Blog · Nov 09, 2021
“It was Professor Plum in the library with the candlestick.” These familiar words are uttered by the imminent winner of a serious family game of Clue. Who doesn’t savor victory over their siblings or, better-yet, a parent? The bragging rights alone make it worthwhile. But family game night is so much more than the satisfaction of collecting all of your tricks in a game of hearts. Playing games as a family brings everyone together for some good family fun, in real time.
Let’s face it. Everyone’s busy. The kids are busy with their endless extra-curricular activities like soccer practice and piano lessons. They have homework and school projects. Parents have their own commitments too. Conference calls and late-night emails demand attention in addition to helping the children with homework. It can be hard to find the time for some good old-fashioned fun, but it is completely worth making it happen.
Practicing essential interpersonal l skills, like managing conflict and identifying and responding appropriately to the emotions of others, at home gives kids a head start in managing their relationships in life. Getting together as a family for a little competitive fun is an easy way to practice those skills. So, let’s consider which skills are rehearsed and developed during family game nights.
Effective communication is necessary for us to share information without misunderstanding, advocate for our needs, and express our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. Player interaction fosters communication skills practice. For instance, player assertiveness counts in UNO. If you don’t act fast, that’s two more cards. No one wants that!
Communication is a two-way street. It isn’t just about speaking. It’s listening for understanding and meaning. It’s about focus and being present in the moment. You aren’t listening if you’re distracted by push notifications of tomorrow’s weather. You could miss out on an opportunity to play the card that wins the game if you aren’t listening.
Let’s not forget the nuances of nonverbal communication. A slip of a smile at the wrong time could give the other players insight into a winning hand or reveal a plan to acquire Park Place. Getting in the habit of gauging another person’s intentions, builds a steady state of awareness which improves our interactions with others.
We’ve all played a game with someone who flips over the game board when they didn’t win. It’s no fun. No one likes picking up all those little game pieces, and no one likes a sore loser. It’s embarrassing for everyone. No one likes a winner who gloats either. Rubbing it in to the other players won’t win you any prizes.
It isn’t easy to lose gracefully, but self-awareness and self-management in the face of defeat is a skill which translates into other areas in the game of life. Not getting that promotion at work you’ve been working toward for months is a big blow, but controlling your emotions and being respectful to your coworkers helps maintain a collegial work environment and keeps you in line for the next opportunity. Learning how to temper frustration and disappointment in the practice environment that is the family prepares children to embrace the big picture thinking necessary for self-regulation.
Family game night is the venue for parents to model self-regulation, even when the stakes are high. Children get a chance to practice their good sportsmanship and learn ways to channel their frustration in productive directions before impulses take over. Learning to take turns, following the rules, being patient, and having a positive attitude are part of a good game of Monopoly and essential in a class project.
Family game night encourages the refinement of problem solving skills. Games require players to organize their thoughts, plan their next move, think quickly, and act decisively. Scrabble builds vocabulary, but also requires you to plan a few steps ahead and study the strategy of the other players. Plus, players have to be nimble as they attempt to place the most valuable word possible.
Some games require teamwork to solve problems and strategize to win. In Hoot Owl Hoot, children collaborate to help the owls fly back to the nest before the sun rises. Children learn from each other and realize they have to work together to get the little owls home.
Kids of all ages relax and put aside the drama of the outside world at the game table. When the fun starts, the open conversation starts. The teen whose default answer is a gruff “fine” might actually share a story while playing an intense game of Hedbanz. A little vulnerability produced by a ridiculous game of charades tightens bonds and eases tension.
Family game night doesn’t mean quarantine. Get the family outside, and enjoy the fresh air. Set up an obstacle course with hula hoops and orange cones or create a relay race to see who can carry an egg on a spoon the fastest. Who doesn’t love a game of four square in the driveway? Cornhole, paddle ball, spike ball, tag… endless possibilities. Get outside and burn excess energy and get a bit of physical activity. It’s a win for the whole family.
So, go ahead. Dust off the board games and playing cards. Sync your family calendars now. Make family game night a regular feature in your weekly planner and get ready to make some light-hearted family memories laughing and playing together.