What does it take to play a game?

blaise game 2Games are wonderful developmental learning tools for children.  They challenge many developmental areas simultaneously, requiring communication among different areas of the brain. So which skills need to come together to effectively play a game? Here are at least 6 of the things we observe/ work on when helping children learn how to play games:

  1.  Understanding game etiquette.   This means you have to know when to take your turn and when to wait,  accept losing, maintain your “cool” when things don’t go your way, be gracious when your friend gets lucky and joke/have fun in a non-offensive manner.
  2. Following multiple steps.    Setting up a game usually requires at least 3 steps, and even the simplest games require at least 2-3 steps to play, all at different levels of difficulty.  Some games might require picking a card and putting your token on the matching color square (i.e., Candy Land). Others might require spinning a wheel, determining the rule that is associated with that spin, then acting out that step (such as in Hi-Ho Cherrio!).
  3. Working with contingencies and being flexible.    Even simple games like Chutes and Ladders or Candy Land require players to deviate from the standard of counting and moving, if certain things happen.  More complex games like The Game of Life and Monopoly require decision-making and a variety of money transactions, in addition to spinning, counting, and moving.
  4. Sustaining attention and remaining in one spot.  Two-(or more)-player games are only fun for all parties if each person is invested in the game and can sustain attention.  An inability to sustain attention to the game could be related to the difficulty level of the game, the child’s impulse control, their need to move around, or a host of other reasons.
  5. Making precisely graded movements.  Games often have small pieces that need to be put in precise locations in order to maintain order in the game. When kids have difficulty grading the amount of pressure they put on something or lack precision in their movements, they may inadvertently mess up the whole game board, upsetting themselves and others.
  6. Exercising Cognitive and Language Skills.  Some of these skills include one-to-one correspondence, quantity concepts, counting, matching, reading for meaning, following directions, communicating with play partners, remembering, and many, many more!

Games are a wonderful way to support your child’s development, but can be frustrating if your child struggles with any of the skills above.  Modifications can be easy and fun and can support your child in their challenge areas.  In future blogs, we will discuss modifications for a variety of games. Meanwhile, take a look at some of our favorite games by clicking here, and scrolling about half-way down the page.


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