Editor’s Note: Go Ask Your Dad is parenting advice with a philosophical bent as one dad explores what we want out of life, for ourselves and our children, through useful paradigms and best practices.
You probably already play card and board games with the children in your care, to some degree. It’s a fun, shared activity to break up a day stuck indoors during bad weather, or to pass the torturous 23 minutes between ordering food in a restaurant and its arrival.
And now these diversions may be one of the most crucial family tools in your shed of ideas to help pass the hours during the coronavirus lockdown.
Traditional games are better than TV, and they’re more interactive than reading, or even video games.
Puzzles and board, card and improv games aren’t just entertaining, they’re developmentally beneficial – an educational lesson disguised in playtime’s clothing. And yet most importantly, they are fun. And we need joy, laughter and positive shared experiences for kids right now, more than ever.
Even those all-luck (read: mostly boring) preschool games that mainly teach kids how to play, like Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders, help them focus for a long time on a single activity, learn to take turns and how to cope with losing – three crucial life skills you can develop early.
We play a lot of games in our family, and we’ve had them in constant rotation since we got the lockdown guidance to stay home and avoid playdates.
For years my daughters and I have had breakfast together while playing mancala, Uno, Connect 4 or backgammon. We laugh and commiserate over the game, but we usually talk about real life topics, too. I watch them think, see light bulbs go off. I’ll see a smile grow as one of them gains insight or an advantage. Like me, they don’t have faces for poker.
Until recently, my younger daughter, now age 8, required someone to be on her team to play certain games, often relegating her to throwing dice and counting moves. But we also adapted games for her to play. She was gifted at charades and Pictionary before she could read and just needed to be whispered the clue.
My daughters are amiable when they lose, as a result of experiencing a good deal of it. I’m quick to conclude any game, no matter who wins, with something like, “That was close! And so much fun!” pointing out some exciting part or some smart move they made or some little lesson for future wins. We shake hands and move on. Winning and losing is just part of games – and life – whether because of luck or because of a skill still developing (in part, by losing). If they can manage loss now, when the stakes are low, it builds up resilience for when the stakes are high.