Thursday, 17 February 2011

The importance of playing games...

One of my New Year's Resolutions this year was to start hosting Games evenings, in which we invite a few friends around, (very few as we have a smallish house) and eat and game and laugh together. The reasons for this desire of mine are many.

Firstly, we need to have fun. We don't go out much with the Babe still being so young, and with not having much money, but we still want to enjoy ourselves. Also, we are reconnecting with some home ed friends who have older kids and the Changeling doesn't get to see them now that she is at college. So this is a nice family thing that we can do, and can help her keep in touch a bit. Plus, as I said, it is fun.

But what I had forgotten was how we used to use games all of the time as a teaching tool. Our home ed life has been full of games! And the thing that reminded me was playing cards with a friend whose family doesn't play cards. It got me thinking about all of the benefits of playing cards and games. I seem to remember reading an article about how card games were good for developing mathematical thinking. I am not sure if I really believed it, but it seemed a good reason to keep up with the family tradition of playing cards together. Now that the kids are older, and we have met a few people who don't play cards, I think I begin to believe the argument after all.

It is really just a case of what you are used to - I am not saying that if you don't play games, you are a bad person - I am just noticing the benefits of things. I suppose it is a bit like playing Brain Training games, your mind just gets used to doing certain things. Plus there is a whole vocabulary associated with card playing - run, set, consecutive, suits - and things like pattern recognition and developing strategies based on probabilities. It does actually help with logic and problem solving.



What I had forgotten was how we used to play games all the time to learn things. We played I SPY, to pass the time on long bus journeys or car journeys, and to remember to be observant about the world around us. I remember one game that lasted about 40 miles as none of us could figure out what 'P' we could always see - pylon! And the memories of The Boy first learning his alphabet - "I spy something beginning with..." It didn't matter what letter he said, the answer was always Airplane! We would guess a few things beginning with whatever letter he actually said, in the hope that he would recognize the sounds eventually, but then we would guess "Airplane!" Yay!

And there was the ever popular Animal Guessing Game. 20 questions without the first question of "Animal, Vegetable or Mineral." We used this game to introduce vocabulary relating to geography, habitat, and scientific classification. "Is it a mammal, amphibian, etc?" "Does it live in trees, water etc.?"  "Is it native to South America?" As well as passing the time while travelling, it was a good way to learn things, but we forgot about that since we were having fun, and spending time together.

We play a lot of word games, going through the alphabet and doing list games, making things up, doing logic puzzles, guessing countries and cities and capitals, etc.  And we have been reminded of this, since we have sort of gotten out of the habit, by a book that The One got me for Christmas. She is away at university now, but she obviously remembered all of the fun we had playing games, because she got me Parlour Games for Modern Families   and we are having fun doing quite a few of them. I must admit that we don't do many of the movement ones, since we don't have much room, but maybe we will when the weather gets nicer. But the word games are great, and the dice games pretty good too, especially Farkle - if only for the name. :-)

I suppose some people just enjoy that kind of thing - and we do. :-) A couple of comments have been made about how our games guests need to get their brains in gear to come to our games night, but really, I know a lot of people who play much harder games than us! We are wannabes on the clever game circuit! I guess it is because we are enjoying ourselves too much.

I can't imagine not playing games, although there are plenty of specific things that I have no interest in. I am happy to play Magic, but not Pokemon. I am happy to play Munchkin, but not Dungeons and Dragons. I am happy to play lots of traditional card games, but I do get sick of playing Spit - mainly because it is too fast for my old brain - and I never win. The kids are too good - which I suppose was the point of all of this game playing in the first place. They have great brains. :-)

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