Thursday 3 December 2009

Board games ahoy

One of the fondest and clearest memories of my childhood is the board games that my parents, my brother and I used to play, very frequently in the late evenings after dinner, starting from the time I was 8 or 9 to maybe around 14 years. Ludo was the universal favourite but we also played Snakes and Ladders and Parchisi. In later years, Pictionary and Scrabble ruled the roost, and I remember my brief flirtation with Chess and Carrom. Playing these games involved a lot of laughter, teasing and fun and the bonus was, that in my case atleast, it created enduring and precious memories. We had Family Game Night in my family before Hasbro decided to make it a National occasion.

So obviously I couldn't wait to introduce Ads to some of these board games. I picked up a nice Sesame-Street themed version of Chutes and Ladders very cheap at a second-hand kids' store that I frequent. My cousin bought him the Dr. Seuss ABC game and he got the I never forget a face memory game as a birthday gift. Then I researched the best board games for preschoolers and being the sort of person who goes overboard when it comes to shopping, just HAD to buy him Candyland and Hi-ho Cherry-O! So now we have 5 games, all of which he likes thankfully and I try to spend some time with him everyday playing these. The only drawback is that we can only play when S is at home to watch Y, because she grabs all the pieces, sits on the board and generally makes a perfect nuisance of herself.

I had a vague idea that board games are both fun and educational. But I didn't really appreciate how educative they could be, until I started playing with Ads. Mastery of colours, letter & number recognition, counting, grouping & pattern recognition, are some of the concepts they teach, not to mention the improvement in small motor skills that inevitably results. The social skills they teach are even more important - courtesy, waiting and taking turns, not intruding on someone else's space, and so on. An interesting observation I made was how difficult it was for Ads to lose a game. In the beginning, he would tell me that "I will be very upset if I lose". For a child, the joy of winning is as intense as the despondency of losing. Given their very limited ability to manage frustration and cope with loss, it is a tough balancing act to incorporate the teaching element into the game; i.e. it is okay to lose, there are ups and downs in life and we have to take the good with the bad. Since he (like all children) takes game-playing so seriously, it is very important to him that he win; he does not yet understand that these are games of chance and not skill. I have been told by other moms that it is okay at this age to "let" the child win most of the time since the concept of rules and fair play is not something that they easily understand.

I think Ads gets it now, somewhat. He seems to understand that he could win a game, and lose the next one. He could ascend a ladder to the top of the board, and the next moment his luck could change and he would be sliding down a chute to the bottom of the board. Learning moments aside, I am enjoying every bit of the few minutes we spend poring over a dice, some cards and a game board.

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