Tips for Keeping Family Game Night Fun!

iStock_000036123052XLarge-cs

Have you ever pictured yourself playing a game with your family just like in a board game advertisement? It looks like so much fun, right? And each game you see on a store shelf would surely provide your home with hours of entertainment! So you carefully pick out the perfect game and bring it home to your children with such high expectations of fun.

As you open up the game, with eager hands reaching for all of the pieces, you hear yourself say, “wait, wait, wait.” You groan as you realize there is assembly required. After you put it all together (if your children are still interested) you say, “wait, let me read the rules!”

Not quite the experience you imagined in the store when you saw the picture on the box. Older children want to follow the rules, or bend them. Younger children make up their own rules and frustrate the older children. Parents wonder what on earth they were thinking when they bought the game, and perhaps the game gets thrown back in the box and put in the closet for another time, when the kids are “older” and “more mature” and have “longer attention spans.” Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Don’t despair, and don’t give up!

Playing games with young children is an excellent way for them to learn literacy and numeracy concepts. And don’t forget the important social skills learned in playing a game: taking turns, playing fair (no cheating), feeling disappointment at losing and excitement at winning.

If you start with the expectation for the experience to be just as advertised, you may be disappointed. Learning how to play a game takes time and small steps. There are often tears of frustration (from both the adults and the children) when things aren’t going as planned. Keep in mind the more often children play a game, the better they will get at it. Not just playing it, but understanding it as well.

Many games can be easily made at home for very little cost. With some paper, markers, scissors, dice, and maybe a homemade spinner, you can easily make your own “board games.” Keep the rules simple, it doesn’t even have to make sense. With younger children, focus on taking turns. It might not be important to focus on where their game piece sits or how they move their piece. Try teaching one concept at a time. If you add silly rules that incorporate large body movements to your game, you may be able to hold their attention for longer. For instance, “each time a player rolls a 4 they have to stand up and do 4 jumping jacks.”

Memory matching games can be made very easily at home using paper, recycled bottle lids, stickers, or even an old deck of cards. With younger children, start out by using only 4 pairs to match. As they get better at the game, increase the difficulty by adding more matching pairs.

Dice and cards are terrific tools for numeracy skills and the games you can play are endless!

The benefits of making your own games include:

  • They cost very little, using materials you may already have at home or things you can buy at a dollar store
  • You can personalize a game to your children’s interests. If they love dinosaurs, you can use dinosaur stickers, or print pictures from the internet to make puzzles or memory games. If they love turtles, you can make a board game in the shape of a turtle shell and have the pieces move slowly around to the finish
  • If a game is not a hit, you can easily discard it and try a different one. Or save it for another time when your children are older and perhaps have more interest
  • You can make a new game each month by just changing it up slightly, maybe changing the characters to one of your children’s favourite books. This keeps it new and exciting for you both
  • Making games at home also becomes a family activity. As your children get older they can assist in the assembly or creation of new games to play. Older children can do some research on games from around the world and pick out favourite concepts to make their own version

At the end of the day, through the trials and tears of teaching children how to enjoy a game and be a good sport, you are also teaching them so much more, and these skills are ones that they will need for a lifetime of success! So bring back the family game night, even if it only lasts 20 minutes to start. Someday you’ll enjoy a games night with much older children, and you will at long last feel all of the work and effort was worth it.

 

 

 

Value the Learning Process, not the Final Product

Happy small boy crafts with scissors, paper, glue

More than once I have come across this short verse which reminds me of the goals we set when working with parents in our 3,2,1, FUN! numeracy program. I haven’t been able to discover the source of these words, but you can find them everywhere if you search. I’d love to give credit to the right person if I ever do discover the origin.

If you draw it for me,
cut it for me,
paste it for me. . .
All I learn is that
You do it better
than Me

This short verse describes so well the importance of the process behind the activity. We have to remember that it is not about the final product, especially with young children. If they have the opportunity to cut crooked lines, get glue all over things, and colour using every colour or only their favourites, they are learning! They discover their own creativity. They grow confidence in their abilities. They learn to try again if they fail to make it the way they pictured it. They feel pride in what they do achieve.

There is an abundance of great ideas and projects available. Many can be found in our family literacy app, Flit.* Just keep in mind that what you see as the final product should not necessarily be your goal for your children.

Give them the resources they need to create freely. See what they come up with on their own. Try to resist if you feel the need to take control of the project. Instead, you could create your own alongside your children. Don’t be disappointed if they created a bird with 3 legs when you were hopeful they would copy the Rainbow Fish with many scales that you were going for.

It is okay if your children lose interest in the activity you thought would be a grand idea. Put it aside. Perhaps they just are not ready for the concept involved, or maybe it is too close to lunch time and they can’t concentrate without a snack or meal first.

At 3,2,1, FUN! we come prepared to make projects and games that can be used and reused and recreated at home. Parents need to help with some things that the children can’t do yet, but we emphasize, “let your children pick the colours and the textures, and let them decide how much or how little to add.” This is the process of learning.

When we create a new game, we encourage children to come up with the rules, as silly as they Boardgame3may be. For instance, for a game that involves dice, a rule has been, “If you roll a 3 you need to hop on one foot 3 times.” Another rule has been, “this game must be played wearing pyjamas.” One of my favourites is, “the winner gets a hug!”

Supplies needed to play a random game at home based on your children’s rules are probably easily found at home, such as:

  • Dice, any size, the bigger the better. Children love to use more of their body when rolling giant dice.
  • Paper and markers. If you wish to record the rules of the day, you can write in your children’s words.
  • The inside of a cereal box. If you’d like to create a board game look, have your children draw the shapes they’d like to mark the board and encourage them to mark the start and finish.
  • Random household items. Use them as place markers on your board game.
  • Think big! Why not use a giant piece of paper or cardboard to make a giant board game, where your family members are the place markers!

Please phone the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton at 780-421-7323 for more information about the 3,2,1,FUN! program, or visit our website www.famlit.ca

* Flit, our FREE family literacy app for activities to do with your 0-5 year-old. For more information or to download, visit the Apple App Store.