How to Make Minecraft More Friendly for Small Children

By Jason Fitzpatrick on June 18th, 2016

Minecraft is a great game for kids, no doubt about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a wee bit frustrating for smaller children. If you have a younger player and you’d like to adjust the game to their age and skill level, we’ve got more than a few tweaks to help make Minecraft frustration free for the whole family.

While your middle school aged children might love the challenge (and risk) of playing the game where the hostile mobs–like zombies, skeletons, and spiders–can beat them down, or they can lose all their hard earned loot if they fall into lava, their young siblings (who want to play Minecraft just as much as they do) might not handle the hard knocks so well.

The purpose of this guide is to help you understand and adjust the difficulty of Minecraft using the readily available (but not always particularly obvious) tweaks built right into the game, ensuring a better play experience for the younger players in your household.

Before we jump in, if you’re totally new to the Minecraft experience and playing catch up to your kids already extensive Minecraft knowledge, we’d encourage you to check out our parent’s guide to Minecraft and our Geek School series on the game, in that order.

For the purposes of this guide we’re using the PC version of the game, but many of the steps are applicable across game versions.

Creative Mode: All the Fun, None of the Pain

Minecraft gameplay can be divided into two basic categories: creative and survival. Survival, as the name implies, requires the player to survive in the virtual world by gathering resources, managing their hunger and health, avoiding damage from natural sources like falling and fire, and (depending on the settings) dealing with hostile mobs that try to hurt them.

That’s all a little bit stressful for some kids (big and small), but thankfully you can take Minecraft back to its roots. When the game first came out there was no survival mode, just creative mode: a free-for-all where the player has infinite resources, can fly, can’t die, and hostile mobs don’t hurt them.

If your child is more interested in Minecraft-as-LEGO-blocks than Minecraft-as-post-apocalyptic-survival-simulator, then creative mode is the one-stop solution for you. The game mode is set for each Minecraft world when it is created. The easiest way to set up creative gameplay for your child is to simply create a new world by starting the game, clicking “Singleplayer”, “Create New World” and then toggle the gamemode by selecting “Game Mode: Creative” during the creation process. Click “Create New World” at the bottom of the screen when you’re done, and you’re in business.

If, however, they have an existing world they want to keep (but change from survival mode to creative mode), you’ll need to be a little trickier, as there’s no simple in-game toggle to switch the game mode of an existing Minecraft world. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered: check out our guide to changing a Minecraft survival world into a creative one for detailed help.

Even if you’ve set the game to creative mode (which resolves many of the frustrations young players experience with Minecraft), we’d strongly encourage you to read through the rest guide as there are tips and tricks that can further tweak Creative mode to your liking.

Taming Survival Mode: Adjust the Difficulty

While creative mode is fun if you’re just in it for the building extravaganza, most kids want some sort of challenge (just not a challenge that leaves them crying in frustration when the bad guys blow up their house and they lose all their gear… again). To that end, you can tweak various aspects of the survival experience to calibrate Minecraft to a just-hard-enough-to-be-fun level and not a just-hard-enough-to-induce-tears level.

In a survival world, you can adjust the difficulty at any time by pressing the Esc key, selecting Options, and toggling the difficulty level with the difficulty button. The difficulty level can be changed on the fly, unless the little padlock next to the difficulty selector has been pressed–this locks the game difficult at the selected level and it cannot be undone unless the game file is edited. If your child has accidentally locked themselves into a harder difficulty level, you may wish to edit the file to unlock it and then lock them into an easier level.

What makes one level easier than another? Let’s look at the key elements of each difficulty level.

  • Peaceful: No hostile mobs spawn and any hostile mobs spawned by in-game methods (like the monster spawners in dungeons, spawn eggs in creative mode, etc.) are removed from the game immediately. Peaceful mobs–like sheep, cows, and pigs–will still spawn in the world. Players regain health over time and the hunger bar never decreases (thus players have no need to eat). Players can still die if they take damage faster than it naturally refills (e.g. if they fall from a very high height, they jump into a pool of lava, or they run out of breath in deep water).
  • Easy: In easy mode hostile mobs will spawn, but they do reduced damage to the player. The player experiences hunger but even if they fail to eat, their total health will never dip below 10 hearts as a result of starvation. Lighting strikes will light the block they hit on fire, but the fire will not spread (e.g. one wood block in the roof will burn, not the whole house).
  • Normal: Hostile mobs will spawn and will do regular damage. The player experiences hunger and starvation will reduce the player to 1 heart.
  • Hard: Hostile mobs spawn and do more damage than on normal mode. The player experiences hunger and will starve to death if they don’t eat. Zombies can smash through wooden doors to gain access to buildings and can summon help if they are attacked. Spiders can spawn with special status effects that make them more difficult to fight.

You can tailor the difficulty level to match the challenge your child wants. If, for example, they aren’t interested in fighting mobs but they do want to work for the resources they need to build their creations, then peaceful mode is a good fit: they still need to gather everything on their own but they don’t need to fight off zombie hordes while doing it. On the other hand if they’re ready for the challenge of facing hostile mobs, you can always bump them up to easy mode to give them an introduction to the experience without sending them off to get slaughtered.

Game Rules: Hidden Tweaks to Customize Your Game

Selecting creative vs. survival and adjusting the survival difficulty level are the most obvious tweaks, as they come with nice big buttons to toggle them. However, there are a host of really handy game tweaks that are only available via the console.

While playing Minecraft, you can pull up the console by pressing “T” on your keyboard. Here you can chat with other players (if you have opened the game to the local network) but you can also prefix text with the “/” to enter commands that change the game.

It’s important to note that these commands are only available to the player if cheats are enabled on the game. You can enable cheats from the start by toggling the cheats option during the world creation phase, “Allow Cheats: On”, as seen below. Cheats are on by default if the world was set to creative mode during the world creation process.

If you have an existing world where the cheats aren’t enabled, you can temporarily enable them by hitting Esc, selecting “Open to LAN”, and toggling “Allow Cheats” to “ON”. Although the cheat mode will only be enabled for the duration of the play session, any changes you make will be permanent.

The following commands allow you to tweak aspects of the game that are inaccessible from the in-game menus. When entering the command, use the true flag to turn the feature on or false to turn it off. Note that the commands are case sensitive, so “doDaylightCycle” is not equivalent to “dodaylightcycle”.

Turn Off Nighttime

This first command stops the day/night cycle, and is very useful in both creative and survival mode. In creative mode, it’s handy because you never have to build in the dark. In survival mode, it’s handy because hostile mobs only spawn in low light levels. No night time means no mobs spawning openly (only in dark caves, unlit buildings, and other dark places).

To turn off the day/night cycle, just run:

/gamerule doDaylightCycle false

You can re-run the command with the true flag if you ever want to turn it back on.

One thing to note is that the daylight cycle stops at the exact in-game time that you issue the command. If you use the command in the middle of the night, the sun will never rise. You can either wait for the day cycle to progress to the time you want (like high noon) or you can save yourself some, well, time and run /time set 6000 to set the day cycle to noon before running the above command.

Keep Fire From Spreading

In Minecraft lingo a “tick” is a unit of in-game time. By disabling the “FireTick”, you’re instructing Minecraft to not run calculations every tick cycle to determine if fire should spread. This fire from lava, lightning, burning netherrack blocks, and players using a flint and steel to spark flammable materials, won’t spread to nearby flammable materials. No more “I built a fireplace and the whole village burned down!” moments. Just run:

/gamerule doFireTick false

The false  flag stops fire from spreading. You can set it to true if you want to re-enable fire spreading.

Stop Mobs from Spreading

Disabling mob spawning in Minecraft stops all mobs from spawning into the world. Unfortunately the solution isn’t granular, and there is no flag for allowing peaceful mobs to spawn (like sheep) while disallowing hostile mobs (like zombies). While this can be useful for removing all mobs (if you have a problem with video game violence and want to prevent your children from killing peaceful mobs, for example), it does make running a farm or gathering supplies from peaceful mobs impossible. If you want peaceful mobs but not hostile mobs, consider setting the game to the “Peaceful” difficulty mode.

To turn off mob spawning, run:

/gamerule doMobSpawning false

You can run it again with true to bring the mobs back.

Keep the Player’s Inventory When They Die

If there’s a single game rule that decreases time-played-to-tears-shed ratio, this is it. In regular survival Minecraft upon death you drop your items. If this happens on regular terrain (like grass or stone), the items just drop in a pile. If you have no idea where you died or you are very far from home, the chances of you getting your items back are nearly zero. If you died in lava, the lava burns up your items and the chance of getting them back is zero.

To turn this feature off, so you keep all your items when you die, run:

/gamerule keepInventory true

By toggling it to true , all players keep their on-person inventory when they die and will respawn with all their loot. You can re-run this command with false to return to the default, where their inventory drops when they die.

Disable Mob Griefing

In Minecraft, there’s a concept known as “mob griefing” where mobs can affect the environment beyond simply hitting the player and causing damage. The Endermen can pick up many block types and carry them away, for example. Creepers and Withers can cause explosion damage that damages terrain and permanently removes blocks from the game.

To turn this feature off, run:

/gamerule doMobGriefing false

Most importantly, this keeps creepers from blowing up your buildings. To turn it back on, just re-run the command with the true flag.

Spawn Points and Teleports: There’s No Place Like Home

If you’ve got some little lost sheep, we’ve got a few extra tricks up our sleeve to help you out. One of the most frustrating things for young players, besides dying and losing their gear, is getting lost. By default every world has a “world spawn”. This is the location that all new players entering the map will spawn at. If the world spawn is a nice location and your child sets up shop there, then no matter what when they die (or when their friends join the map), they will re-appear at that same world spawn.

If they go exploring and find a new place to live that is thousands of blocks away from the original world spawn, however, things can get a bit tricky. Unless they left markers or have a really good idea where the new home is, it’s possible they’ll be lost forever.

To alleviate the frustration of never finding their base again, you can use a few handy commands to change the in-game spawn points and move them around.

Let’s say, for example, your kids find a village in a savannah biome, like the one seen below, and they want to make that their new home.

Using just in-game mechanics without any cheats, there is a simple way to deal with setting a home: by sleeping in a bed at night time. Unfortunately if the bed is moved, the connection between the player and that location as their personal “spawn point” is broken. If the player dies they get sent back to the world spawn, not to the location their bed last was.

You can sidestep the nighttime/bed method by using one or both of the following commands.

First, let’s talk about the spawnpoint command. When entered into the console, this sets the players personal spawn point in the world to the exact location they are standing. Upon death, they will return to this exact spot. In the village pictured above, it would make sense to set the spawn point for the child in their house. Just open the console and run:


In addition to setting the spawn points of individual players, you can change the entire world spawn. In the world, seen above, the default world spawn was on a sandy island. We had to travel around 1,200 blocks to find the village we’d prefer to use as a spawn, so it makes sense we’d want all players to spawn there instead of having to hike to meet us. Further, players default back to the world spawn if there is a problem with their personal spawn point, so this is an excellent backup plan to ensure players always end up back at home base.

To set the world spawn for the whole Minecraft world, just run this command while standing at the location you wish to designate as the global spawn:


Finally, when it comes to getting lost, there is no quicker fix than a good old teleport. Sure, teleporting through time and space across the map is a bit cheaty, but when you’re playing with young players people get separated and lost a lot, you have to do what works. We can’t even tell you how many times, over the hours and hours we’ve played Minecraft with our family, we’ve heard “Dad? Dad, where are you?” and, rather than spend an hour searching for the kid, we just teleport them to us.

The easiest way to use the teleport command is to simply run:

/tp PlayerA PlayerB

…where PlayerA is a player at the location PlayerB wants to go to (so /teleport Jenny Dad  will teleport Jenny to Dad ‘s location).

You can also use the /tp command with in-game coordinates. Every location in Minecraft has a North/South/East/West value (indicated below by X and Z) and a height value (indicated by Y). You can check these values by pressing F3 during play (which brings up the debug screen) and looking for the value in the upper left corner labeled “XYZ:”, like so:

You can teleport any player to that location by running:

/tp [Player] [X] [Y] [Z]

It’s important to note that Minecraft doesn’t do a “is this sane?” type check on the teleport command, it just executes a teleportation of player to the exact coordinates. In the screenshot above our coordinates, rounded down to whole numbers, are 1045, 72, 1358. If we enter the command /tp Player 1045 72 1358 , then the player will be teleported to the exact spot we’re standing. If we put in /tp Player 1045 200 1358 , however, the player will be teleported way up into the sky above and will fall to their death. The same thing could happen if we made the value for Y below our current location. Who knows what is below us at Y=30? Maybe there’s a cave they can pop into, but maybe it’s just hundreds of stone blocks they’ll suffocate in. If your TP coordinates are off by just a hair (like us rounding 1045.6 down to 1045) it’s rarely, if ever, a problem. If they’re off by a lot, you can end up killing the player.

You can use the same technique on yourself by simply dropping the player name. When you enter the command for yourself instead of to move another play, you simply enter:

/tp [X] [Y] [Z]

.. and you’ll instantly teleport to that location.

If you write down the coordinates of important places (or teach your kids to write them down) you’ll always be able to use the /tp command to get back there if need be.

Disable PVP to Banish Sibling Squabbles

Finally, we have one last trick that we’re sure will save you a lot of grief. PVP, or Player vs. Player, is shorthand for one player’s ability to attack another player. By default, all Minecraft players can attack all other Minecraft players unless there is a game rule in place to stop players from harming each other.

By far the most intense Minecraft arguments we’ve seen between children are over who hit who (and often who killed who). Often times kids don’t even mean to hit each other–the whole Minecraft combat system leaves a lot to be desired and it’s very easy to swing your weapon and hit a friend when you’re really trying to hit the spider attacking him.

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to disable PVP damage so players no longer accidentally hit each other and it’s impossible for one player to hurt another player by hitting them with a fist, tool, or weapon. We have a whole guide to the subject, and if who-hit-who is a frequent point of contention at your house we’d encourage you check it out and turn off PVP to help keep the peace.

With a little knowledge and a little time configuring Minecraft’s difficulty and settings to match the skill set and patience of your child, you’ll create a much more enjoyable Minecraft experience for everyone.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/18/16
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