Sunday, October 22, 2006

Playing Board Games as a Family, Advice from a Mother

By Christina VanGinkel

We stopped at my daughter and son-in-laws Friday evening to visit for a few minutes on our way back from being up town shopping. When we pulled into their drive, the house was all lit up and as we approached the door to knock, we could hear people inside. It sounded like a party was in the throes of happening, yet no extra vehicles were in the drive or on the street in front of their house other than our very own, which we had just parked there, and upon a second look, I realized that my son-in-law's mother had her vehicle parked along the side of the block.

As soon as we knocked, they hollered to come in. This alone was unusual, as my daughter always answers the door in person, never just hollering to come in. What we discovered was that nobody wanted to get up and answer the door because they were all in the throes of a heated conversation, over a game of Scrabble!

Scrabble has always been a favorite in our household, but I had not realized that my daughter took the habit of a frenzied game or two of it with her when she began her life as an adult. Word usage was being discussed, as was the fact on whether or not someone had oops, moved a letter when someone else was out of the room for a second. It was all in fun, laughter abounded, and it was almost a picture perfect moment for what happens in many homes when board games are included in a family's regular activities. Even my young grandson, too young to actually play along yet, had his own board with letters set up. They were all taking turns helping him make up words, and if one of his happened to not be a real word because he insisted on placing an X next to an O, because that was how he signed his cards he gave to everyone, who could argue with that!

I am constantly surprised at how often I hear the amazement in someone's voice when finding out that our family actually plays board games. Scrabble, Sorry!, Trouble, UNO, Monopoly, Yahtzee, and many more are all favorites in our home. When I ask those same people if they never play any inside games together as a family I am often told, well yes, video games. We play those too, but board games are fun I always respond. Participants have to talk to each other, and if you have young kids, teaching them the rules of fair play is always good for family communication. There are just some aspects to sitting around a table or stretched out on the floor as a family to play a board game that just cannot be copied when you are parked in front of a television playing a video game.

Board games have many advantages actually. They let kids gain skills by allowing them the time to think a strategy or two through. If they lose a board game, it is not as easy to hit that reset button and start over as they do with a video game. This alone can teach them the art of losing with style, because not everyone wins every time. Even the best strategist will lose. When kids walk away from a video game, the camaraderie often ends there. When kids walk away from a board game where they just lost or won, they often continue to talk about the game with other family members, setting up a rematch if they lost, or talking about how well they won that last game. Board games help kids make decisions too, and let them see the consequences of an action they chose to make through a means that is not going to be detrimental to their well-being. A board game lets kids try and test actions and reactions.

Whether you are a parent of a toddler or a teen, pull out a board game and spend an hour or two not only having fun, but also providing your kids with the opportunity to interact with you beyond the normal realm of parenting. Because once the money is doled out in a game of Monopoly, everyone is equal until that last dollar is spent!

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