Playing games with your kiddo is a gamble. He might throw a fit when he doesn’t win. You might stack the deck so he can win to avoid the meltdown. Or the whole crew may have the best time ever. Whatever the outcome, it’s not all fun and games. Kids get some serious benefits from playing around.
Most games have some sort of learning component. For some games, you might really have to stretch to call them educational, but even games without obvious learning themes get your kiddo thinking. Take the classic board game Candy Land. Your kiddo gets practice at identifying colors and following along the patterned path to find the right spot. Games like Chutes and Ladders take it a step further with actual counting of spaces. You’re not exactly being sneaky, but you’re getting your preschooler to fire up his thinking skills without even realizing it through all of the fun of the game.
He won’t develop muscles by playing Monopoly Junior, but active games like tag or Duck, Duck, Goose get his heart pumping. Those physically active games aim to get kids moving in a fun way. Games that include running and other large muscle movements help preschoolers get those gangly arms and legs under control with improved coordination. Even though board games won’t make him breathe heavily, they can help with fine motor development. Picking up little pieces and manipulating them around the board helps him hone his hand-eye coordination.
It’s tough to take turns or accept defeat when you’re a preschooler. Even as an adult, you probably don’t like to wait or come in last. But you also know you can’t win every time. Game play helps your kiddo learn that sometimes difficult lesson. A preschooler learns about cooperation and sportsmanship. He won’t find many playmates if he throws fits or gloats about his Candy Land victories. And he’ll have to follow the rules and play within the boundaries of the game to keep the dice rolling.
Sometimes the biggest victory that comes from a round of game play is simply the bonding between players. You’re exhausted after a long day and you just want to prop up your feet to watch the news. But before you brush off your preschooler’s pleas for a rousing game of charades or hide-and-seek, think about how he’ll feel if you say yes. “Mommy wants to play with me! I’m important!” Even if there are a few tears or temper tantrums over a loss, you’ll build some great memories for you and your kiddo. And maybe you’ll even start a family game night tradition that stands the test of time.