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…


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! 🙂


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.

Educational toys and books galore at September 21

I stumbled upon an educational books and toys supplier called September 21 whilst surfing the net for educational charts for Vera. Somehow, the thought of a warehouse overflowing with books and brain-stimulating toys just got me drooling. (You know you’re a nerdy mummy when such things get you excited more than the H&M store opening.)

What also got me pumped was that the store happens to be having its annual sale for the month of September! I think they offer discounts of 5 or 10% on most items.

So I hopped over during lunch yesterday as I happened to be around Toa Payoh, and trawled the rather large store in a caffeinated frenzy, with two of my colleagues in tow. (Sorry guys.) And came up with some good finds – Chinese flashcards, magnetic alphabets, word-learning games, soft books (for baby J), and baby bath books. Even managed to chalk up $200 worth so they made me a member, which got me an invitation to a free workshop on reading literacy for kids! I was one satisfied mummy.




I thought these waterproof bath books make good gifts…


Animal bath books – good for gifts

PLUS, we met a very helpful staff on the 6th floor who taught me the proper way of using flashcards to teach Chinese. I learnt that we should avoid using books / cards that have both text and pictures on the same page, that is the text should stand alone and be the first point of focus when introducing it to your child. Logic: your little one will be automatically drawn to the images rather than the words. Similarly, we should avoid material with pinyin as well. JUST CHINESE. Get it?


He also suggested using just 5 flashcards at any one time (for a start), and just flashing the words only and reading them aloud, at a pace as long as it takes to read the words. And go through the same pile 3 times a day (yes, just like medication…) until your child can recognise the words. Then put the familiar ones aside and form a new pile.

I was mighty pleased to have picked up these tips! 😀

The warehouse is stocked with all sorts of educational material – games, books, charts, puppets, craft material, and so on…so really, 1 hour was just enough to skim the surface.

Those in the education field would already be in the know of the existence of such a store (and probably many others). But I thought it might be a handy resource for some homeschooling parents, or even working mums like me.

If you’re keen for some heavy-duty educational shopping, here are the details:

– Add: Toa Payoh Lor 8, #04-06 / #06-12 Braddell Tech (Opp.Braddell Primary)
– Opening hrs: Mon-Fri 10am-6pm; Sat 10am-3pm

Do share your finds! 😉

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