How games can help children practice important life skills.
In our current environment dominated by distance learning and cell phones, children certainly don’t need more screen time. They do, however, need activities that require personal interaction. After a long day working and learning, playing provides a great release and also offers a natural way to practice many important people skills.
Using games to teach is a time-tested method that works. The added benefit is that games make learning fun! Remember Monopoly? Clue? Bingo? Cards? These are some of the games we all grew up with and whether or not we realized it at the time, we actually learned a great deal from them. Children learn math when they count their moves and when they keep score. They learn how to take turns and develop patience. They learn to think strategically. They learn they can’t always win, and most importantly, they get to make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and try again.
In person games also offer an opportunity to develop honesty and cooperation. Games require rules and in order for the game to be successful, everyone must follow the same rules. Unlike video games, in which the rules are automatically enforced by some omnipotent, behind-the-scenes “gamekeeper”, in-person games place the onus on the individual to have the self-discipline and integrity to require rule following of themselves - a very important part of developing good character.
Games are a big part of a child’s experience at Cotillion, and not just for the fun! Our games give each child the opportunity to practice many different skills that go far beyond bouncing a balloon or balancing a plate on one’s head while dancing the cha-cha. Subtle lessons of cooperation, listening, honesty, and kindness are practiced during each these games and activities. For instance, often a child’s partner is someone they have never met, which naturally feels a bit awkward. But this very awkwardness affords a perfect opportunity to practice rising above the feeling and focusing on how to help each other to feel more comfortable and work as a team.
As with board games at home, the ability to honestly follow the rules even when we are in danger of losing is a mark of integrity. Miss Martine and Mr. Ehmann expect the children to be able to put themselves out of the game if they know they should be out. Even if they haven’t been “caught” breaking the rules, it is important for children to be given an opportunity to prove themselves to be conscientious and responsible. The emphasis is on what kind of person they want to be - and to be known as - rather than winning.
When games are played with a partner, there is always the chance that one is better at it than the other. While no one wants to lose, it is inevitable at some point. How the child handles the loss and how they manage their behavior toward their partner is telling of their ability to be kind and demonstrate empathy. At cotillion, we encourage children to tell their partner, “That’s ok… let’s get our refreshments!” Treating each other with kindness and respect is more of what our world needs - especially today.
At the end of the day, children are still children and learning life lessons takes time and repetition. Opportunities to practice thoughtfulness and people skills outside of cotillion helps children to integrate the behaviors into everyday life.
With this in mind, we have attached a “Manners Bingo” card for you to play with your children. Print it out and let them have fun filling the spaces while you see the benefits from each activity. Perhaps you can have a small reward if they earn a Bingo or when they fill their card! Then take some time each week to play a board game, or card game, or dice game with your family. Think about all the things it might be teaching your child. Winning isn’t everything – but the valuable interaction involved when playing is!