Playing games with kids: why it's more than just a bit of fun

While some parents may dismiss games as a bit of a time waster or just for fun, games can actually provide much more for a child’s development. Not to mention they can be a great way for families to spend time together and connect. We explore the importance of playing games with our kids. 

Pretty much everyone loves a good game. From board games to sporting games to dress up games, we’ve probably all grown up playing games. Even in adulthood, people often still take part in game play (Candy Crush, anyone?) and when our children are young we watch on as they get lost in the many games they play. While parents try to take a bit of time out to join in from time to time, sometimes it feels like there’s not enough time to spare on game play.

While it all might seem like a just bit of fun, games can offer much more to development and wellbeing than we might first think. Play is so important for child development that it’s even been recognised by the UN as a basic right of every child. Sharing in games with children can be equally as important for parents, as it can help to strengthen bonds and foster discussion and emotional understanding of one another. It can also help give parents a glimpse into their child’s world, while also helping them develop more effective communication with their children. And it can be great for lifting the spirits when the busyness of life gets a bit much!

Kids playing games
The list of potential benefits game play provides to kids is long, and can benefit many areas of development and wellbeing. Games can help to shape our physical, emotional, social and mental processes and can enable us to learn in a rich and creative way. Here are some of the positives games can help give us:

Physical skills
Some games can involve using children’s’ motor skills, from kicking a soccer ball, to gently rolling a dice. Kids sometimes have to interact socially in games, and some games involve moving their bodies in some way. This can help them in other aspects of life, and can help give parents insight into how their child tackles things. Literally and figuratively!
Social skills
All those vital skills needed in life can sometimes be practiced in a simple game. Things like sharing, being part of a team, taking turns, being patient, encouraging others, being a ‘good sport’, and communicating effectively. Understanding the rules of the game and respecting boundaries often form a large part of games. Game play can help children to learn how to interact with people of all ages in an appropriate manner and they can get to learn about themselves at the same time.
Emotional skills 
When people play games, they’re often emotionally invested. A range of feelings can arise from excitement to frustration, enjoyment, jealousy and maybe even sadness. Games can help provide a teaching point for feelings and can help children develop the ability to bounce back from some difficulties. When families play games with one another, children can learn important emotion regulation skills too, as they learn to understand when and where to express their feelings, with the support of parents to scaffold their experience. 
Mental challenges
So many thinking processes can sometimes be involved in game play. It’s no wonder that in early childhood all the recommendations point to play-based learning! Games can help children to learn skills including problem solving, decision making and conflict management - to name a few. They can also help develop skills in memory and processing. Play is thought to have an impact on brain development, so parents can down tools and play a game knowing they’re helping building their child’s brain!
And the best part? While all this great learning and development is taking place, when you take part in games with your kids, you’re also sharing quality family time together. And that only helps enhance the skills that kids are building through game play. In fact, research suggests that positive, consistent relationships with caregivers, as they relate to children through play, is crucial to stable child development. 
The games don’t need to take hours and they don’t need to involve the latest and fanciest equipment. Just a quick round of charades, or Connect Four can have benefits for the whole family. It’s a win-win!
Anyone for a quick game of Guess Who?

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