Some of my favorite memories of my childhood involve being a loser.
My dad was absolutely fantastic about playing checkers with me, starting sometime around when I was 8. After we’d gotten pretty good at playing a basic game of checkers, he had a desire to learn how to play chess, so we basically learned together. And, here’s the important part – he never, ever LET me win. In fact, on the VERY rare occasions when I did, in fact, beat him, he would grin and look at me and say, “You gotta let the little kids win sometimes.” And I would grin and laugh with him, because we both knew it was a joke and that I’d won fair and square.
Now, of course, I’m all grown up and married with two kids of my own. My husband enjoys games of ALL sorts, and so do both of our children. My son, in particular, would play a game all day, every day, if he were permitted to. Over the years, we have often heard the sweet voice of a three or four year old asking, “Will you please play a board game with me?” Let me tell you, that is hard to turn down. Of course, all too often, we do, because we’re busy, but we try to make a point (and my husband is SO much better at this than I am) to play games with both of our children fairly often.
I know that there are all sorts of studies out there about game playing and why it’s valuable, but I’m just going to tell you the things I’ve observed for myself. No highly pedigreed sources here.
Playing games teaches good sportsmanship.
I’ve told you that my son absolutely LOVES to play games. Mostly, he really, really likes to win. I don’t blame him. I can be pretty competitive myself. So can my husband. Pre-kids, we’d play games against each other and do our fair share of good-natured trash-talking. So, our son comes by the desire to win honestly, and we really can’t hold that against him. There was a period of time when he would BEG to play a game, and then have a meltdown at the end when he wasn’t the winner. (See first paragraph. I’m a big fan of winning fair and square. Plus, even if you’re inclined to let a kid win, it gets complicated when there are two involved in the game.)
We’ve been pretty clear with him over the years that if he can’t be a good sport when he wins AND when he loses, we don’t enjoy playing with him. And, if we don’t enjoy playing with him, we won’t be doing it for awhile. He has come a long way. That’s not to say that he’s not still VERY competitive. And it’s not to say that we don’t have to sometimes remind him that good sportsmanship is required. But, these days he’s generally able to lose with grace and realize that there’ll always be another opportunity to “skunk” one of us again.
Playing games teaches math skills.
I’ve still got fairly little guys, and over the years, they have learned so much math simply from playing games. Early on, it was just rolling the dice and counting steps, and that was great and a real challenge for a three year-old. As they’ve gotten older, some of the games have involved more complicated math, or math to help you choose the better of two possible pathways. Games can also teach patterning, matching, and money recognition.
Playing games teaches logic and strategy.
Just tonight, I was listening as my husband played against both of our kiddos in one of their favorite games, Guess Who? (in my next post, I’ll tell you about some of our favorite family-friendly games over the years). I listened as he explained to them why he’d asked a question the way he had and how it helped him to get better results than some of the questions they’d been asking. I think I actually heard the light bulbs click on in their heads as they discussed with each other what to do next. And of course, there’s logic and strategy in so many different games, especially the tried-and-true favorites checkers and chess, the only slightly more exotic Tic-Tac-Toe and Connect Four , and even in a simple game of “Go Fish.”
Playing games creates great memories and strengthens family bonds.
I’ve already told you that some of my favorite memories from my childhood are of playing my dad in checkers and chess, but on into my teenage and adult years, our extended family would get together for holidays and play lots of games. I can look back and remember so many times that we laughed until we cried, and I share with those family members the memories of funny phrases or things that happened during those games. Those are wonderful bonding moments, and I want my children to get to have them to!
Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. I mostly do it because it seems to be the cool thing to do these days. If you happen to actually use one of them, it would really be a hoot.