Why gaming with children is important - Dadstractions

Why gaming with children is important

gamingwithchildren - CopyI’m a gamer at heart.  I can spend hours upon hours playing all types of games and the games that require a real strategy are the ones that I love the most.  I enjoy looking at my options and deciding a strategy based on the available information.  They really appeal to the analytical side of me.

Some of my best friendships were solidified while gaming.  Sharing experiences, laughing, talking, casual (and sometimes not so casual) competition.  There are some really great memories built around dice throwing and card flopping.

With all the joy I’ve received from gaming, I feel it’s only natural that I would want to instill this love of gaming in my children.  I feel that being a gamer has been very beneficial to me throughout my life and I want my kids to appreciate playing games and reap the benefits I did.

And, by gaming, I mean all types of games in general. I don’t want to stipulate between board, card, miniatures or video because a lot of the same benefits can be found in physical gaming as well as video gaming.  For instance…

Social skills
Most games are social by nature.  A few people sitting around a table or friends playing in front of the XBox. This type of environment leads to interaction both concerning the game and just everyday conversation. Most games require you to interact with others in order to attain a goal whether individually or as teammates.  Games also teach players how to take turns, follow rules and how to lose (and win) with grace.  Even luck-based games like Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders are beneficial.  They teach tenacity; that no matter how many chutes you slide down or how many times you get stuck you need to keep on trying for the goal.  It teaches that life has ups and downs and that’s OK as long as you keep going.  These are skills that kids will use throughout their whole life.  I can honestly say that gaming has helped me in all of these areas.

When I was a kid, I always wanted to play board games and had to practically beg people to play with me.  Then Nintendo was introduced and I could play games when others didn’t want to or didn’t have time.  I would play the Nintendo games with my friends or just talk about the games when I saw them in school. It was an interest we all shared so it was easy to all speak the same “game” language.  As I got older, a lot of my friends grew out of gaming but there were a few who still shared my gaming interests.  We would play Dungeons and Dragons and various other role playing games and our shared interests drew us closer together.  That’s something I want for my children and myself.  I want to share my love of games with them in the hope that, as they get older and their interests start focusing more on friends instead of family, we can always draw from our shared gaming interests and the bond we created playing games together as a family.  Even all these years later and all the games I’ve played, I can still remember back on the times playing Trouble, Parcheesi, Monopoly or UNO with my family.

Role playing and exploring boundries
Games offer a safe environment for kids to explore situations and make choices they may not be presented with in everyday life.  They provide the opportunity to take chances and fail without serious consequences. Games also allow children to stretch their perceptions of right and wrong. There are games that allow you to play as the villain, ask you to make tough decisions on limited information or require you to question your morals.  All of these scenarios allow children to (safely) stretch themselves and test their beliefs in a safe environment, where they may not normally do in their day-to-day life.  It is also beneficial to play these types of games with your children so you can talk about them afterward.  Talk to them about the decisions they made and what they thought after they made them.  How they felt about what happened in response to their choices.  This can lead to a great dialogue about how personal choice can affect outcomes.

Learning and critical thinking
Playing games with your children can help benefit them with their reading, vocabulary and math skills.  Rolling dice, counting spaces and reading directions on cards are just some of the ways gaming is beneficial to a child’s development.  Gaming also introduces children to such concepts as resource management, long-term and short-term goals, budgeting and planning (ex. anticipating an opponents next move and acting accordingly). These are all skills that are extremely important throughout life and learning them at a younger age allows children to practice and get better at those skills before entering “the real world”.

These are just a few of the reasons I point to when I talk to people about why gaming is important to me and why I would love if it ends up being important to my own children. But most of all… IT’S FUN.

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Follow this link for a list of great children’s games as suggested by ThoughtHammer (a well known game rating site). From this list I’ve played Go Away Monster, Catan, Bohnanza, Ticket to Ride and, of course, Chess (this is a great “teaching kids how to play chess” set). Also not on this list but very good:  DestiNation USAPictureka, Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. I plan on getting more game to play with my kids and start a game night tradition.

Do you have a favorite memory of playing a game with your children (or with your parents)?  I’d love to hear about them. Please feel free to share in the comments section.