Games to Grow On


The purpose of play can be summed up in one statement:

Play is Practice!

It's practice with social skills, it's practice with communication, it's practice identifying and feeling emotions, it's practice trying new things.  The list goes on and on.  Children learn by doing far more than they do by listening or being told.  Remember, children are great imitators.  They copy everything the important adults in their lives do, not what they say.  Here are some examples of games and how they help children practice growing up well. So, get out there and play with kids!

Unstructured Play.  There is great freedom in "just Playing."  Acting out dramas, building things from scraps and scotch tape, running around rolling on the floor--the world of unstructured play is endless, and the opportunity for exploration of new themes that happens with it is the most valuable experience a child can have.  It is in this freedom that children "feel themselves" and learn about the capabilities of their bodies and their psyches.  It's never "just Playing."

Playing Catch.  There's more than meets the eye to this classic pass-time.  Playing catch is all about respect and communication.  For the game to be rewarding and successful, both players must gauge their throws and catches to the other's abilities.  Respect.  Also, both players must collaborate to find an appropriately challenging experience.  Communication.  So, in a non-verbal way, the act of throwing a ball so that it can be caught practices understanding and respect.  "O.K.  Here comes a high one!"  is an example of an appropriate challenge, mixed with the belief that it can be caught.  Now we've introduced a discussion of the relationship between two people.  Pure gold!  It should go without saying that this is not a time for criticism--the only lesson learned from criticism is that you disapprove.  Quiet coaching is a different thing.  Teaching skills is a way of improving self esteem.

Chess.  Kids who learn that they can learn this game feel better about themselves and their natural abilities.  The game of chess is about abstract thinking--the ability to plan, to see combinations of factors influencing each other, and the ability to be patient.   Chess is also an incredibly aggressive game.  But it is aggressive in an appropriate way.  It can help kids have the very natural feelings of aggression without acting on them physically.

Board Games.  These games are opportunities to interact with others in structured ways that make it possible to have emotions and relationships in socially appropriate ways.  The best board games contain levels of risk that are just beyond the comfort zone--either in the rules or in the game play.  Any time family members play together, good things can happen.  Just remember--don't be a stickler for the rules, and let the fun happen.  Here are some of my favorites:

Uno Attack.  An updated version of the classic.  There's a lot of surprise in this game, and the opportunity for aggression and revenge (both themes worth exploring).  The great lesson of this game is that it's FUN to spend time with each other.  A simple and overlooked truth.

Wise and Otherwise.  A game for teens and up and similar to Balderdash, in which players are asked to complete wise sayings from around the world.  Points are awarded for both guessing the correct saying and for writing a convincing saying.  Great for stimulating creativity, building an awareness of the thoughts and feelings of others, and for developing identity.  From the game:  "There is an old German saying--A short nose... is soon blown."

Faces.  For school age kids and older, this game asks players to choose which picture of a face (men, women & animals) most closely resembles the prompt ("The one who can't wait to leave" or "The one trying not to cry").  Points awarded for guessing what the other players will pick. A great game to develop the ability to recognize the ideas and feelings of others.

Just Play!  Ask your kids what they want to play.  They'll tell you "video games!"  So you make them a deal.  You'll play their video games for a while if they'll sit down and play a different kind of game with you.  Invite their friends and families.  Remember, playing is a kid's way of exploring and communicating.  Don't forget, playing your kids' video games is a great way to show them that you want to understand and validate their place in the world.  And it will keep you modern and current.

cross eyed boy

All information contained in this site is Copyright 2014, Robin Walker.  The information here is not intended as a substitute for professional care and is not to be construed as advice.  Reproduction is prohibited without the express permission of the author.