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Editor's Note: Plugged In 

click to enlarge Alison checks out Crystal Wagner's innovative installation at Burlington City Arts - COURTESY OF ALISON NOVAK
  • Courtesy of Alison Novak
  • Alison checks out Crystal Wagner's innovative installation at Burlington City Arts

When my son, Theo, was 6 years old, he started playing Minecraft. He quickly became hooked. The video game became a frequent topic of conversation with his friends, and he spent more time than I'd care to admit down in the basement — often in the company of my husband, who also caught the Minecraft bug — collecting wood, planting crops, building homes and fending off creepers. These days, he enjoys kicking back and watching YouTube videos featuring British commentator Joseph Garrett, better known as Stampy Cat, providing humorous, blow-by-blow narration of his Minecraft exploits. Theo is not alone in this pastime; Garrett's videos have been viewed billions of times.

Though I dabbled in Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt as a kid, I'm not a gamer at heart. In truth, Theo's love of Minecraft and other video games has always confounded me. What is it about these games that draws in so many kids? In "Child's Play," I talk to a psychiatrist, a psychologist and gaming experts about what makes video games so compelling, and how parents can make sure the hobby doesn't get out of hand. An added bonus: The experience gave me a greater understanding and appreciation of one of my 8-year-old son's favorite activities.

This is our Innovation Issue, and it's packed with articles about inventive and imaginative pursuits. Check out "Home Schooled," a piece about a unique program at the Center for Technology, Essex, where high school students learn construction skills while building homes — which are then put on the market. Dr. Lewis First offers advice on what parents should know before giving "smart" tech toys and gadgets to their kids. Parents share some very innovative and original costume creations, just in time for Halloween.

And in "One to Watch," read about 17-year-old Milo Cress of Shelburne, who is the sole student member of the state's new Artificial Intelligence Task Force. Milo will discuss the challenges and opportunities AI presents during a panel discussion at the Vermont Tech Jam, on Friday, October 19, at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction. Organized by Kids VT's sister publication, Seven Days, the Tech Jam is a career and tech expo that might interest techie teens and their parents. Find the schedule at techjamvt.com.

At Kids VT, we know that parents are the ultimate innovators — always looking for new ways to engage our kids, to deal with obstacles and outbursts, to juggle work and parenting and everything else life throws at us. So this one's for you. Enjoy!

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