Life’s Little Things

Board games teach children good life lessons

Christmas is on the horizon and it is time for the making of our childrenís Christmas lists. To date most of Santaís gifts have been excellent toys even for parents to play with – we love Lego and pirate ships too. Santa is also big on traditional board games and over the last few years strategy board games have become a firm favourite with our two sons. I have tried my hand at playing Dungeons and Dragons but I find I lose the will to live when after hour three my life force has been depleted by yet another magic wielding troll.

Finding games that we are happy to sit and play with our children when they tire of Ludo and Tiddlywinks can prove challenging but it is nonetheless important. It is staggering the numbers of children who never play board games and have no idea of the etiquette involved.

Turn taking, following instructions, carrying out tasks, sequencing of operations, grace in victory or defeat and seeing something through to the end can all be learned playing board games.

Electronic gizmos

The focus on electronic gizmos means our children get their fair share of solo play. I hear my children say ìoh I played really well I scored two goals, got to level five and saved the worldî, all without leaving the sofa. In order to learn the social skills needed to function in the world they need actual involvement with the people who inhabit it.

I imagined their involvement with sport would help them learn vital life skills but that isnít quite what has happened. There are super coaches and mentors who give vast amounts of personal time to teach children the rudiments of group sports but the intricacies of some of the social interactions can be a sight to behold.

Spectators are the worst, and most of them are parents of children taking part – the use of foul and offensive language, the inability to cheer from the side-line, to wait your turn, to acknowledge good play from whichever side it comes, to regard the rules of play and to display grace when faced with misfortune, bad luck and sometimes unfairness.

I have heard comments that would make your blood run cold; hurtful comments about other peopleís children, the shortcomings of coaches, the unfairness of not giving their child more time on the pitch or more individual attention. I have seen children storm off pitches encouraged by their parents, children berating other children for poor play or errors in judgement.

Signs of hope

But there are signs of hope. At my sons soccer match this weekend the opposing team lost by 11 goals. At half time the coach told them they had it won and not to grind the opposing team into the ground. Everyone including the substitutes got to play at some point in the game, they tried new positions, new skills and didnít exploit every chance presented to them. It was a good game and all walked off the pitch with their heads held high. A cocky 10-year-old who dared to thumb his nose at the opposition was pulled off the pitch and given a stern reprimand.

Parents would do well to take note. Ambition is good, drive and determination are praiseworthy but as there is merit in losing and playing on to the end; there is room for graciousness in victory and sometimes pride in defeat. Time spent playing Snakes and Ladders is time well spent if we learn the fundamentals; in the game of life there will be ups and downs but letís get to the finish with a little dignity and self-respect.