Teachers hear the darnedest things in school. We know what you ate, what you don’t like, who you spoke to over the phone at dinner time, what your teenager did that made you angry…Your children like to share details from your family life with their teachers. They are often funny anecdotes—something they misunderstood or a connection that only kids can see. Other times we hear about things that stress or worry them as they try to make sense of what’s happening at home.
If you and your kids were getting into many conflicts, the pandemic has probably exacerbated these differences. It would be nice to hit the reset button and start again. In the absence of such convenient time travel opportunities, you have to find new ways to strengthen your bond with the kids.
Sometimes, the suggestions given in mum groups are right on target-spend time with your kids, be loving and kind. If I decide to be loving and kind, my kids will look at me like I’m going crazy. “Ma, can you stop this, please,” even the youngest will protest in her’ dripping with sarcasm’ voice. What can you do? You can try what we did—play board games or card games before winding down for bed.
If you are groaning, thinking of the same old, same old games from when we were kids, you can think again! Nowadays, there are many whacky and fun board games that engage both kids and adults.
What are the benefits of a Family Game Night with board and card games?
Game nights are great for connecting as a family. As I said earlier, it is not a contrived way to spend time with your kids. As you and your kids settle into a routine of playing together, it cuts down on sarcastic or whiny family interactions.
Games are great for sibling relationships. There are natural opportunities for the kind of give and take that occurs between siblings. My oldest struggled with the lack of social life during the pandemic and often was moody. If we had asked her to ‘spend time with her siblings,’ she would have turned us down flat! But playing games helped her bond with her younger siblings all over again. We could see a significant shift in her mood once we started playing together regularly. The younger kids also benefited from our game routine. They felt reassured that their sister was still interested in hanging out with them.
Do you have a super competitive kid who hates to lose? Well, games are wonderful to address this behaviour. In our home, we eased the rules now and then—when our youngest needed more turns to understand some of the rules or when the others had a hard time losing because they were having a rough day. Gradually we tightened the rules to make it more challenging. That forced our kids to deal with failure and increase their frustration tolerance. Now that the pandemic isolation has reduced, we continue to play games, and the children are better at accepting defeat and congratulating the winner.
If you want to get your kids away from a screen, then board games and card games help keep them engaged for long periods. As these games are interactive activities, you can extend them for as long as thirty minutes or an hour away from gadgets.
Games teach social skills. Children learn to wait for their turn and listen to other players as they move their piece on the board or perform an action. Shy children have a framework to help them interact with other children. We noticed in our home that playing games helped the kid who needed more practice to follow the different steps. And the relatively rigid kid learned to be more flexible. In some games where the kids worked as a team against the adults defused tension they felt due to sibling rivalry.
Playing games can promote academic skills. And the best part is that children don’t see it as ‘learning’ in the traditional sense. Games expose them to vocabulary words that we don’t use in our everyday conversation. Children must use their reading comprehension skills as they read the directions or the information on cards. Games like Boggle, Upwords, and Scrabble expose them to new words and help them with their spelling skills. Our kids had to learn many things to catch up with their peers because they spent their early years in an institution. Board games and card games were excellent resources for our family. The younger kids loved games about animals, like Guess in Ten.
Interestingly, as they became more familiar with the animals, they expanded their learning spontaneously by reading books or visiting educational websites to get more information. The older kids liked games about travel and other countries. These games gave them to background knowledge they needed. Of course, we’ve all played Ludo and snakes and ladders. These games and others like the Parcheesi or Dhaya Kattai target many math-related skills like counting with one-to-one correspondence, multiples of 2s and 5s, and addition. You don’t even need a board, because you can draw the squares on the floor and play the games as we used to as kids. Chinese Checkers help children hone their pattern recognition skills. Games like Monopoly get children to think about how to use money. Additionally, these games require children to retain and recall information.
Games help with developing cognitive skills like reasoning and strategic thinking. After learning the rules, children decide how to play to win. They must anticipate what other players may do. In my family, they usually gang up on me. So, the kids plan to target me by holding back on playing certain moves. It requires teamwork between the siblings, but they must also problem-solve for future rounds.
Games encourage fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination, and motor planning. While playing board games, children move pieces back and forth on the board. Other games teach them to control their bodies and focus on balance. One of our favourites was the game Newton’s Tree. It took her a while, but our kid with the super busy body could work her way to place the apple pieces on the tree without toppling the whole thing over.
Playing board and card games with your kids work on their attention skills, especially as the games get more challenging. What do kids say when something is too complicated? Yes, “it’s too boring” is code-speak for “It’s too hard for me.” Support your child to finish the round because persistence helps them master new skills. That boosts their confidence and can sustain their attention to play for more extended periods.
Playing board and card games as a family will benefit not only your kids. You, too, will spend fun moments with them. It can very well be the reset button you need to build a positive relationship with your children.