Using Video Games to Teach Children to Fail

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
– Thomas A. Edison

We’ve all probably made the connection on how important it is to fail. I recently read the book, Creativity Inc, written by Ed Catmull, and Amy Wallace. The book charts the rise of Pixar, specifically detailing their process of Creativity and success. One of the things that Ed Catmull, highlights throughout the book, is the importance in learning to ‘Fail Early, and Fail Fast’.

My boys increased interest in the iPad, has come about thanks to his discovery of Minecraft (going beyond YouTube Kids). Minecraft is a great game for Creativity, as it's sole goal is to create and make.
My boys increased interest in the iPad, has come about thanks to his discovery of Minecraft (going beyond YouTube Kids). Minecraft is a great game for Creativity, as it’s sole goal is to create and make.

As adults, I’m sure we all recognize that when we start something new, it’s probably going to take a few attempts before we get it right, particularly if the activity requires a set of skills that must be developed or learnt along the way. However, teaching this concept to a child can be difficult, particularly to the ones that are impatient and want to succeed on their first attempt. How do you explain to a five year old that they’re going to fail at first, and however upset they might become, they should keep trying (and keep failing) so that they can get better – they want to win, and WIN NOW!

See Also: Creativity Chit-Chat: A Parents Quick Guide to Creativity at Home

I’m not going to take a really deep dive into my feelings toward failure, and how students in our current system of schooling are not always given adequate opportunities to fail – neither am I going to talk too much about how we as parents, in our desire to ‘help’ our little ones along the way, often remove the opportunities for them to fail, because we want to see them constantly succeed. Instead, I’m going to talk about a mobile game called Mr. Jump.

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I think this is probably the first time that I’ve actually written about a mobile game, and that’s because I don’t find the time to play them often. However, my eldest has finally begun showing a greater interest in the iPad, and recently requested that I download Mr. Jump, after spending a day with his cousins.

Given his enthusiasm, I immediately made the purchase from the App Store, and we began playing. Oh my days – it was hard, and of course it immediately provoked annoying temper tantrums that made me want to delete the game immediately. But, then I realized that we can use video games to teach children to fail. One of the things that I noticed immediately about Mr. Jump, was that instead of losing a life after dying (failing), the screen displays the percentage of the level that the player has completed. This was fantastic, because it allowed me to show Lucas that he was making progress. As opposed to focusing on getting to the end of the level without dying, we were able to set goals, and the game assisted us with our goal setting by providing a line to indicate our best attempt. At first we just tried to get into the teens, then the twenties, and finally thirties. Each time we reached a new high I took the time to celebrate the success, and slowly the goal of our game shifted to beating our previous number, as opposed to getting to the end of the level (which is really hard!).

Mr. Jump, displays the percentage of the level completed. Allowing players to see their progress, and thus improvement.
Mr. Jump, displays the percentage of the level completed. Allowing players to see their progress, and thus improvement. It’s a minor detail that for me, has made all the difference.

In-between our attempts, we discussed the concept of failure, and I used our progress as an example to how we get better, and learn after each attempt. We even began to singing one of the verses from Zootopia after obtaining a new high number

‘Birds don’t just fly, they fall down and get up’ 

Slowly, but surely, Lucas was discovering that it’s ok to fail, so long as he picks himself back up, and tries again.

On writing this article, I find myself thinking this is an obvious thing to discover. After all, digital games are designed to give their players the opportunity to fail. It’s how players learn, and develop the necessary skills to overcome future challenges. I think this is referred to as ‘Game Flow’ within game theory classes.

Anyway, I’m going to take this experience into teaching Lucas, how to ride his bike – wish me luck on that one! If you haven’t see it, here’s the Zootopia song.

PS. The game’s great. I’ve been sneaking off to play it myself. Just got to level two yesterday!

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Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.



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7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity is a FREE eBook for parents who want are looking for ideas on how to cultivate creative thinking skills at home. Subscribe here to download the book.

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CYBER MONDAY: What Mobile Apps should parents look out for this weekend?


Usually Saturday’s is devoted to a 3 Question Interview, where we get to hear ideas from subject matter experts on Creativity or creative activities. However, this Monday is CYBER MONDAY, which means there’s an opportunity for us to grab some new mobile apps at discounted prices. Sadly, it’s impossible to know what apps will go on sale come Monday, but I’m going to share some of my more recent favorites, as well as three from a previous 3 Question Interview with award winning educator Jonathan Nalder.

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Now as I’ve referenced in the past, most toddlers will begin to develop an interest in mobile devices by observing their parents with the technology, but there are some specific apps that offer the type of interactivity that can enhance the experience for our young ones.

SEE ALSO: Introductory Apps for Toddlers

This CYBER MONDAY look out for apps produced by WonderKid, and as of today Tiny Farm – Animals, Tractors, and Adventures, is currently available for FREE. Other Toddler apps to look out for are Baby Musical Hands and Toddler Cars.

For preschool, the selection expands considerably and parents should identify apps that fit their child’s interest and creativity. My new favorite, The Earth by Tinybop is right now discounted at 75% off, and another preschooler app to checkout this weekend is LaunchPad.

Here are 3 others suggested by award winning educator Jonathan Nalder as part of a DadsforCreativity 3 Question Interview on Mobile Apps for Childhood Creativity.



We’ve received requests on what mobile apps are best for young children? What are your three mobile apps for creativity at home or in the classroom?

Minecraft – is far and away one of the most popular apps for 4-10 year olds – because it lets them use their imagination and challenges them to constantly problem solve. Only caution is to manage access to the ‘survival mode’ for younger children as it introduces gameplay elements such as dying, zombies and other such elements.

MyPlayhome – is now a series of apps that allow kids to act out home, shopping and school/ kindy environments. A great one for them to experiment with different situations and to explore the interactive rooms on offer.

PuppetPals – a super simple app for creating animated videos that records a child’s voice and on-screen movements of puppet characters (which can include their own face) to introduce them to digital storytelling.

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Playdate with New Tech: I Spy With My Little Eye…Virtual Reality


You played the game with your kids. Cup your hands like a camera lens – look around 360 degrees – up and down – side to side – until you spot something: “I spy with my little eye….”

But the whole game is about to change – the very definition of “what you see” is about to take you down a rabbit hole into a new world of experiences!

Last week my eleven year-old daughter and I got a crash course in Virtual Reality thanks to an innovative app from the NY Times (NYTVR) and a cardboard Google VR viewer (above):

Times editor Jack Silverstein termed The Displaced, the paper’s first story in the field of virtual reality journalism, “a new frontier in storytelling.” The idea behind what’s being called ‘immersive journalism,’ according to Lorne Manly, “is that the visceral experience of VR makes the viewer a new kind of witness.”

See Also: Our First Weekend with GOOGLE CARDBOARD

After Natalie and I downloaded the VR app for my iPhone, we were given the option to watch The Displaced, a virtual reality story/documentary that is shot in South Sudan, Ukraine and a Syrian refugee settlement camp, by looking right at the phone screen or, much much better – by placing the phone in the Google viewer. There is no comparison:

The magic of emerging virtual reality technology,” the Times explains, “is that it takes viewers close, very close, to the children — and the world — that are the subjects of the film. So close that at points in the 10-minute film, it seems that each of three children is standing right in front of you, looking you in the eyes.”

And it is magic. Natalie and I each took turns experiencing the sensation of VR – as we seemingly travel with a young Sudanese boy as he maneuvers a make-shift skiff through a swamp – look from side to side and you see what he sees as he stands in the skiff – look upward – you lose sight of him, but see the African sky – now glance down & there is the bow of the skiff gliding through the muddy water!

“Virtual reality is famously indescribable,” Peter Rubin reports in Wired, “I can write all day about what it’s like to descend into the sea in a shark cage, or hang out with a lonely hedgehog, or walk through the streets of Liberia… until you do it yourself, though, it’s all just words.”

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I will save for another post how VR is already being used:

  • for creative applications in k-12 curriculums
  • in simulations for medical school students
  • in training purposes for the military
  • in game-based recreation as well as game-based learning experiences

College and NFL teams have begun to use Virtual Reality to evaluate potential players: imagine putting a VR helmet on a college QB and have him take snaps against a virtual opponent!

Robert Hof likens VR headsets to “juiced-up View-Master toy stereoscopes …allowing viewers to navigate three-dimensional videos and animations. The 360-degree images and sound shift with the user’s head movements, tricking the brain into reacting as if it were all real.”

And this is only the beginning.

For the fun of it Natalie and I traded experiences of what we’d like to experience in VR. Without hesitating, she wanted to zip line through the rain forests in Costa Rica. I was torn between driving the Patriots downfield with the vision of Tom Brady, and experiencing a visit to a Tibetan monastery. Maybe one then the other.

In The Future of Virtual Reality Janson Ganz asks, “What would you do if you could do anything? Would you be a rockstar, playing a sold out arena? Or be a surfer, riding the gnarliest 100-foot swells this side of Hawaii? No seriously, stop for a second and picture it. Imagine yourself there. For most people, this is a fun hypothetical question. But not too long from now, it’s going to become reality… because nothing is ever going to be the same.”

What would you like to experience right now? The sky is the limit – where would you like to go? The rabbit hole is just a VR headset away.

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Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance. is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. To gain FREE access, simply comment below and we’ll follow up with a link and password.



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kid Moviemaking contests: The Conjurer (plus Kid Movie Making Tips)

We’ve decided to launch a parent and kid competition. The Conjurer is a fun video challenge that requires parents and their kids to produce a short 15-second video using a mobile device. Winners will receive a Dads for Creativity T Shirt, and an absolutely awesome mini Tripod, which was kindly donated by Joby (Thank you Joby!)


The Conjurer is a black and white, 1899 movie made by illusionist and filmmaker Georges Melies. Accompanied by a ballet dancer, George Melies performs a quick series of magic acts, including disappearances, reappearances, and transformations.

Now with a mobile device and moviemaking app we can accomplish the same effects used in this film by making two minor edits in our timeline. The creativity is in the story that you create and the items that you make disappear!

THE HOW TO ARTICLE: Kid Movie Making Tips: 6 Easy Steps to Movie Making Magic


Films must be filmed and edited with a mobile device ONLY.

  • The film must replicate the general gist of The Conjurer, which means you must make something disappear, or appear, or transform.
  • Films must be under 45-seconds and will be judged for their creativity and story.
  • If it’s available you’re encouraged to add a filter that creates the look of an old film, but it’s not required.

Submission links must be posted below or shared on the Dads for Creativity Facebook page. We also welcome submissions via Instagram (which has a 15 second cap), but you must remember to use our handle @dadsforcreativity and include the hashtag #TheConjurer.

SEE ALSO: Moviemaking with Children: Making things disappear on video

Suggested Resources

  • Movie Making App (iMovie is certainly my preference)
  • Mini Tripod is helpful


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You can also view the entire film for free by simply commenting on one of our articles. Anyone who shares or contributes content via the comments below* will receive a FREE download to Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance.

If you choose to comment via social media be sure to sure to include reference to @dads4creativityor share from our Facebook page. We’ll follow up with details via a private message.

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