Did you know that playing board games with young children offer a variety of benefits? Today I have Jen Shillitoe, founder of Little Acorn Games and the creator of Funny Fairies to share benefits of playing board games with young children is more than just a way to pass the time.
As a young family, we love board games! It’s as simple as that. For pure, simple, innocent fun with plenty of friendly banter thrown in, great board games are our go-to thing. In fact, playing board games at any age is such a fun and sociable thing to do, no wonder they are growing in popularity!
As well as the fun-factor, there are many other benefits of playing board board games with young children; they teach them important life-skills. I don’t mean the educational skills of colour-matching, counting and letter recognition to name but a few… I’m talking about the skills required to function as a human being, transferrable to many aspects of life, used for years to come!
Firstly, and most obviously in the list of benefits of playing board games is turn-taking. Such a simple skill to have, yet so difficult for young children to grasp! We generally take this ability for granted – if you think about it, we are forever waiting our turn in life; in the queue at the shops, in the doctor’s waiting room, waiting for your coffee order…the list goes on.
But having the patience to accept that it is not always our turn is a skill that needs to be learnt and developed; the proof is in trying to play a board game with a 2 year old that has never played one before (or trying to have a conversation with a friend whilst your 3-year-old hangs off your leg desperately trying to tell you the breaking news that he’s just seen a pigeon)! The more they play though, the more they realise that turn-taking is a non-negotiable necessity, and the easier and more natural it becomes.
The social interaction whilst playing board games is unique. There are so many emotions flying about; from tension to excitement to joy to disappointment to pure anger (when playing with my husband who’s in it to win it every time). There’s the friendly banter when players play strategies against each other. There’s the funny comments and shared laughter. There’s just spending quality time with each other, where everyone is each other’s priority in that moment; all with a common goal of playing the game together, no screens, no distractions.
We hear over and over again about the importance of disconnecting to reconnect, and having fun playing a board game together creates the perfect opportunity to do just this. Also, introducing the joy of board games early will hopefully instill a love for it into adolescence and beyond, to maintain this type of social interaction – there is a reason why we are currently in the midst of a massive board game revival: people love it!
Winning and losing gracefully
This development of social skills leads me to my next point: another huge benefit of playing board games together is the effect it has on a child’s ability to lose AND win nicely, essentially developing their empathy towards others. We all know the term ‘sore-loser’.
Yes, it is extremely disappointing when you are beaten at the last minute by your younger brother who seems to have bumbled through the game whilst singing jingle bells to himself. But to accept defeat graciously and to be able to say “well done” and feel genuinely pleased for him (well, that may be asking too much…!) will stand a child in good stead for the future in terms of building positive relationships with others.
Losing well also teaches children resilience for when inevitably life doesn’t go their way (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said to my daughter, who does struggle with losing, “you win some, you lose some!”). Similarly, we don’t want our children to be ‘sore-winners’ either; as tempting as it may be for them to gloat about a win, teaching a child to think about how this might worsen another player’s disappointment is just as important.
Critical and strategic thinking
Finally, and less-obviously, playing board games develops a child’s critical and strategic thinking. It can be a great advantage in some board games to have situational awareness of how the game is developing and make decisions based on this, and to think ahead to the consequences of your moves before making them.
In essence, children are thinking about where they are, where they want to be, and how to get there – doesn’t that sum up life in general?! The tools required to make this journey (skills in analysing, prioritising key goals, visualising and planning action going forward) are greatly transferrable and developing these skills will do wonders for children as they grow up and navigate their way through life.
In conclusion, board games have many more benefits for children than initially meet the eye, and I cannot recommend them enough for family time well spent. I am on a quest to help children grow into life-long board game players, starting with my first children’s game Funny Fairies! It is a game accessible to a wide age range with extendable rules and a focus on fun whilst encouraging strategic thinking – on Kickstarter now!
Support Jen’s Kickstarter campaign
The campaign to get Funny Fairies: The fun fairy-building children’s board game off the ground is currently 53% funded with only 7 days left to go and 79 backers. Do something great and be the next backer for this Kickstarter project here!