The Extension Connection

It's time for family game nights!

Don't wait for a cold, snowy or rainy day to break out the games. Anytime is a good time to connect with your family over a friendly board or card game. Try getting into the habit by designating one night a week as family game night, and consider inviting grandparents or other significant seniors to join you. They grew up before TV and computers dominated so much of our lives and can probably teach us all a thing or two about playing games. Seniors also can be very patient, making them great partner players for those too young to play by themselves.

Games help teach important skills

Most board and card games teach and reinforce important skills such as following directions, cooperation, taking turns, teamwork and how to be a good sport whether you win or lose. These important social skills are not spelled out in the game directions but will need to be modeled and taught by adults or older children. Seize the teachable moment for these lessons and don't expect perfection, especially from younger children. All of these skills are learned over time as children develop cognitively and emotionally.

Many games can be modified to make it easier for younger players to learn, or the games may be played with combined teams of older and younger players. Over time, you will notice players able to concentrate longer and develop an increased attention span, both of which help children do better at school, and adults do better at work.

Many classic as well as modern games encourage problem solving and strategizing, both of which are higher level thinking skills that can be exercised in a game situation and then used in real life situations.

Opportunities for learning to be honest abound when playing games. Not cheating when it looks like you might lose, as well as making choices and accepting the consequences of those choices come into play as the player moves a game piece or picks another card.

Even responsibility and organization skills can be taught by including all players in the chore of cleaning up and putting all the pieces away so that you can play again another day.

Examples of educational skills taught by specific games include:

Yahtzee -- Math, recognizing patterns

Scrabble -- Vocabulary, math and spelling

Sorry -- Counting, colors and strategy

Clue -- Memory, deductive reasoning, counting and record keeping

Chutes & Ladders --Counting and consequences

Monopoly -- Problem solving, strategy and money skills

Jenga -- Eye hand coordination, observation and concentration

Go Fish -- Number recognition and matching

Payday -- Math and money management

A good reference book to have on hand is "Hoyle's Rules of Games." In addition to helping you discover how to play a variety of games it also helps solve arguments about game rules!

Games are good for all ages

Don't fool yourself into thinking games are great learning tools just for children. They can benefit us all, young and old alike, by keeping our fingers nimble, our connections with others strong, our laughter loud and our minds sharp. This non-threatening interaction may lead to discussions about important issues that families need to talk about, too. (Revised with permission from Sheila Gains, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, Arapahoe County.)

For more information, visit Elisa Shackelton at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 539 Barclay St., or call her at 824-9180.

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