Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Uno, Monopoly, Life-these are just a few of the games I grew up playing. I love board games and card games. In my work with adolescents and teenagers I have discovered that regardless of what a kid says, almost all also love to play board games and cards. Too often though no one is playing them with them. Instead kids are given game systems, tablets, and phones and encouraged to play those. I think we need to go back to some simpler times.
I challenge everyone to start having family game nights. It is a very affordable way to have quality family time together. Also, kids learn important social skills when playing games such as how to take turns, the value of honesty (‘cause who wants to play with a cheater), and being a good winner or a good loser.
Here are my tips for a successful game night:
1. Play a game that everyone in the family can play and then as younger kids go to bed more challenging games can be played. You may be surprised by what little ones can play. My youngest at 2 ½ beat the rest of my family of five the last time we played Uno (Toy Story version). She knew the four colors in the game and all the characters on the card. We would tell her to play a certain color or character and she would. And she ended up winning!
2. Play the games based on the real rules. It is good for children to see rules being followed by everyone and that we don’t change a game as we go along just because we don’t like something.. Now if you have some “house rules” that are agreed upon before the game starts, that’s okay. For example, I always play that if you land Go in Monopoly you receive $400 instead of $200. I’m pretty sure that’s not a real rule but everyone I play with agrees to it before the game starts. The point here is we are changing the rules as we go along because someone is mad they are losing.
3. Don’t just let your kids win. Everyone needs to learn how to lose graciously. My husband has won many games of Pretty Pretty Princess while my daughter smiled and laughed (there’s nothing like a grown man in plastic princess attire). Losing is a lesson we all need to learn while young because we all will lose sometimes. If your child becomes upset when losing, feel free to end game night for that child. Then once she has calmed down, talk to her about other ways she could have shown her disappointment. Also, remind her that she can always try again another day. Feel free to also give tips and strategies to your kids are how you won.
4. Teach your kids how to be good winners. It can be fun to “trash talk” our friends when we win but family game night is not the place for this. I suggest instead giving high fives to the other players and let them know you had fun playing.
5. Address any cheating that you may see. Sometimes as parents we want to overlook small things such as letting Junior roll the dice again or grabbing a different playing card. This teaches Junior that sometimes cheating is okay or overlooked. The younger the child is when they learn that cheating is not okay, the better. Try not to get mad though when they cheat. Kids will try and we just need to remind them it is not okay. If this causes an argument, we can always play another day.
6. Have fun! Go ahead and get into the game. Put your phone away, turn off the television, and give your undivided attention to the game. Bring out your inner kid again.
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.