The end of the holiday season and the prospect of cold winter weather may have some wondering how they will keep themselves and their families entertained indoors. Rather than more movies and video games, think about turning off the television and getting out a game.
Games are a great way for parents and children to have fun together. Playing games also offers opportunities to practice strategic thinking, risk management and decision-making skills. Games provide learning opportunities for children and adults.
Most games require an estimation of probabilities in risk taking. Dice may be rolled, the results dictating an outcome. Money may have to be counted, gained, and spent. Logical thinking is needed, often planning a next move when taking a turn. Many games challenge players to think under stress and to be decisive in risk taking.
Children who play games learn respect for rules -- game rules and rules in life. Playing games also helps children learn to be gracious winners who are thoughtful of the feelings of losers. Those who lose can learn to tolerate a setback with dignity and honor. They learn to manage disappointment, then set aside their frustration to play again. When losing, they can stay focused in the game and persevere despite being behind.
And chatting over the game board can make it easier for family members to talk about other subjects.
Establish some rules before starting the game:
* Stay friendly even if you are losing
* Help someone who makes a mistake
* Rules can be changed only if everyone agrees
* Accept lots of mistakes by everyone the first time a game is played
* Loud laughter is encouraged but not mean words
* Play fair at all times.
Go over game rules patiently and provide lots of help the first time a game is played. If the game involves cards, for example, you might play with all hands showing. Start the game early enough before family members become too tired.
It's OK to let a child win a game sometimes. Letting children win all the time creates a false impression of their abilities. The best response is to play like you are a carbon copy of your child's age and ability. Match the child and make the game challenging. Win some and lose some. Try to make the game close.
If a child gets too frustrated, the game may be too complicated for his abilities. If you have a foursome, consider playing as partners. Don't make threats or demands, but put the game away to be played another day if the frustration becomes too intense. Simplifying the rules or creating "house rules" may help a child participate. If other children are playing, change the rules only if they all agree.
So the next time you have a free evening, or when winter weather arrives, turn off the television and pull out some family games. Games are a great way for families to have fun together.
Find more ideas for family activities and reviews of games at www.k-state.org/wwparent.
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or email@example.com.