I think it is safe to say that in the current day and age we are more likely to find children playing games on televisions or devices than on boards with other people. And while I feel there is room for all types of entertainment in the life of a child, I think we do ourselves a huge disservice as parents when we allow our kids to transition away from the latter. By simply playing board games with others our children are given invaluable opportunities to learn critical life skills. Below I offer examples of the things our children learn when we push them to grab a board game over a device or controller.
Sportsmanship. When a child plays a game with a device instead of with a person there is no need to be a gracious winner or loser. They can throw a fit and act out in anger after a loss or gloat after a win and then simply hit play again and off they go with no ramifications. Playing a game with another human does not allow that. Lose at a board game and throw a fit or act egotistical after a win and you will lose the ability to play again because no one will want to play with you. To keep human playmates you need to learn to regulate the feelings of anger, disappointment or self-centeredness and be gracious in victory or defeat.
Patience. When playing a video game a child is constantly stimulated. They are involved in every second of play. That level of stimulation does not mirror most of the situations in real life. In real life a child will have to patiently wait their turn…to talk in a conversation, to get to use the play equipment on the playground, to order at a restaurant, etc. The turn taking required when playing games with others is one of the best ways to learn the patience needed to successfully navigate all types of social situations.
Perseverance. How many of us have watched a child playing a game on a device and when it isn’t going well they simply hit quit half-way through the game and start over? This simple act erodes their ability to navigate through a situation that is not going their way. Having a child sit through the struggle of being behind or losing during a game can help encourage them to foster a can-do vs a quitter mentality. Also, as we all know, board games like Chutes and Ladders, Sorry, etc. have circumstances where the tide can quickly turn and seeing that can help foster their sense of optimism in difficult situations.
Respect for Boundaries. Board games have clear rules and boundaries given for participation. Children have to learn and respect those rules to understand the game and they have to be able to successfully remain within the boundaries of those rules for the game to go smoothly. This is great practice for staying within the boundaries they will encounter at school, relatives or friends’ homes, extra-curricular activities, etc.
Ability to Delay Gratification. Psychologists have studied and stressed the importance of children having the ability to delay gratification. There are so many board games that are great at reinforcing delayed gratification. These are most likely for slightly older children playing games that involve strategy, but so many games like Chess, Risk, Stratego, etc. require you to think of a long term strategy and patiently put it into action instead of going for the first available move. Also, the overstimulating games on screens can interfere with a child’s ability to appreciate the use of quiet, thoughtful moments to plan out and think ahead.
As you can see from the above the benefits of playing board games are numerous, so every now and then reach over and turn off the Play Station or iPad and break out Candy Land or Sorry instead. Your children’s development and behavior will thank you.