Food. Shelter. Love. And…games?
Though playtime may not pop to mind when you list the essentials for family happiness, it’s one of the best things you can share with your partner or kids.
“It connects family members to each other,” says marriage and family therapist Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. She recommends playing games of all kinds together, from Parcheesi to Ping-Pong, Tiddlywinks to Tag. “It teaches sportsmanship. It teaches vocabulary and communication, all those social skills—take your turn, be patient with a younger one, have a little respect for the older ones.”
The Benefits of Playing
Games may even make kids more resilient. “It’s easier to face life’s setbacks if you’ve seen Mom shrug it off when she flubs a Frisbee toss, or Dad laugh when his golf ball lands in the water,” Marie says.
Of course, in this time of togetherness, there’s no better time to get out and spend time playing together.
Another key to playing more? Put regular game nights on your calendar. “Institutionalizing anything makes sure it happens,” Marie says. What games are right for your family? “The main thing I would stress is that they need to be age appropriate to the child, not the adult—and as the child grows, you should introduce more games that require the kid to stretch.”
Often the best games are spur-of-the-moment, improvisational games, such as where you play characters (spies, advice experts) over dinner or at the supermarket; spoken word games that involve rhymes or synonyms; even cleanup games (two points each time you toss a pair of undies in the hamper!).
In the end, it’s play itself, more than any specific game, that matters. “It’s the fact that this is family time,” Marie says. Memories of family games “will last through your children’s lives. These are the ties that bind.”