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How Playing Board Games With Kids Develops Healthy Adults.

As our society moves more and more toward technology and though we are told we have more “free” time than ever, it often does not feel that way and the combination of these two occurrences leaves children the unwitting victims of circumstance.

Many children today are being left to the caretaking of technology - it’s easy in our busy, often hectic, lives to let technology become the babysitter, the diversionary tactic. Televsion, IPADS, Video games, (which I myself love) and phones. While technology has it’s place and is something valuable it has left us in a precarious place as parents often facing a time crunch between work, social obligation, aging parents - just living. We no longer or rarely come together and share family dinners and evenings playing board games and while we tend to watch movies together as a family, and it is fun, this type of togetherness is very different from that of the bonding over a board game or an event or an outing such as a visit to the zoo or local museum.

So what benefits do children get from board games beyond that it is cheap entertainment? Quality time spent with you, bonding and the chance to see you in playful way - to be playful together which strengthens relationships. It is healthy for everyone. All the social and educational lessons involved in playing games both cooperative and tradtional are an added bonus and an engaging way to teach your child valuable social and life skills that include everything from counting and managing money to turn taking. Playing cooperative games is a fun way to create the value of teamwork, sportsmanship and community from an early age.

Playing games with kids should be organic in lessons. Don’t let your children win all the time. Learning how to lose and cope with loss is a valuable skill as an adult. Let a different person pick the game each time you play so that everyone has a voice. Stick to the rules of the game or change them slightly as a family to suit your needs - do not let the child reinvent the rules to control play or winning. In life we must follow directions and rules. Don’t let your child cheat - call them on it carefully. “I think you took too many steps.” “You already rolled once.” This teaches honesty, accountability and integrity. Lead by example. If you have a child who really hates to lose and is over competitive and it becomes an issue despite your conversations try playing more cooperative games and fewer competitive games for a while to build cooperation skills.

Make this a technology free time. Put cell phones away, turn off the TV and shut down computers. Make this a time to totally engage with your family. One night a week you eat dinner together and play board games. A chance to cook as a family or perhaps order in a favourite meal.

Some of the benefits and skills your child will receive from just a few hours of play a week are listed below followed by a list of great games but the main benefit is undistracted time with you.

Social skills benefits - here are just a few:

  • Turn taking and waiting

  • Learning to lose and win gracefully

  • Communication

  • Team work

  • Sportsmanship

  • Listening

  • Conflict resolution

  • Following steps, rules and instruction

  • Getting along with others

  • Asking for help

  • Sharing

  • Self-regulation (calming down, losing without anger)

Life and educational skills benefits:

  • Math concepts - counting, money, money management, etc.

  • Fine motor skills (eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity) rolling the dice, counting money, moving men…

  • Grammar and vocabulary

  • Number and shape recognition, grouping, and counting

  • Letter recognition and reading

  • Visual perception and color, pattern recognition

  • Planning and strategizing

  • Mental agility and flexibility

  • Action and consequence (Right move or wrong move)

  • Decision making

  • Making tough choices

  • Problem solving and critical thinking

  • Logical thinking

  • Character building

  • Healthy competition

The face to face interactions involved in playing board games helps children learn to get along with their peers, fairness, decision making, logical problem solving, regulation of their bodies and control of their emotions. It helps develop safe ways to resolve conflict and how to fun with others.

Games in the classroom serve all the same purpose as playing at home and are a valuable teaching tool. When kids love what they are doing they will do it and games offer a way to teach without the child even realizing they are learning.

Here’s a list of great games to play with your kids at home or school: Games should be chosen to meet the age level and cognitive level of the child/children. The game should be at a child’s level and/or a bit challenging.

Cooperative games: (These are just a few)

  • Feed the monster (age 3-6)

  • Count Your Chickens (age 4+)

  • Race to the Treasure (age 5+)

  • Forbidden Island (age 10+)

  • Mermaid Island (age 5+)

  • Sums in Space (age 5+)

  • Bandido (age 6+)

  • Mmmm! (age 5+)

  • Mole Rats in Space (age 7+)

  • Ghost Fightin Treasure Hunters (age 8+)

  • The Game (age 8+)

  • Harry Potter (A cooperative deck-building game) (11+)

  • Masterium (age 10+)

  • Wild Craft from Learning Herbs (age 4+)

  • Lattice (age 6+)

  • Sunny Day Ponds (age 3+)

  • Codenames (age 14+) Codenames Pictures (age 10+)

  • Hoot Owl Hoot (age 4+)

  • Stone soup (age 5+)

Great traditional games: (This is just the tip of the iceberg)

  • Chutes or Snakes and Ladders (age 3+)

  • Clue (age 8+)

  • Life (age 6+)

  • Careers (age 8+)

  • Settlers of Catan (ages 10+)

  • Carcasonne (age 8+)

  • Exploding Kittens (ages 7+)

  • Cranium (age 13+)

  • Scrabble (age 10+)

  • Bananagrams (age 7+)

  • Checkers (age 6+)

  • Uno (age 6+)

  • Backgammon (age 8+)

  • Chess (age 6+)

  • Monopoly (age 8+)

  • Risk (age 10+)

  • Apples to Apples (age 12+)

  • Battleship (age 8+)

  • Sorry (age 6+)

  • Connect Four (age 6+)

  • Trivial Pursuit and Trivial Pursuit jr.

  • Candy Land (age 3+)

  • Pictionary (age 12+) Jr. (7+)

  • Memory (age 3+)

  • Trouble (age 4+)

  • Guess Who (age 6+)

  • Headbandz (age 7+)

  • Spot it (age 7+) jr (4+)

  • Jenga (age 6+)

  • Telestrations (age 12+)

  • Rebellion (Star Wars) (age 14+)

  • Scattergories (age 12+) jr. (8+)

  • Dominion (age 13+)

  • 7 Wonders (age 10+)

  • Dungeons and Dragons (age 12+)

Peaceable Kingdom has a great list of cooperative board games for children:

Search Boardgamegeek for game descriptions and places to buy:

Playing board games is a fantastic way to engage with, spend time with and get to know your kids and students. Pick up a board game today or even just a deck of cards! Creating memories that will last a lifetime.

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