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:
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.