How to Bring the Educational Benefits of
Games to Your Child
By Suri Poulos
When you watch children playing games, from checkers to football, you can see that they are both having fun and learning important skills such as teamwork, strategy and cooperation.
There is prestigious support behind the educational benefits of games playing:
The head of Ofsted was quoted in national papers a few years ago saying that children who play games at home with their families do better at school.
John Dewey, the founder of modern educational theories, wrote in Democracy and Education " experience has shown that when children have a chance at physical activities which bring their natural impulses into play, going to school is a joy, management is less of a burden and learning is easier"
Even the venerable Plato said "Not by force shall the youth learn, but through play."
Here are 8 steps to help you bring the many benefits of game playing to your own family to produce brighter children and a happier home life.
1. Buy or dust off some games that are old favorites. Games like draughts, dominoes, connect four and card games, are not only terrific fun but they are also stimulating, challenging and involve concentration and strategy.
2. Try to find a regular weekly time when your family can enjoy games together, such as a Thursday night or each Saturday afternoon.
3. Add some elements to help "game time" become a family tradition: add
favorite foods (cookies and milk perhaps?) a comfy warm setting (in front of a roaring fire?), invite grandparents etc.
4. Start with games that a suited to the youngest age group present, or have a few games going at the same time that fit the various age ranges. Make sure everyone understands the rules and aims of the game being played and give everyone the benefit of examples of good moves and strategies by illustrating them on the game board before beginning the "real" game".
5. Explain that to enjoy playing games we all have to play by the rules, respect our partners and respect the outcome of the game. Regardless if we win or lose, to have fun playing games together we can't gloat when we win, and can't get upset when we lose. If we play lots of games together, there will be lots of chances for each of us to win sometimes, and lose sometimes. Either way we will have had a fun time playing together.
6. Show your own interest and enthusiasm for the game, give it concentration and effort, both for your own enjoyment, and also as a role model for your children. Rather than play ineffectively to ensure your child wins, instead, help your child learn from your game playing skills. Discuss out loud the moves you are making and why, to help your child understand the strategies you are using. If your child makes a move that is to their disadvantage, encourage them to look again and guide them to see a better move by asking them open questions such as "what are all the different options you have?" "What would happen if you take that move?" "What might be a better move that you can
take?" Look at the board game, can you see a way you can win? I can see it"?"
7. Whether your child wins or loses, at the end of the game summaries what you learnt from the game and then ask your child "what did you learn from that
game?" How could you improve your game playing next time we play?"?"
8. Keep the "game time" fresh by bringing in new games. A new game every few weeks can be a great present for the entire family. Games that can be played within an hour and involve thinking, memory, strategy or calculation are recommended such as: Othello, Guess Who, Mancala, Nine Man Morris, Scrabble, Chinese
Checkers or Rush Hour.
We hope you enjoy and learn from "game time" in your family as much as we do in ours!
Suri Poulos has an MSc. in Counseling and Psychotherapy, Masters of Business Administration and a
BFA. She is Managing Director of Mind Lab Europe. Mind Lab is the world's leading provider of thinking skills, social skills and emotional intelligence development of children in schools using board games to create an ideal learning environment:
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