“LIFE” may be the name of a game, but real life is certainly more than a game. The game itself has a limited number of options and is somewhat predictable. It’s not a favorite of mine for that reason.
However, there are games that do teach life lessons which have a wide application. Lessons are learned surreptitiously, easily and naturally. Children welcome valuable skills and strategies to win at a game, with no resistance to instruction.
Let’s keep this secret between us as parents and grandparents.
Competitive sports and games that move quickly, with multiple players cooperating for a goal, have a special advantage. Not only is each player having to exercise their own skill and knowledge, but they have to have a “big-picture” of what everyone else around them is doing. They learn to make good decisions “on the fly” in order to achieve the goal. If they take too much time bemoaning a mistake, another good opportunity may pass them by. You learn more by failing, than by succeeding. Words are not needed for this lesson to sink in.
Taking care of yourself so you can take care of your team mate is another life skill. Cheering for another who excels and comforting someone who is struggling are character strengths that can be developed through sports and team play. If you have found a wise coach, these character qualities will be exemplified to the team on a regular basis.
It is a wonderful thing to win against another team. It is an even better thing to overcome your own perceived limitations! Even middle-schoolers can set goals for self improvement and conquer themselves, before conquering another team. We must not protect children from this struggle. That is what builds character.
Encouragement helps in competition, but children often learn best when there isn’t too much criticism by adults. If they are left to figure out the best strategies for teamwork on their own and find solutions, they will stick. This skill will benefit them not only in sports, but in friendships, cooperation in community, academics and future employment.
As in competitive team games, Chess, Risk, Baduk, and other board or card games where strategies are involved, help children to anticipate their competitor’s moves. However, there is more time to analyze possible scenarios than in a sport or team game. Children also learn to read people, increasing their skills of perception. They learn the benefit of thoughtful play and become less impulsive. As they develop a greater understanding of the game, they can record their moves and evaluate what to do differently if that situation arises again.
Games that teach creativity and involve humor also have an important role. Games such as Pictionary, Guesstures, or the free version of Charades develop presentation skills, besides fostering closer trust relationships.
There are plenty of games that are clearly educational. Those can be fun too. However, those making the biggest claim to educational profit tend to be the least appealing to kids. Those resistant to school learn best when they don’t know they’re learning.