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Games for Growth

Are you participating in National Family Games Night tonight with your kids?

I think it's wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly
- Steven Wright, Comedian

This made me laugh! Wright is both silly and serious in his humor. A good friend of mine has always told me he was "serious about the silly" and I admired that in him. Humor, laughter, play, light heartedness and family harmony have the ability to be forces for good in a child's development. So taking the nudge from Hasbro's challenge today - I suggest you spend a little quality time with your child tonight playing a game.

Playful Parenting

Games are great opportunities to guide a child's growing mind. It is in these everyday moments that children create a sense of self, connection to others and view of the world.

So as you play together tonight, be sure to:

- Encourage your child - Children of all ages need encouragement the same way plants need water. It is essential to their healthy development. Playing a game together is a playful yet purposeful way of sending your child a palpable message that you believe in his or her skills and abilities right now. Such communication along with words of encouragement (i.e. You can do it) helps a child begin to create his or her own sense of self-confidence.

- "See" your child mastering a skill - Children need to feel that they are growing skills. Observing your child gain a new skill is extraordinary for you and them. It also gives your child the opportunity to "show off" his or her new ability to win at Checkers, put a 250-piece puzzle together or solve the mystery in Clue.

- Offer Praise - Praise is a powerful tool to propel a child's positive sense of self. Offering a child praise tied specifically to his or her ability to complete a task like a new puzzle helps that child feel strong, capable and able right now. And the more a child internalizes such feelings he or she begins crafting a positive self-concept and courageous worldview (i.e. resilient).

Games for Growth

One of my fondest memories is playing dominoes with my father. He is now passed but our times sitting at the picnic bench, sipping iced tea and chatting over a seemingly simple game taught me about the world. The same goes for you and your child. So here are some age-appropriate game suggestions:

3 - 5 yrs - Games in this age group tend to be involving physical interaction like blocks, puzzles and Legos. Adults that get involved at the level of the child are skillful in creating a positive connection fostering their development (cognitive, mental, emotional, physical). In other words, get on the floor and really play together.

5 - 8 yrs - Children in this age group often want to use more complex problem solving versus solely physical games. Some games are: Checkers, Jenga, Dominoes, and Playing Cards.

8 - 12 yrs - Older children can often harness the power of words, numbers and combining different scenarios more easily challenging their parents in a game. Some games are: Scrabble, Boggle, Yahtzee, Pictionary, Monopoly, Clue and Connect4. Clue even has a new Secrets & Spies edition that incorporates decoding hidden text messages to capture more techno savvy audiences.

Key Messages

Along with encouraging your child and fostering the development of a positive self-concept - games provide ample opportunity to teach your child about honesty, teamwork, turn-taking, fairness, losing gracefully, listening and patience. And it is these skills of social and emotional awareness that are evidenced to be crucial in helping your child live their best life. So enjoy playing a game together knowing that what your child learns is far more than who did it in the conservatory with the candlestick!

By Maureen Healy
© Copyright, 2009

No portion of this may be reproduced without written permission of the author.