It’s Friday night. Your family is gathered around the table ready to play the newest board game. Of course your children are learning concepts like counting, colors and even some reading skills. However, your children are also acquiring abilities they will use long into adulthood.
1 Go Fish, it’s your turn. Whether it is standing in line at the grocery story or having a conversation with your boss, being able to wait your turn is a skill we use throughout the day. Card games, like Go Fish, give children a natural opportunity to learn the give-and-take nature of living in our society.
2 Don’t Break The Ice on the floor. Another added benefit of playing games with your children is an opportunity to build muscles. Sue Larson, an occupational therapist and founder of Power To Learn Inc. in Grayslake, suggests bringing the game down to the floor. Have your child lie on his stomach and rest on his elbows. This helps strengthen the core muscles needed to be able to sit in a chair and write. Keeping the game on the floor helps build endurance in these core muscles, which in turn can help your child sit longer. Larson also recommends when your child is working on the ground, to have him switch hands on each turn. This helps your child learn to stabilize on both sides.
3 Remember Memory. Being able to use working memory, temporarily stored information that can be manipulated, is yet another ability that can be learned from games like Memory. The skills used to remember where a match is parallels those needed to remember where you put your keys.
4 Cheating causes Trouble. Cheating happens when someone tries to change the rules to benefit himself. Kathleen Sheridan, department chair for early childhood education at National-Louis University in Chicago, says playing games helps children learn to internalize rules. However, they also want to master a particular game so they can win. So when they find themselves on the losing end frequently they may want to change the rules. Sheridan agrees that sometimes to have fair play, the rules do need to change, but any changes should be done from the start. She suggests asking up front,"What rules are we going to play this time?” It’s not cheating when everyone agrees before the game begins.
5 You sunk my Battleship. Sometimes you can play your best, make all the right moves and still lose the game. The key is to learn to lose gracefully. You are not doing your child any favors when you always let her win. Someday, somewhere your child is going to lose. Being able to lose with a smile on your face teaches her it is OK to lose. More importantly, if she can lose and still smile, others will want to play with her again.
6 Sorry, I win and you lose. Just as important as losing gracefully is being able to win without acting smug or arrogant. This is a skill to master if you want to continue playing with others. Many adults still need to learn this skill.
7 Monopoly till the end. Playing a game, even Monopoly, all the way to the last dollar lets your child learn the importance of being able to start an activity and see it through till the end. If your child has continued difficulty with the length of a game, change the game to fit his needs. Fran Stott of the Erikson Institute in Chicago says:"Kids play games differently based on their age. You can play the same game but with different rules.” If length is the only issue, play with fewer pieces. For example, try playing Sorry with three pawns instead of four or in Memory try 10 matches instead of 18. Sometimes, the game might have too many steps or complicated rules. It’s your game. Change it to fit your family’s needs.
8 Pay attention, I’m going to give you a Clue. Playing games can extend attention spans and help children work on focus. If you are looking for more adult games but your child is not ready for the full versions, try the Jr. editions, like Clue Jr. or Monopoly Jr.
9 Scrabble up a great conversation. Games offer a time to sit down together, learn from each other and communicate. In fact, Stott says she feels the conversations that go on during a game are larger than the game itself. JoAn Shurboff, game playing mother of four in Grayslake, says,"This is a good time for many of our conversations about what is going on with our family.”
10 The Payday is family fun. Families are always searching for a way to interact that everyone enjoys. Sheridan says playing games together can be a family ritual that children remember fondly and will want to pass on to their children. In the end, playing a game as a family allows for a relaxed time where families get to enjoy being together as well as learning lifelong skills.
Amber Beutel is a teacher, private tutor and mother of two wonderful children living in Grayslake.