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Five good reasons to play board games with your children



From toddlers to adults, board games are a teaching moment

From toddlers to adults board games are a teaching moment


My parents taught my brother and me to play Monopoly and then spent the next five years finding excuses not to play the game. After all, it takes a lot of time and patience to play board games with children. They forget the rules, they may cry when they lose and sometimes they try to cheat. My brother was famous for hiding a stash of money and triumphantly uncovering it when on the verge of bankruptcy. I’m still not sure he wasn’t stealing from the bank.

But there are good reasons for introducing board games to children when they’re very young and continuing to play increasingly more complex games as they’re ready for them. There are benefits gained in both academic skills and in social and emotional development.

Here are five good reasons to play board games with your children:

1. Basic Civility and Manners

During the life of a board game there are a number of skills that are tested and honed. Players need to help set up the game and learn the rules. They have to agree to abide by the rules and stick with the game until the end. They have to wait their turn and interact with the other players in a positive manner. And, probably most challenging of all, they need to be able to lose the game without negative behaviors or win graciously.

That’s actually a lot to expect from children. Younger children playing with older siblings or friends often feel incompetent and outnumbered. Some children have a much lower tolerance for losing and have to struggle with their emotions—anger, feelings of failure and embarrassment. Good sportsmanship is a necessary life skill and playing board games helps develop it.

Some of the more intangible skills gained by playing games are focusing attention and developing a longer attention span, communicating clearly, waiting while others play, and managing frustration when bad luck hits. For some children these are tough assignments. If your child tends to get red in the face or cry when losing, such games provide practice in much-needed self-management.

Parents and older siblings can model good game-playing behaviors. Another way to soften the experience for younger children is to play in teams. It’s important to choose games that are age-appropriate or provide support for the younger members.

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2. Math Skills

The simplest math board games will teach matching of pictures and numbers. They’ll teach the skill of counting spaces while moving a board piece. Then they’ll move on to number recognition, shape and color recognition, and sequencing. Later math board games will require operations skills—addition, subtraction, detecting patterns, analyzing probability, planning short and long-term strategies and logic.

Most math games require organization of objects, sorting by likes or differences, some will require skill in spatial relationships. Many require prediction skills.

3. Reading and Language Skills

Many word games begin with simple skills such as matching, sequencing and building simple words. Letter and word recognition skills grow as children play. They must read directions to play games and be able to refer to written rules along the way. New vocabulary words will be introduced and mastered. Visual perception skills are enhanced and eye-hand dexterity builds with manipulation of game pieces.

Word-building games such as scrabble reinforce knowledge of the structure of words, spelling skill and manipulation of patterns found in words such as rhymes, prefixes and suffixes, root words and encourage thought about the meaning of words.

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4. Decision Making

A side-effect of enjoying board games is a gradual awareness of the consequences of our decisions and choices. In games, much is accounted for by sheer luck, but as difficulty levels increase, the player increasingly needs to make good decisions at the appropriate times. A mistake can mean a loss. Cause and effect thinking comes into play, probabilities must be considered. The player must balance risk vs. reward. Tough decisions must be made in life—games are a safe place to practice making them. Parents can help guide these learning experiences by asking questions such as “Why did you make that decision? Did it work?” Reflection on past decisions is a great way to improve logic and future choices.

5. Quality Family Time/Fun

In our fast-paced lives, we have to be intentional about making room for family time. While movies and other online games clamor for our free time, there is something to be said for quieter, unplugged family time. Board games offer a space of time in which to laugh, chatter with one another and simply enjoy being together.

There are literally thousands of board games on the market, beginning with games appropriate for toddlers and building in difficulty levels to challenge the brightest adults.

Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and freelance writer. She is the author of "Homegrown Readers and Homegrown Family Fun". Find Jan at www.janpierce.net



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