Many parents don't like their kids to play video games. Somehow a child sitting alone with an electronic game seems anti-social and rubs...

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Many parents don’t like their kids to play video games.

Somehow a child sitting alone with an electronic game seems anti-social and rubs against their sensibilities. The lack of appeal goes further if the game is violent or involves unsavory characters. Despite the obvious negative aspects of some games, there are positives to keep in mind. Children become adept at developing and refining their eye-hand coordination along with the mental agility to acquire points and reach higher levels of the game. When playing video games children are little scientists learning and mastering the cause and effect of their behavior related to technology.

Yet because video games are solitary and can be addictive, some parents choose to ban, restrict or monitor video-game playing.

Playing board games sits better with parents because board games, while competitive, are socially interactive and usually nonviolent.

When playing board games children learn how one move affects the outcome of the game. They also learn to read the actions, decisions and strategies of the other players. While they follow the rules of the game to try and win; they’re also amateur psychologists trying to outsmart their opponents and learn from them.

They try out new approaches in thinking and socializing but all in a safe arena. Board games provide a child with the opportunity to learn to win and lose gracefully. Some preschool-age children have a tough time with winning and losing. If you play a board game with a preschooler let the child win five times to your one win.

If playing a board game with more than one preschooler rather than having one winner and the rest losers, allow each child the opportunity to win by announcing the first winner, the second winner and so on.

By school age, children are fine with the concept of winning and losing. Playing a board game is one such activity that parents, grandparents and young children can all do together. Quite often the older child teaches the younger ones strategies keeping the game competitive.

Board games promote healthy competition and even cooperation for a game well played. The closer children are in age, however, the more parents will need to referee and coach.

For kids between 6 and 12 years, board games provide a structure to learn skills that are necessary for living successfully. They master counting and taking turns, plus they use their memory. They learn about fairness and the consequences of cheating.

Depending on the context in which the broad game is set, children learn the vocabulary related to it and the various aspects of the game’s setting. For example, they may learn about real estate and banking in one game, geography in another and dog breeds in yet another.

When parents play along, they can guide their children’s thinking and instill values, everything from fair competition to assertiveness and generosity. It’s a time for conversation that in the busy-ness of today’s families might otherwise be lost.

If you give the gift of a board game, include a commitment to play the game with your children at least 30 minutes weekly. You’ll learn lots about the individual personalities of your children. It’s a bonding family experience that’s simply fun.

Jan Faull, a specialist in child development and behavior, answers questions of general interest in her column. You can e-mail her at janfaull@aol.com or write to: Jan Faull, c/o Families, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111.