In today’s fast-paced world, quality time spent with one’s children can be a rare commodity. We want to spend more time with our children but there is just so many things that need to be done. Reports for work to be completed, housework, groceries to purchase…the list goes on. Still, it has never been more evident that children want and need to spend time with their parents without any specific goals to keep except to enjoy quality time together.
Children want their parents to play with them, to listen to them and take an interest in what is going on in their young lives. This time spent can provide so much value and benefit to them that we, as adults, have to be reminded that we need to dedicate this time for them. So how can we go about giving the time they need? One such way is to dust off those old board games you have stored in a closet or attic somewhere in your home.
Over the past few weeks my wife and I entertained some close friends who have children approaching the teenage years and we thought wouldn’t it be great to pull out some of the board games we use to play before our children were born, and play them with them? Needless to say, it was a big hit!
Prior to initiating this idea, our evenings together were spent in adult conversation while the children either watched television or browsed the Internet on their mobile phones. While still enjoyable, it was quite detached and the children grew tired quickly, many times falling asleep on the sofa until it was time to go home. Pulling out the board games changed our evenings drastically and the level of enthusiasm on the faces of the children was wonderful to witness. Even Eric, who couldn’t play due to his issues, enjoyed hearing everyone’s laughter and he could feel the enjoyment in the room which in turn, made him giggle in delight.
Whilst playing the games it was evident that in addition to the enjoyment everyone was experiencing, learning opportunities were also being had. Healthy competition was at the forefront due to the statements I directed to the children that included: ‘I’m the world champion of this game’ or ‘No one has ever beaten me in this game before’…well a little white lie never hurt anyone especially since it increased their determination and drive to discount my intentional boisterous statements and keep my board game actions in check….’Brian, how did that extra 500 Monopoly money end up in your money section??’
To date we have been playing classic games such as The Game of Life and Monopoly and it has been wonderful to watch how they are mastering new skills and concepts which have included:
Decision making skills
Negotiating and social skills
Patience – waiting for one’s turn
Addition (adding up two numbers on a pair of dice)
Visual perception and colour recognition
Focus and Concentration – on what is happening on the board with other players and how close is Brian’s fingers to the bank money. LOL!
And most importantly….
Reading is so evident in board games from the instruction manual to the positions they land on after rolling the dice to reading the information on the various cards that come with a particular game. They're having fun and incorporating new vocabulary all at the same time!
Board games need not be academic to be educational. In fact, these ever important skills, in addition to the feeling of togetherness without feeling hurried, can be obtained irrespective of the type of board game being played.
Another intrinsic benefit that can be obtained through board games pertains to helping children develop better boundaries. Board games can help children to become more organised, mature and develop a more holistic personality by helping them to place better controls at minimising erratic sides of their personality and increasing their concept of fair play.
But the benefits don’t stop there!
Playing board games has traditionally provided other positive effects which have been targeted with life and health improving benefits, particularly if they are played on a regular basis, some of these benefits include:
Greater opportunities for laughter and the reduction of stress – laughter is synonymous with board game playing especially when I had to pay out a huge amount of Monopoly money to one of the children when landing on their highly developed properties! While my personal cache of Monopoly money dwindled quickly - the dice were not my friend - it was nice to see them laughing and having fun, which in turn helped to temporarily wash away the stresses of the day for everyone participating.
Board games help to increase brain function – playing board games is well known to help stimulate areas of the brain that cater for complex memory and thought formations in both children and adults. Cognitive skills such as problem solving and decision making, as mentioned above, are stimulated throughout the game playing process and has been linked at promoting children’s mental growth and helping to make teens more intelligent.
Board games help to bring people closer together and strengthen relationships – Board games can’t really be played alone so at its basic foundation, board games help to develop cooperation, teamwork and brings people together for a couple of hours of unhindered enjoyment and allowing for the cares of the world to be temporarily placed on hold and strengthen bonds with other human beings and not with a tablet, cell phone or computer. A cell phone wasn't picked up once during the game....brilliant!!
Playing board games can help in lowering ones blood pressure – when fully engrossed in a game, along with reducing stress and increased laughter, it is believed that the body begins to release endorphins which helps the body to relax thus allowing the blood to circulate easily throughout the body which can then have the positive effect of lowering ones blood pressure and we all know that high blood pressure has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease and even stroke.
Board games can remind us of what it’s like to live in a real world – The continued advancements of technology has had the effect of having people live more often in a digital or virtual world while the real world passes them by without much notice. Turning off ones cell phone or tablet and allowing oneself to be more engaged in traditional form of play, even if for a few short hours, is an amazing benefit that board games can provide.
So board games have now returned back to the forefront of our evening weekend activities with the children and what a wonderful experience it has been to date, especially now that at the conclusion of each evening we discuss the next board game that is going to be played. Watching the light in the eyes of the children at they consider and plan how they are going to beat me grows exponentially and that is definitely a good thing to experience.
Have you dusted any of your stored board games recently and played them with your children? We'd love to learn how it was enjoyed by everyone who participated. Why not add a few thoughts in the comment section below!
Do you know of someone with children/pre-teens/teens who would love to get them interracting with the world around them again and could benefit from reading this article. Do them a huge favour and let them know about it or better yet, send them the following link.