecraft now? Every. Day. And I’m sort of ok with it because I love how Minecraft teaches kids to be creative and helps with visual-spatial skills as well as being persistent when something doesn’t go right the first time. At the same time, it’s a game, and we use it as a reward because the wee ones know their first and most important job is to Do School. If I didn’t have that rule in place, I’m pretty sure they would find a way to create a portable Minecraft and play it 24/7.
Unfortunately, the schoolwork isn’t always getting done. Little Miss has been my rock star. She’s never been in trouble in school, she always does well, she plays nicely with others, she’s athletic, she fits in, etc. She’s been the child I haven’t had to worry about – until this year. All of a sudden, she’s forgetting to bring her homework home and we have to trek back to school to get it. Trust me, knowing which teacher is likely to be working on a Saturday afternoon and therefore can let us in is not something I’m proud to know.
She not only forgets her homework at school, but she often doesn’t fill out her assignment notebook to know what homework she even has. We’ve had more than one hysterical crying meltdown because of homework she hasn’t wanted to do. And she “lost” her home folder, which means that she was simply shoving papers into her backpack. Have you ever seen what papers look like after they’ve been shoved into a backpack, followed by a lunchbox and snack bag and who knows what else? Now imagine those papers getting all comfy for a week or so before managing to find their way out.
After meeting with both her teacher and the principal, we came up with a new strategy. We haven’t really had to do any reward systems in the past with Little Miss, but it’s time to start implementing them to help her take pride in her work. We started out with the goal of a week of bringing home all her homework and keeping her assignment notebook up to date, with her teacher confirming that she turns in all her assignments. As we succeed with this, we’ll move the timeline out further. I allowed Little Miss to choose her own rewards (with my guidance), and her top one way to play more Minecraft. Shocking, right?
I agreed, and we put together a few tools to help remind her of her goals and ensure she reaches them. The first is the Gameband for Minecraft that I purchased from GameStop. It’s a brand new product that is the thing for Minecraft fans. It’s a USB 3.0 which is way faster than a traditional USB, but it also comes preloaded with maps from SethBling, Dragonz, and Hypixel, which gives us new avenues to explore when playing. And there’s way more to it, too.
Although this is brand new, it is amazingly popular. My store had only four Gamebands in stock and they were selling them so fast that they’re keeping them behind the counter. Some GameStop locations aren’t even able to keep them in stock but instead have the empty box display that you “purchase” and then receive the Gameband shipped to you in 1-2 days. I feel like I’m ahead of the curve on this one and so proud that I managed to score a popular product before they sold out!
Our second (and more immediate) tool was creating a new home folder for Little Miss. To help her remember what she’s working towards and also to hopefully make her want to use it, we decorated it to look like a creeper face.
How to Create a Minecraft Creeper Face Folder
Creating a creeper face folder was way simpler than I thought it would be. I was able to find a bright green folder and simply used black tape to make the face. I debated searching out various lighter green shades of tape and creating a truly pixelated and more realistic creeper, but this one suited Little Miss just fine, and by keeping it simple, I was able to have her create the face and hopefully take more pride in it, something that would have been more difficult if we’d gone the more complex route.
Because Minecraft is all pixels, it’s easy to recreate many things from it. The creeper face, for example, consists of 19 black squares on shades of green in the background (witness Mister Man’s Halloween costume). The eyes are 4 squares each, with the mouth being a 2×3 long vertical rectangle surrounded by two 1×3 vertical rectangles on each side placed one square length down from the top of the mouth.
I purchased tape that comes in a flat piece, which means I can cut it however I want. And best of all? It has lines on the back so I can actually cut straight – hallelujah! Given the size of the folder, I decided to use one inch as my base to make it easy. That meant cutting two 2×2 inch squares from the tape, a 2×3 inch rectangle, and two 1×3 inch rectangles. I have plenty of paper remaining after that, which means I could make several of these (I’m thinking birthday party favors for a Minecraft party), particularly if I created them on small notebooks or even cups. This is all about proportion, so you can easily scale it up or down depending on the size of your project. Planning to make a huge creeper head to wear? Do it at 1.5 scale!
Once you have your pieces cut, simply lay them out on your folder in the correct alignment. If you divide your folder into thirds both horizontally and vertically, your eyes should be about in the top third two crosses. Your mouth should then be centered about an inch below the eyes. You can definitely eyeball it or use a ruler to be more exact. Since Little Miss was putting this together, I let her eyeball the initial placement.
Once she had everything lined up where she wanted it, she simply peeled the backing off the tape and placed the pieces where she wanted them. A couple ended up not quite straight or with air bubbles in them, but so long as you carefully lift the tape immediately, you can fix that. This was a great project for her, and we’re already brainstorming other items she can “creeperize.”
The best news is that she was really proud of her new creeper folder and couldn’t wait to take it to school to show off to her friends. And so far, she has remembered to bring it home every day with her homework inside. She’s so proud of her folder that she definitely doesn’t want to lose it – or lose the privilege of getting to use it if she forgets to bring home homework or turn any in.
Why Little Miss Loves Her Gameband
Because she’s done such a great job over the last couple weeks of doing her homework the way we expect her to, she’s also been able to earn Minecraft privileges. It started out with just wearing the Gameband. All she wanted for her birthday was a watch (I know – go fig, right? What nine year old asks for a watch?), and this fits the bill perfectly. The Gameband also functions as a watch. You can set it to tell the time in regular or military time, and it looks so cool as it snaps securely on your wrist. The redstone on the band is the perfect little complement to make it a great fashion accessory.
The Gameband comes in two sizes – a small and a large. The small is 6.2 inches with the large checking in at 7.3 inches. Because Little Miss is so tiny, I got the small although I debated getting the larger size. The good news is that the small fits her perfectly, and it even snaps closed on my wrist. That said, if I were purchasing the Gameband for Mister Man or an older child, I would probably purchase the large just to be safe.
Little Miss has also had fun with the PixelFurnace app that comes with her Gameband, and she’s spent plenty of time browsing the animations that are preloaded to her Gameband in addition to making her own. She’s incredibly proud of the disappearing creeper face that she made. Personally, I was impressed that she was able to do this because when I think of creating an animation, it doesn’t sound that simple. The PixelFurnace app, however, has made it super simple to create animations with the PixelFurnace app, and Little Miss keeps asking when she can use it to make even more.
Right now she has just a couple animations loaded to her Gameband, and she’s so proud when she’s able to show them off to her friends. You can adjust the order of what shows up on your Gameband in addition to how many features are displayed before cycling back to the first one. It’s such a cool way to personalize your Gameband and make it that much more unique and special.
Gameband is made by Now Computing, which is affiliated with Minecraft (and I love purchasing official items that I know are designed to complement Minecraft!). That said, if you have any questions about your Gameband, contact Now Computing. They offer email tech support, and I know when I emailed them a question, I got a quick and thorough answer!
Traveling with Your Gameband
Of course the biggest draw of the Gameband is that you can play it on any computer that has Minecraft. Even if she usually plays it on a PC, she can plug her Gameband into a Mac or Linux computer and pick up her worlds where she left off. And that includes on computer that don’t have Minecraft installed.
That’s huge around here because previously, Minecraft was only on the desktop computer. When Mister Man was in the office working on homework after Little Miss had finished (because combining 5th grade gifted work and a child whose focus isn’t always where it should be equals more time to get things done), I wouldn’t let her play Minecraft because it’s distracting to Mister Man even if we turn the volume off. Now, she can simply ask if I’m not working and then plug it into my laptop and sign into her account. I don’t have Minecraft on my computer and I don’t have to purchase a second license for her to play it on another computer.
Best of all, when she spends the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, she can play Minecraft finally. My poor dad intended to purchase Minecraft for them. He tried. Repeatedly. I’m still not sure what he did, but he all he did was manage to download tons of “bonus” programs that clogged up his computer and took hours to clean up. He gave up on having Minecraft at his house, but that’s not the case anymore. When we visited last weekend, Little Miss couldn’t wait to take him upstairs and plug in her Gameband.
She showed him all about how you play and gave him a great education. I loved how he listened and gave her suggestions and they started to play together. He was so impressed with what she’s created, and I’m happy to see even more bonding happening.
When we go visit my in-laws over winter break, I’m hoping we’ll be able to do the same thing. My father in law has plenty of extra computers sitting around his house since he repairs them now in his spare time. Their house, however, isn’t designed for kids to visit. They have two cousins – a one year old and a fifteen year old – which means there’s no one really to play with, and my in-laws aren’t the most active type. Rather than dragging down toys that inevitably end up with a lost piece that my in-laws have to mail to us, we’ll let them play Minecraft when we have downtime. It will make my in-laws happy because there aren’t any messes, and I’m hoping it’s something that will encourage them to interact with the wee ones.
Needless to say, our plan to help Little Miss take more pride in her work and ensure she does her job in school seems to be working. She takes the Gameband seriously and hands it to me each night after she takes it off to ensure I put it in a safe place. It snaps securely onto her wrist, and it isn’t so big that it will fall off, but she’s worried she won’t remember where she put it. The good news is that even if you do lose your Gameband, all isn’t lost. Since Gameband doesn’t just save your Worlds onto the Gameband itself but also backs them up onto their secure servers – for free for a year and then via subscription after that – you can order a new Gameband at reduced cost that contains all your data from your last backup, which I know will make the wee ones happy since they spend so much time perfectly creating their Worlds.
Now if I can just somehow introduce a Minecraft or Gameband solution to teach them to keep their rooms and the rest of the house clean, I’ll be all set!