My son likes to beat me at any cost in board and card games. While playing Backgammon, he removes my pieces without mercy. In UNO, he is gleeful when I have to pick up. His ruthless, competitive edge freaks me out! He’s only ten! His sister couldn’t care less about winning. She prefers more cooperative activities.
Regardless of their attitudes towards game playing, my kids love to play games with me. It is a time to share laughter and conversation, never rushed, never pressured.
We enjoy playing video games on our Wii and PS4 also, but it’s not the same “family time” as the time spent playing our board and card games. With video games, we turn to the screen to focus, whereas in board games, we turn our focus to each other and to communicating about each move or play.
This summer, some of our favourite games include:
Jenga, Sorry, UNO, Backgammon, Chess, Othello, Operation, Clue, Connect 4, and Mastermind.
When the kids were younger, we played Chutes and Ladders, Bingo, Candyland, and Zingo for hours and hours on a rainy summer day.
As an elementary teacher, I had shelves of “math” and “language” games in my classrooms. Many of the games I’ve listed above were there. I welcomed the students who finished work early to choose a game and an opponent, to spend the remainder of class playing a game. During indoor recess or a rare free period, the students would empty the shelves and play with various peers. I knew their time was well spent, and that learning was occurring during their “play”.
Many games are educational, but they don’t need to be. Kids learn so many things while playing a game, regardless of its object! The social skills gains are limitless: competition vs cooperation, taking turns, following rules, winning vs losing, self-esteem boosts, and self-control. Kids learn math skills (probability, number sense, to name a couple) and they develop language skills. They expand their creativity and even develop fine motor skills while playing many games. Use of trial and error, thinking ahead, reflection, as well as the process of elimination are big parts of game strategies.
As I make a move with my Backgammon piece, and watch my son take his time to try to knock me off the board, I’m happy to know that his brain is busy working on strategy; he is thinking, on this quiet summer day, with math class in the distant past. While we actively continue to work on some of the social skills (namely sportsmanship and attitude toward winning and losing), I know that so many gains are made every time we pull out this board game – any game – played together.