How Playing Games Can Help a Child Learn About Life


playing games helps prepare kids for lifeA few years ago my daughter and her cousin confessed to a younger sibling that they almost always cheated when they played the game Go Fish with her. That’s why little sister never won. The misdeed happened long enough ago that they feared no repercussions for their dishonesty. Apparently, their conscience had finally convinced them that the truth should be spilled.

Cheating in games isn’t a new thing. It happens because we want to win.  

Why is it that losing is so difficult?  Is it because we want to be better, bigger, and brighter than our opponent? Is it because we feel the need to prove ourselves? Do we feel the need to show others how smart or efficient we are – or certainly that we’re smarter than the other person? Or is it just because we’re kids and our natural inclination is to desire to best others?

playing games helps prepare for life

Whatever the reasons, I think it’s fairly safe to say that all kids (and adults) struggle with wanting to go first, to have the highest score, and to cheat, at times, in order to “win”.

We forget that we’re not really a winner if we’ve cheated to get there.

preparing games helps prepare for life

There are, however, some things our kids can learn – especially if we’re there to help them in this journey – from playing games. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Memory, Sorry, Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly, Rook, Scum, Basketball, Softball, Taboo, Bible Trivia, Tribond, or any other game, there are things that ought to be learned from playing games with others.

The sad thing is I’ve watched parents or uncles or aunts “help” a child win by helping them cheat. The adults so desperately want the kid they love to come out on top that they succumb to cheating. Not only do others often notice, their child does as well. How can we teach them honesty if we don’t model it ourselves?!

It’s also true that rules to games have changed over the years. Recently Dave played a brand new game with a child and was dismayed at how the rules have changed. With this set of instructions, a player can move a token out of Start on any number! Previously, only a card drawn with a one or two on it would permit a player to move. I couldn’t find the new rules online, but that’s how they were written with this brand-new-for-Christmas-game. With this game, there was no waiting. Shame, shame. How are children going to learn to wait if they never need to when playing a game?! How are children going to learn to wait if they never need to when playing a game?! Click To Tweet

Lessons kids can learn from playing games:

  1. I don’t always have to go first. Even if I’m the youngest or the littlest; even if I have a “handicap”. We don’t do our children any service by always letting the youngest or the newest to the game go first.
  2. Sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose. That’s the game, and that’s life. The sooner we help our kids understand this, the happier everyone will be.
  3. It’s more important to play fairly than to win. Perhaps we should begin applauding our kids for playing fairly instead of for winning.
  4. Sometimes adults can “help” a child win by not playing the game as competitively as they couldSometimes we need a little encouragement and help on the way, and “helping” someone win a few times can go a long way in boosting self-esteem, especially if the child is young and the game is new to him.
  5. Always being the winner should not be an option, even if the child is the only child playing, the youngest one playing, or the one with a disabilityLife doesn’t always hand a win to the one who has the least going for him. Needing to try harder is good for any kid, no matter the age or size.
  6. Good sportsmanship only comes from practice. Being a good sport doesn’t come naturally, but it can be developed through focusing on how to respond even when we’re losing.Next time your kid wants to play a game, how about sitting down and playing with him? Helping him play can be a great way to teach fairness, honesty, and good sportsmanship. You’ll be able to monitor your kids as they play with others. Plus, they’ll have your full attention. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Go ahead. Help them learn for life.

Playing Games Helps Your Child Learn About Life

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