These holidays I sorted out the junk cupboard, which means sorting out the games, which means the games are accessible, which means we could play them. The game of choice was Yahtzee and with the kids aged 6 and almost 8 I thought this was a great educational experience… ah, who am I kidding, it was MY choice because it’s MY favourite game. Lucky for me, it was a hit.
This particular edition was an original from the 70s, complete with yellow lead pencils – you know the ones with the rubber on the end? Turns out in the 70s they actually sharpened ok and could be used more than once before spending the next hour sharpening it to the end. (Sorry, I’ve side tracked due to my passion for decent lead pencils – it’s a teacher thing).
Anyhow, the picture on the box shows the perfect family laughing and smiling enjoying a good natured game of Yahtzee.
Then I looked at my family. My son had arms folded because he had NOT got Yahtzee and was required to put a zero in one of the boxes. My daughter was doodling stars with smiley faces on her score card. And I was frantically moving the dice and cup along to each player to KEEP THIS GAME GOING in order to finish before Christmas.
So with this in mind, are board games worth it? Are they still valuable in our current culture? Despite my previously described scene, I would still say yes.
Firstly, when they’re engaged in a game (and I mean a real life face to face game) then they’re not on the X-Box, Ipad, internet, social media or other addictive mind-numbing sources. They need to TALK to each other, keep track of turns and be WITH IT enough to progress through the task at hand.
They learn that you don’t win ALL THE TIME. Infact, I’m one of those horrible parents who does not take it easy on my child in order to let them win. On the contrary, I am competitive and like to win! HOWEVER, I also demonstrate that I do not need to throw the board across the room and swear if I don’t. We talk about handling a loss BEFORE we start the game and ensure we all agree that the game starts off even and fairly and can go any which way at the end. We talk about strategies and tactics to help get the best possible outcome. And, we congratulate each other for our successes (EVEN if my 8-year-old sometimes says this through gritted teeth).
Playing games with our children models to them ways to occupy themselves when grownups are busy. A few games WITH you and suddenly they are in the know how to play it WITHOUT you. If they understand the game really well they can explain it to other friends or family and that demonstrates absolute mastery. I don’t need to point out the links to maths and literacy either… so many educational benefits.
If your children are playing a game without you they will most likely run into a disagreement at some stage. Playing games teaches PROBLEM SOLVING. Although it’s sometimes unbearable for parents to listen to fighting, the temptation to jump in and sort it out is not always the ideal solution. Kids need to occasionally ‘sweat’ a bit, but often don’t get the chance because well-meaning parents are there in a flash to save the day. Obviously if a child is in physical danger we need to step in – but if it’s arguing – stand back and see if they can work it through by themselves. They often surprise us!
Finally, playing games is fun. We can put down OUR phones, ipads, computers and distractions and just enjoy some time out with our kids. Laughter gets those endorphins running and we can actually have a nice time with each other.
So, pick your poison… Monopoly, Connect Four, Uno, Snap…. But be aware, if you choose Yahtzee in my neck of the woods prepare for a thrashing.