Playing by the rules

Yesterday a miracle occurred in our house – we played an entire game of Monopoly without anyone bursting into tears. Well, I say an entire game, but I set a time limit before we started. The game would last for an hour and a half, and the winner would be the person with the most assets. The time limit was as much for my benefit as it was to prevent dramatic outbursts. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with board games. I love the idea of gathering everyone together for a family games night, but often the reality is less Happy Families and more (high) Risk.

The concepts of winning and losing, and taking turns are admittedly important ones for children to learn, and board games are a great way for children to pick them up by osmosis, but it’s certainly not always a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. But now our two children are older and the days of endless rounds of Snakes and Ladders and Snap (neither my favourites) are over, we can actually play games that everyone in the family can enjoy. Our current favourites are Monopoly (time limit compulsory), Scrabble, Settlers of Catan, Blokus, Cluedo, Uno and Creationary.

Jenny Hale, Senior Family Coach at The Parenting Place, is a great fan of families building up a board game collection. “Sitting down for uninterrupted time is getting increasingly difficult for today’s families,” she says. “But spending that time doing something everyone can take part in makes it easier.”

“You talk to each other when you play games,” says Jenny. “Games have a way of scaffolding some great talk and some great laughs. And it’s an excellent way for people’s unique personalities to show through. It becomes clear who is careful and cautious, who is determined and strong-willed, and who the charmers are – the ones who get around the rules without anyone noticing!” Of course the fact that the games have such specific rules is one of the great benefits when it comes to teaching life skills. “Children learn that a game is successful because it has rules and they are there for a very good reason. They learn about taking turns, waiting and working well with someone else.”