Growing up, I remember on either Friday or Saturday nights we would have family night. On family night, we mainly played card games, though on an occasion we would rent VHS movies from the local video store. Maybe the night started because we lived in the country without satellite television, or because we were like the Cleavers (as one friend said). Whatever the reason, now that I am a parent, I see the benefit of playing board games with my children.
I must admit, we do not have an “official” game night every week, but we do make a conscious effort of playing more board or card games together now that my youngest is a preschooler. It is a fun way to bring the family together, and it provides benefits beyond entertainment. Playing games has provided the opportunity to discuss chance events and strategy, which makes the connection to life as sometimes things happen out of chance while others happen because of the choices we make.
Researchers have been studying the benefits of playing in-person games with your children. They have found social benefits including family time together which creates stronger bonds and opens communication. This is especially important in a world where there are many demands on our time causing each family member to be going in different directions. Also, by having open communication kids are more likely to discuss their problems with parents versus turning to peers or the internet for answers. Other social benefits include teaching sportsmanship and teamwork. Above all, game night creates positive memories for the family to access when times are hard or when members are apart from each other.
Beyond the social benefits, playing board games provide academic benefits such as increased vocabulary and math skills. Oral language skills are built naturally through talking as playing games gives kids not only a time to talk, but also time to use specific content vocabulary (e.g., pawns). Dice are excellent tools for teaching kids the concepts of quantity and addition. The simple act of rolling dice (and holding cards) helps to improve kids’ fine motor skills through the use of their hand muscles. Directionality, such as forward, backward, and reverse, is a big part of many games. Games of strategy teach problem solving skills.
So, go home, wrangle up the family, play a board game, and have fun!