Candy Land is Not the Devil. Really, It’s Not…

A majority of my clients are children, and as any child psychologist can attest, we have to play our share of children’s games, like Sorry, Yahtzee, Candy Land, and Battleship. Not only does it build relationships, playing games with a child gives me a glimpse into the child’s social, cognitive, and emotional skills, and often convinces the child that I actually like being with him/her. 


On the other hand, one of the reasons why I don’t exclusively work with children is the scientifically established fact that playing too much Candy Land can cause dementia. Or cancer. Or something really bad; I can’t remember.


One of the things I’ve noticed over my 18 years working with children is a decline in Game Time or Game Night. Families don’t play as many board games as they used to. Sure, a lot of it has to do with video games. But I also think that too many families are so busy with homework and extracurricular activities that they don’t carve out time to be together for fun activities during the week. This really needs to change, because Game Night can really provide a family with a great deal of value.


First, setting a Game Night communicates the message that your family is a cohesive group that really enjoys each other. Because of today’s harried schedules, families tend to become disparate, disunited pieces, rather than a tightly-knit organic group. Game Night can help create that sense.


Second, this is where you teach your children some valuable social lessons, such as sportsmanship, taking turns (patience), teamwork, truthfulness (not cheating), and dealing with disappointment.


Third, many games can teach or enhance important cognitive skills. It can also illuminate for parents if your child is struggling in a certain area. Here are several games and the corresponding skills that they utilize:


Skill Game


Arithmetic (e.g., counting by 5’s and 10’s) Monopoly, Yahtzee

Money (e.g., making change, investing) Monopoly, Pay Day

Calculating risk Sorry, Life, Careers

Increasing vocabulary Scrabble

Impulse control Chess, checkers, Monopoly

Strategy Almost any board or card game

Graphomotor skills Pictionary

Deductive Reasoning Clue

Cooperation Clue, Risk, Monopoly

Fine Motor Skills Operation, card games (shuffling, holding)

Visual-Spatial Processing Battleship, Connect Four

Verbal Skills Charades, Taboo, Scattergories


Last but not least, Game Night is fun! Rather, it should be fun. Let me be clear: Game Night can be competitive, but competition is not the central goal. Do not let excessive competition get in the way of fun and relationship during your Game Night, or it will lose value for your children. I’m all for competitive spirit, but children need to know that they needn’t always perform at a competitive level to have fun. This is a valuable social skill.


So try to carve out that time: for you, for your family, for your children!


If any of you would like to share your ideas for Game Night, please feel free to share them.

4 thoughts on “Candy Land is Not the Devil. Really, It’s Not…”

  1. Dr. Paterno, I can’t believe that you actually get paid to play boardgames all day, wow…you’ve got it made. 😉

    Love Game Night, some of our favorites…Blink, Zingo, Katamino and lots and lots of Puzzles, we make them all up, spread them out all over the floor and pretend it’s a Puzzle Art Gallery. Good Times

  2. Let’s not discount the value of such games as Pretty Princess! There are tons of lessons gleaned from 15 minutes shared with your toddler and husband playing this exciting spinner game. For instance, how to color coordinate jewelry with your outfits, that just because you wear a crown doesn’t necessarily mean you are a queen, and that boys can wear jewelry too!

    Glad to find your blog Da. I’m looking forward to finding solutions to the “bugs on my ceiling” whenever Sofia gets caught doing something.

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