Harness the power of games to bond with your children

Today, I’m delighted to introduce our games-queen, Pamela Tan. Pamela is a friend and fellow mum-blogger. She’s got some great ideas on how to harness the power of board games to teach our children life-skills and encourage positive character traits through doing what they love best – PLAY!

Let’s hear what her secrets are…

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1) Why are games good for kids?

Games are generally more interactive, and it’s a great way to foster family bonding. Good games also contain elements of choice and strategy, and is not just about luck. Even games meant for a three year old have strategy elements present.

Most games for young kids only require 10 – 15 minutes per game, so it’s very easy to clock game-play time every day. It keeps them happy and entertained. It’s not overly-stimulating, compared to a trip to the playground, and it’s okay to schedule game-time before bedtime.

Playing good, age-suitable games can also help foster these positive character traits:

  • Turn taking and patience – The kids learn that to play a game, they HAVE TO take turns. And by learning to wait for their turn, they acquire patience – an important life-skill.
  • Ability to listen to instructions
  • Playing by the rules – Kids learn that in order to play a game properly, they have to play it by the rules and not break the rules because “they feel like it”.

When a child is first introduced to card or board games, he may wish to play by his own rules. This should only be allowed at the beginning, and especially for very young children (2 – 3 years). But once the child is familiar with the idea of playing games and following instructions and rules, then they should be taught how to play the game by its proper rules.

2) How do you encourage your kids to play?

Kids naturally love to play! The mere mention of the word ‘play’ or ‘games’ is enough to spark off their excitement.

For us, we don’t allow the kids to watch TV during the weekdays so our average weekday evening routine is dinner, followed by board games, then reading, then bedtime.

3) Do kids exhibit any negative behaviour during game-time? How do you deal with it?

These things definitely happen. Here are some common negative behavioural traits that may arise:

  • The sore loser – He cries when he loses or throws tantrums when the game doesn’t go his way.

How to deal with it: Teach them that it’s okay to lose; you just have to try again, and try harder. Learn from past experience, pay more attention, try a different strategy, or employ better methodology (for example, instead of holding 10 cards, try focusing on lesser cards and try to find a match). Encourage them to focus on having fun with friends, rather than winning. Tell them that if they enjoyed playing the game, then they’ve also won.

  • The cocky winner – He says “Aha! I’m better than you!” when he wins.

How to deal with it: Teach them that it is not gracious to behave like that when they win. We ask, “Would you like it if you lost, and someone else said that to you? No, right?” So we ask them to shake hands and say “Thank you for the game. Better luck next time.”

  • The rule-breaker – He tries to change the rules to fit his own needs.

How to deal with it: Explain the importance of playing by standard rules, so that everyone follows the same rules and it’s fair. If he insists on making the rules easier for himself, then it will have to apply to everyone else too. Games can be customised and simplified, but the rules must be applied across the board, and not softened or bent over just because a child insists on it.

4) What inspired you to start your own games business?

I’m a boardgames lover myself, and I played a lot in my youth and before I had kids. One of the biggest problems about playing boardgames is that you need to find other players. So when I had my first child, I hatched a plan to train all my kids to play boardgames so that I’d never have to worry about looking for players again. So when I was pregnant with Isaac, I started researching online for good games suitable for young kids.

When Isaac was 17 months old, we started playing Go Away, Monster, a boardgame meant for 3 year-olds and above. By 18 months, he could play it by its proper rules, wait for his turn and listen to instructions.

During Chinese New Year that year, we brought some games with us when we went visiting. The games kept Isaac occupied and he had a good time playing them the whole day. Our relatives and friends were amazed that an 18-month-old toddler could play board games. Everyone started asking me where I bought the games from, and all expressed disappointment when they found out that the games were not available in Singapore. That was when I started thinking about importing games to sell here.

5) What’s special about the games that My First Games offer?

There are hundreds of new games published every year. Because we believe in only selecting the best games, we do our due diligence by reading the reviews, viewing the demo-videos, and we try our best to personally test out the games ourselves before deciding to carry it. So, practically each game that we sell carries our stamp of approval.

We have some simple criteria in choosing our games:

  • Should be easy to learn – with simple rules, and preferably not too many rules.
  • Game-play time should be fairly short – most of the games we carry can be played between 5 minutes to under an hour.
  • Should offer choice and strategy and/or hone motor skills

As we try to play the games ourselves with our kids and families, we know our games well and we are able to make good suggestions for buyers. Drop us an email to request for recommendations! 🙂

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Pamela Tan is a boardgames enthusiast with a personal collection of more than 300 boardgames. She is a mother of three young children, aged between 2 – 5 years old. Through playing boardgames with her oldest son, she discovered that they are an excellent educational tool. With an aim to inspire others to learn through play, Pamela started www.MyFirstGames.sg to retail and distribute child-friendly games in Singapore.

Disclaimer: No compensation was received for writing this post.

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