We often think of games as mere amusement, when in fact, games can also be a highly effective educational tool as well. John Dewey, the founder of modern educational theories, wrote in Democracy and Education “experience has shown that when children have a chance at physical activities which bring their natural impulses into play, going to school is a joy, management is less of a burden and learning is easier”
There is a great deal of research supporting the notion that games are of great educational benefit:
According to the head of Ofsted, children who play traditional board games at home do better at school.
Even the venerable Plato said “Not by force shall the youth learn, but through play.”
As a parent, you can help your child develop their thinking abilities at home through playing games. Here are some ideas by Helene Goldnadel to help:
1) Teach your child noughts and crosses, or even better, four in a row (readily available at most toy stores)
2) Play the game together, and after a round or two ask your child if they want to learn a way to play even better.
3) Teach your child the traffic light method: a. Red - means stop and pay attention to your surroundings - really look at the game and study what may be happening, to you and your opponent b. Orange - get ready to go - look at every one of your options and decide which the best move to take is. For example, in the game Connect Four, you can encourage your child to examine what would happen if they dropped their piece in each of the columns. Encourage your child to choose the best move after studying each individual column or option. c. Green - check your plan then go - encourage your child to take one last look to make sure they are making the best move, and then take their move.
4) Now play the game with your child and encourage them try out the traffic light method to see if it helps them play even better.
5) Pay attention and remark when your child slows down and plays more thoughtfully and carefully. Reward them for thinking first before acting.
6) Chat with them about what they think of the traffic light method, do they feel they are playing better using it?
7) Have a discussion about the benefits of thinking first before acting. For example, ask your child how they could use the traffic light method if another child pushed them in the playground. “What would red light be?” (They could answer, “Red means to stop and study the situation”) “How could you do that?” (They could answer - “look at the other child, are they smiling or frowning, gloating or crying, is there someone behind them who pushed them? Is there something on the ground that they could have tripped over?”) “And what is the orange light” (they could answer “ Orange is to look at all my options - I could push them back, I could ask them why they pushed me, I could tell them to not do that again, I could get the teacher, I could run away etc.”)
8) Explore with your child other possible ways they can use and benefit from the Traffic Light method. Give your child time to come up with their own examples to enable them to make this tool relevant for them.
9) Encourage your child to understand that with more information they have more options and the choice they take will be a better one (just like in the game). By slowing down and thinking first, they have learnt that they will be smarter, in game playing and in life!
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