What do you consider ‘play’? Children have a broad definition. It can include outdoor activities, board games, or building ‘forts’ from card tables. It also includes anything in which they are building and exploring with their hands. An NCTM article on summer activity quoted one teenager as saying board games kept him mentally active and were fun, in comparison to video games or TV, which did not require much mental activity.
Strategy games are a great way to motivate students and improve critical thinking! They can be done with an entire class as a warm-up, integrated into groups, or used in a club. At home, you could begin a family game night! Some of my favorite strategy games are listed on the teacher and parent pages.
Wherever you play, there are many benefits of strategies games. You can choose a game based upon the level of strategy required, the type of thinking used, or the time involved. At home, you might want to begin with games that require thinking but also involve luck. One example is Clue. Years ago, my nephew was frustrated after his first game of clue with a group. He had a partner for the game, and he didn’t understand the strategy. He spent summers with me, so the next morning, he came downstairs with the game. He wanted to learn how to play! (He quickly became an expert at Clue!)
Learning to play is not just about the rules; the strategy is important! When working with children, instead of telling them winning strategies, ask what they need. Then they can develop a strategy to make it happen! We did this in strategy game club for years. I never share strategies, but through this type of questioning, students develop amazing strategies for games! Throughout the year, I will highlight various games and some questions you might want to ask.
Games are also a great way to build connections and have fun together! I still play games with family and friends, and I have many wonderful memories of times together! In any year, especially 2020, we can all use a way to connect, have fun, and build thinking skills at the same time!
Play is powerful! Have fun!