When I was a child, playing a family board game meant playing Monopoly. The thought filled me with dread, and if we did eventually play my big sister would always cheat.
Now, with children of my own, playing games is an integral part of our lives. We have all learnt a lot from playing games together, more than most people realise is possible.
A key point is that the skills J is learning whilst playing games and having fun are directly transferable to “real life”. Taking turns? That one is obvious. Being gracious in defeat is less so – often as adults we debate something, and the decision made by a group is not what we wanted. As a child seeing the upside of not getting your own way helps in a wide range of situations – from choosing which game to play, which film to watch, whose turn it is first on the computer, which park we go to, down to decisions about food, who sits where in the car, who holds the dogs lead. Getting used to not “winning” but still being able to be happy really counts for a lot.
L (our eldest) is dyslexic. So reading has always been a chore for him. So many games we play have small amounts of reading – sometimes just a few words, at most a sentence or two– and when he was resisting any form of reading he would still read to play games. As a teenager L can often struggle both with having younger siblings, and with his brothers differences. Playing games together helps to build tolerance and understanding.
M (too many letters to list here!) has lots of difficulties. He finds social interaction can go wrong quite quickly and he has no idea why. Games give him a structure to his interactions, and that lets him relax because he knows the rules, and he knows how to function in the situation. Like J games have stretched M’s attention span, taught him to take turns, and to be relaxed about the outcome of a game. He has also learnt to think ahead, to plan before acting, to look for consequences of any particular move or play. Games have also taught him to budget his pocket money, and take care of his possessions.
As a family, we find that we can spend time together over a game with all the kids taking part – from the 14 year old down to the 6 year old. Games give us so much more than I remember as a child . . . and the children don't even realise :)
In the next post I'll look at some of our favourite games, how they play and why we like them.