Minecraft is the biggest-selling video game of all time (probably — let’s give Tetris its due), and is the biggest game on YouTube by billions of video views. In other words, Minecraft is the biggest video game in the world — not bad for a game that started out as an indie project way back in 2009.

If you’re reading this, chances are you or someone in your family has experienced the blocky, wide-open world of Minecraft firsthand. The great thing about Minecraft is that it isn’t just a fun video game; playing Minecraft can actually make kids smarter. Read on to learn more about 7 of the biggest benefits of playing Minecraft.

Why is Minecraft so addicting?

But first: Why are so many people obsessed with Minecraft? For one, Minecraft brings together so many things that people love, like computer games, LEGOs, and videos and livestreams. Plus, Minecraft is a sandbox game, which means it has few defined goals and no real “ending.” You’re completely free to explore and build forever, which means you can get sucked in forever, too.

Are there disadvantages to playing Minecraft?

Of course, anything that’s potentially “addictive” could have drawbacks. If you experience withdrawal symptoms when video games are taken away, unsuccessfully try to quit gaming, or lose interest in other activities and relationships because of gaming, you may be suffering from a condition called “Internet gaming disorder.” This disorder can lead to health and social issues.

Internet gaming disorder is not common, and there are ways to set healthy boundaries to reduce the risk of addiction to Minecraft or any other video game. Try to play Minecraft for no more than one hour a day, and keep a balanced diet of other activities and hobbies. Read more about ways to make Minecraft for kids safer in our guide.

What are the benefits of playing Minecraft?

Don’t be scared off from Minecraft! Immersion in the world of Minecraft can have wonderful, meaningful benefits for kids. Here are 7 key skills that can be developed by playing Minecraft:

1. Creativity

Minecraft is basically a massive blank canvas for your imagination. You can explore colossal interconnected caves, take on crazy challenges, or build mind-bending works of architectural genius. Anything is possible — seriously.

2. Problem-solving

To start building in Minecraft, you have to overcome all kinds of environmental challenges — finding resources, figuring out how to craft tools, gathering food, constructing shelter from enemies in the night. And the process of building presents all sorts of logistical and creative challenges as well.

3. Math and engineering

Building structures in Minecraft, no matter how crazy they are, teaches basic lessons in architecture, engineering, and geometry. Advanced Minecrafters can even practice electrical and computer engineering with the element redstone.

4. Focus

Realizing your grand ambitions in Minecraft takes dedication and focus. The bigger the build, the longer you need to keep at it and work step-by-step. Some projects can take hours or days to complete.

5. Planning

In Minecraft, you start with nothing, which means you need to plan ahead in order to build toward something bigger. Minecrafters have to carefully set goals, watch tutorials, collect and manage resources, craft tools, and build step-by-step.

6. Teamwork

There is a huge society of Minecrafters online, with multiplayer servers and maps and enormous Twitch and Reddit communities. Part of playing Minecraft can mean hanging out with these fellow players and collaborating on modifications, maps, artwork, and more.

7. Confidence

Minecraft drops you into the wilderness without instructions, then leaves you to explore on your own. There are threats and challenges, but there’s also a great sense of freedom and experimentation. Kids (and adults) can make mistakes, then learn and grow from them.

Is Minecraft good for your brain? Does Minecraft make you smarter?

There hasn’t been much research into the cognitive benefits of Minecraft specifically, but there has been lots of research into the benefits of video games more generally. Studies have found evidence that video games can increase processing speed, cognitive flexibility, working memory, social skills, and problem-solving skills.

The bottom line: it’s absolutely possible to develop important cognitive skills while having fun playing Minecraft. Minecraft can even be a gateway to deeper interest in computers and STEM. If you want to build more things in Minecraft (and with computers and coding), check out workshops and classes from Robofun, BrainStorm, Boolean Girl, New York Society of Play, NORY, Computer Kids Club, and more on Sawyer. For even more online coding classes for kids, check out our guide!