TEACHABLE MOMENTS: Games for gifts

Tommy Fairweather
Tommy Fairweather

The present giving season is quickly approaching. Many adults are beginning to ponder what gift to give a special child in their life. Although a special book might be my first choice, the purpose of this article is to make a case for buying that special child a game.

Mitch Weisburgh, cofounder of Games4Ed, wrote a blog, Five Reasons Games are good for children. His reasons can be applied to traditional children’s games as well as some current video games and app games on mobile devices designed for children.

His first reason is that games are an optimal learning environment. Good games provide a challenge for the child. As the child conquers the challenge, he/she gains confidence. Outstanding games help promote concentration and enjoyment. With many children showing signs of attention problems, game playing can help the child develop focusing skills. Games can teach social skills. Children learn they must win and lose gracefully. Some games require cooperation with others to win. These skills are very important in adult life.

Children learn to take calculated risks when playing games. Trying out strategies while playing games helps children develop risk taking strategies that will eventually lead to success later in life. When a strategy causes the child to lose the game, he/she can reflect how to change the strategy the next time the game is played. Monopoly, that tried and true board game, encourages the child to try different strategies as do the games of checkers, Parcheesi, Chinese checkers and chess. Failure can be overcome in games, and the process of the child devising the winning strategy will build the trait of perseverance.

When choosing the game, consider the child’s interests. For example, the child might like outdoor games requiring gross motor skills. Croquet comes to mind. The child might like nature and might benefit from games like Krill about the food chain in the oceans. While I prefer games where children interact with others, Commonsensemedia.org reviews apps in various areas of interest. Parents should preview the app and monitor the child while playing the game. The Lawrence Hall of Science: 24/7 Science for ages 7 up looked like an interesting app. Bestappsforkids.com lists many great science apps. The Peterson Feeder Birds North American app would be a great source for the child when walking outside.

For children that like art, Pictionary is tons of fun and is sold about anywhere. Another game to help develop humor and encourage art is The New Yorker Cartoon Caption board game. Once the child has played The New Yorker Cartoon Caption board game, they can use art, history and politics to create their own games using political cartoons. You can get blank board games and other game accessories at. at barebooks.com.

Many games are great for building number sense. Parcheesi and many board games require the child to count spaces. Other games, such as Oxford Dilemma and Monopoly require students to learn how to use money. I remember as a child spending summer days as a child playing Monopoly. We played in teams and over several days. Now there are so many forms of Monopoly that can be fun to play. Star Warsopoly would be a great hit for some children this year.

Games are wonderful because they involve intellect and emotion. When children play games, they have to expend effort, but they do it in a fun way. Be sure to search local stores and the internet to match the game and your special child’s interests. Note that many stores put their games on sale after the holidays so you can get a head start on next year’s gift. Play the game frequently with the child, and you will be remembered fondly by the child for years to come.

Tommy Fairweather is a retired Walton County teacher and educational consultant who lives in Destin.