December 5, 2010

Board Games Teach Life Lessons to Children

When I was a child growing up on a farm, my family would spend cold winter evenings sitting on the family-room floor, playing Monopoly.

We would set the game board up on a card table, with the legs folded underneath it. This enabled us to slide the game under the bed at the end of the day. The next evening we only had to slide it back out and pick up where we had left off. This would continue for several days.

During the course of my childhood, several of the little green houses and red hotels had become lost. Occasionally one might be found under a sofa cushion or in the pocket of a pair of my brother's jeans. Our Monopoly money was very well worn. Sometimes, when money was changing hands, someone would get aggressive, and the money would accidentally get torn in half. Several of the bills had been mended with tape that had yellowed over time. Who would have ever imagined that 40 years later, one could go to, download a PDF and print replacement money?

In my work as a play therapist, I encourage parents to play board games with their children. What's that, you say? You already play games with your children? Is it Guitar Hero? Is it X Box or any of the other video games on the market today? These are all wonderfully entertaining games, but when was the last time your family played a good old-fashioned, traditional board game?

Many of the games you played as a child are still being manufactured today. Do you remember Sorry!, Trouble or Chinese Checkers?

In addition to Monopoly, I suggest you consider - depending upon the ages of the family members who will be playing - Candy Land, Hands Down, Yahtzee. Another favorite board game from my childhood was Hi Ho Cherry-O. The dog swallowed one of the cherries, so we improvised and substituted the pointed end of a broken red crayon.

Board games imitate real life. For example, you have to cooperate and wait your turn. There are rules you have to follow. Someone will win and someone will lose. Board games have an element of learning as well. If money has to be counted, you are learning math. If you have to spend money, you are learning how to budget. By observing the behavior of adults during the game, children will learn how adults deal with winning and losing.

Ask yourself what you are modeling during the game. Do you lose graciously? Do you win without rubbing it in?

Sometimes adults will intentionally lose a game to allow a child to win. I suggest you play as well as you can and let the chips fall where they may. If a child is disappointed at losing, it's a good learning experience for him or her. Children will be able to take what they learned playing a board game and incorporate it into real-life experiences.

When there is tension or distance among a family, a board game can serve as an ice breaker. Remember the old game Don't Break the Ice? It's a perfect game to ease some of the tension and get family members interacting again.

Because board games provide an opportunity to interact with people, they promote social skills. Board games bring people together, both young and old. Board games can strengthen bonds between family members. Playing a game provides parents with an opportunity to start conversations with their children. It's a refreshing change from the traditional question, "How was school today?"

Caution: Playing board games together as a family can cause spontaneous laughter, fun and a good time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Pam,

I loved this post. In addition to sportmanship, teamwork, and strategy, I would also like to note that playing reasoning games with your children help with their confidence and assertiveness, which they may not get while interacting on a virtual platform. I help with an after school program and I have seen kids make friends with the help of boardgames, especially "The Ladybug game", which, as it turns out, was created by one of their peers. Thank you so much for your well-written post on the subject.

- Erna