Play Better #5: The Educational Greatness of Board Games

Board games are life, learning and laughter packaged in a little box. Whether the game is one of chance or strategy, memory or speed, life lessons and social skills come into play with the mere throw of the dice.

But are there any real educational benefits behind this boisterious past time?

The one most fantastic thing about board and card games is, they don’t need to be overtly academic to be educational. Just by virtue of playing them, board games can teach important Social Skills (such as communicating verbally, sharing, waiting, taking turns, and enjoying interaction with others), and even fosters the Ability to Focus as it lengthens your child’s attention span and encourages the completion of a full game.

Particularly for toddlers and kindergartners, board games and other learning games that invite physical interaction play an important part in developing and advancing motor skills. Games such as HABA’s Animal Upon Animal or DJECO’s Tombalo (for the slightly older kindergarteners), encourage manual dexterity and strengthen balance, as well as enhance hand-eye coordination and visual focus.

 photo 51YjE6JP0zL._SY300__zps1vd1nvzv.jpgHABA ‘Animal Upon Animal’
[Players take turns stacking the animals; the one who causes the tower to fall loses.]

 photo ori-tombalo-djeco-dj08432-jeu-d-equilibre-6852_4378_zpsz5zkambl.jpgDJECO ‘Tombalo’
[Players draw a card during their turns to show how many sticks, logs, or beavers they  have to add to the dam. They then have to place these objects on top of the existing construction (or on top of the starting pillars, if there is nothing yet), without any of these touching the game board (river). If anything drops onto the board, the player gets new sticks from the supply. The first player to get rid of all his sticks wins the game.]

Many educational games, particularly board games, have the power to improve children’s focus and lengthen their attention spans. Kids who easily get frustrated and might quit other activities without seeing quick results, actually tend to stick with games for longer periods of time because of the possibility of advancement and rewards. Ultimately, sticking with a game through its course can help kids develop patience and maturity. Even simple board games like Snakes and Ladders offer meta-messages and life skills: Your luck can change in an instant — for the better or for the worse. The message inherent in board games is: Never give up. Just when you feel despondent, you might hit the jackpot and ascend up high, if you stay in the game for just a few more moves.

Board games, concentration games and mathematics activities also require memorization and repetition for success. Kids who play them often learn the advantages of exercising those skills. Many tests and quizzes in every grade have similar formats to those found in board games and quiz games. Kids can better their chances of scoring well by mastering these systems and formats in a playful setting.

For the younger kids, we highly recommend DJECO’s MiniMatch for Observation and Memory; and HABA’s Smelly Molly for Observation and Speed.

 photo dje-018_2z_zpsaipdikmk.jpgDJECO ‘Mini Match’
[Players are handed out a set of cards that they are not allowed to look at first. A larger observation card is placed in front of all the players and they are given about 10 seconds to remember as many of these objects as possible. After the time is up, this observation card is flipped over, and players then turn over their own cards and try to recall how many of these were on the observation card earlier.]

 photo 41PZSEGZt6L_zpsbgqsh7cc.jpg
HABA ‘Smelly Molly’
[Depending on the dice symbol thrown, players try to spot as many of that particular animal in the Observation Card as possible. The first to press the buzzer with the correct answer wins.]

Educational games that encourage creative expression, such as DJECO’s Bla Bla Bla, push kids to think outside the norm and consider atypical methods of explanation. Exploring and expanding creativity through such games can also help with nurturing self-esteem and self-acceptance, and they inspire a greater connection between personality and activity.

In this particular Djeco game, kids have to tell stories and make associations based on the cards on hand, which not only sharpens their imagination and creative thinking, but improves their English and vocabulary power at the same time.

 photo D-8462_zpszhx61da1.jpgDJECO ‘Bla Bla Bla’
[Based on the symbol shown on the dice, players take turns trying to make different kinds of stories /associations out of the cards they have.]

‘Our child has a problem with losing.’

That is probably one of the greatest grievances that we hear most from our parent customers – and for good reason too. Electronic games these days leave practically no room for kids to lose: if they don’t like the way a game is progressing, all they have to do is press the Restart button – and no one will be any wiser. This ultimately creates a ‘Winning Only’ attitude, which is not only unhealthy, but obssessive and psychologically detrimental when the child gets older.

Interactive games have the significant benefit of improving social skills through encouraging diplomatic and organized communication between children. When adults aren’t playing, kids have to negotiate rules, follow a set system of directions and take turns to keep the game running. Cooperation games are particularly useful for kids who need to adapt to ‘losing’; losing in a team is always better (and probably more fun) than losing alone. A few coopearation games on the top of our list are HABA’s Orchard, SELECTA’s Maskenball, and DJECO’s Petit Kems (for the older kids).

 photo 4003332035715_zpsolreujvs.jpgSELECTA ‘Maskenball’
[Players have to work together to swap all the wood pieces amongst the ladybugs, until each ladybug is carrying 5 wooden pieces of the same colour.  The players win when this is achieved before the ants catch up with them.]

 photo 51j4vxndssl_zpsfvm8p9pn.jpgHABA ‘Orchard’
[Players work together to collect all the fruits before the  crow puzzle in the middle is complete.]

 photo djeco-pitit-kem-s-jeu-de-paires_zpsn43ylpjv.jpg
DJECO ‘Pitit Kem’s’
[Players compete in pairs to find matching dog-and-owner cards. However these cards can only be placed down if the other person in your team correctly reads your signal  and announces the pair to the rest.]

. X .

Perhaps the greatest benefit of board games is the time spent together. Children are able to improve their social skills and build their self-esteem while they interact with people in a positive way. Playing board games offers a simple, stress-free solution to enhance the emotional, intellectual and social characteristics of children. Many parents and educators understand the various benefits of board games, and use them regularly in the home and classroom to create a more fun and entertaining learning environment.

Essentially, games that captivate and retain a child’s attention usually prove to be superior, as that is when they most want to learn. More importantly, it is an easy and excellent way for the entire family to spend unhurried, enjoyable time together as a unit, which goes a long way in bolstering your kids’ self-esteem and keeping them in a good and healthy frame of mind.


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