The Power of Play

More than just a chance to have fun, play is serious business when it comes to a child’s development.

Card games and board games can help teach your little ones academic skills such as reading, writing, maths, and fine motor skills, as well as important social and emotional skills that they will carry with them throughout the rest of their lives.

Special Education podcaster, teacher and author, Sue Larkey says children can experience every emotion during a card/board game. Whether it is excitement and joy when they win, frustration when they lose, or boredom when they must wait for their turn; children need to be able to experience these strong emotions in a supportive environment.

Follow these tips and see what games you have got in your cupboard at home to help expand you little ones academic, social and emotional skills.

How to teach an unknown game

Often when teaching an unknown game, children may become overwhelmed and confused. Therefore, it is important to start smaller and work your way up to the point where they are comfortable and confident to play. This may be by getting them to do a smaller job in the game such as rolling the dice, shuffling and dealing the cards, adding the points, or if you are playing a game like Monopoly they may just be the banker.

Involve their interests

To keep your little ones focused and involved in the game try to incorporate their interests. If the child is interested in being a doctor or a nurse when they grow up, maybe Operation is the game for them. Or maybe they love trains, then the perfect game for them might be Ticket to Ride.

If you don’t want to go out and get a themed game, thinking creatively and applying their interests to basic games such as Connect 4 and Snap can also keep children engaged. For example, if you are playing Connect 4 and your little one loves Thomas the Tank Engine, maybe you could name the counters based on the colour of Thomas and Friends characters.

Teaching children how to win and lose gracefully

We all know the saying, “It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about having fun”.

Although this can be a difficult concept for children (and adults) to understand, it is important to encourage your little one to learn the importance of being a “good winner” and a “good loser”. This helps with their self-development and building their social and emotional skills.

Being a good winner

Everybody loves to win and it is great for your little one to feel excited and proud of being the winner. However, it is also important to be a “good winner”. This means showing sympathy and support to the losing team or player. Try to discourage your child from boasting, and instead highlight the fun that everyone had playing the game.

Some ways to encourage your little one to be a good winner is by:

  • Shaking hands with the opponent/s and saying good game.
  • Telling the other opponent what they did well during the game.
  • Being sympathetic and understanding the losing opponents emotions.
Being a good loser

Research has shown that losing games is helpful for children because it teaches them to show empathy and cope with the experience of losing.

Sue Larkey advises before playing the game, prewarn children about expectations by saying:

  • “Everyone wants to win, but we can’t win all of the time and that’s okay.”
  • “Remember when we play games and lose we can’t call people cheats.”
  • “It is most important to remember to have fun.”

Some helpful things to encourage your little ones to think when they lose the game are:

  • “It’s just a game.”
  • “Maybe I’ll win next time.”
  • “That was a fun game.”
  • “Oh well never mind.”
  • “That’s okay someone else won.”

Play games of luck, rather than games of skill

Children – and even adults – find it easier to lose in a game of luck than in a game of skill. This is because losing a game of chance doesn’t say anything about you or your abilities. If your child is having difficulty dealing with losing, try playing games of chance first, then build up to skill-based activities.