5 Reasons Your Family Should Play More Games! | exSTEMsions

5 Reasons Your Family Should Play More Games!

Family game night

I love the idea of Family Game Night, but for different reasons than you might think. Yes, I love the idea that I can sit around on a Friday night (or hey, Sunday morning…) with my kids and dig into whatever game we’re all currently obsessing over (it might not even be a game - right now we’re all about puzzles over here). And yes, it’s lovely to have time spent together where we just focus on having fun and being engaged and engrossed with something different, rather than on the things that I should be doing and haven’t done, or what needs to be cleaned or picked up, or whose hair never gets combed all the way, or whatever else we all fight day to day. But I also love family game time because it’s a time where my kids learn SO much. You might not realize how much kids learn from playing games, but this is really the reason I love games. Spending time with my kids, super, but spending time where they are learning super important life, reading, and math skills without them noticing - that’s fantastic.

Games equal learning

Okay. So what do kids learn as we play games together? Here’s a list of just some of those things. They learn:

  • To follow rules. Every game has rules, and those rules are important to ensure that the game is fair, is actually winnable, and has an endpoint, among other things. Learning to follow the rules, productively argue when they aren’t interpreted in the same way, and figure out when/how to apply them, are all really important skills that help kids to function within society as a whole.
  • Fairness, in multiple ways:
    • It’s useful to know that kids don’t naturally understand that when everyone has an equal chance of winning, that is actually “fair”. Younger kids think that things are fair if they always win, and learning to understand that games are “fair” if all of the players have an equal chance of winning is a big deal.
    • Game playing also teaches kids that “not fair” is not the same as “it didn’t go the way I wanted it to”. Game playing teaches kids to roll with the punches a bit, and to accept that things don’t always go as expected.
  • Probability! This week’s problem is all about probability, and playing games can help kids to develop a natural sense of probability. Noticing a spinner has more green sections than other colors helps kids to see that green in this case is a more likely outcome. Playing games with dice can help kids to see what the possible outcomes are, and begin to get a feel for the ones that are more likely.
  • To handle randomness. In game playing, sometimes the dice don’t roll your way. You don’t get the number you wanted, you can’t seem to pick a card that helps your hand, and you aren’t able to get the spinner to land where you want. It may be, that on top of that, your playing partner is getting all the breaks. This can drive even the most patient adult to distraction - but it’s a good lesson. In playing games we see that there is a difference between what we expect to happen and what actually does, and that probability is just that - likelihood - and that’s not the same as reality all the time.
  • Strategy. Surprisingly, even in games that are based in chance, sometimes you can develop a strategy - “if I get X color on the spinner, then I should…, and if I get Y color, then I should do something different”. When we play games, we build our abilities to plan ahead, to see potential outcomes, and then change our plan based on the outcomes we choose (or that we roll/spin/etc.).

And there are so many more skills to be honed by playing games! This could have been the longest blog post… but you get where we’re going. Playing games builds a ton of important skills in children: life skills, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, math skills, reading skills... it runs the gamut. And it can be hard to put all of the other things aside in life to sit down and play together, and really make the time to connect. Maybe knowing all of the good learning your kids are doing when you take the time to sit makes it a little easier. Games are way more than just fun. 

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