Toddlers and Games: Building Blocks to Learning!

 

Editor’s note: Mondays from here on out are going to be “Gamer Mom Mondays.” Check back every week for some fresh perspective and advice from moms who love to play games with their kids. First up: Kelly Allard. 

By: Kelly Allard, Staff Writer

Being a gamer mom of a preschooler, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the value in the games we play together and to figure out just what I am teaching my child.

According to popular media, anything outside of Monopoly or a friendly game of Scrabble is detrimental to your child’s ability to grow into a well-adjusted adult.  While the common thought is that adults don’t play games, the latest generation of adults has begun to prove this wrong.  So, we move forward: gaming in front of our infants, rocking them to sleep while one-handedly playing WOW and attempting to entertain them with our fabulous Rock Band antics.  But what happens when they are old enough to WANT to play with us?  What can they learn from these games wrought with so little value, according to our parents?

The first games we started playing in our house were board games: Candy Land, Cootie and the like.  While these games really have very little parental value, they give a great basis for the future of your little gamer.

What value does the monotonous quest to liberate King Kandy from the sticky denizens of Lord Licorice have for you and your child?  Candy Land is a game we probably all played as kids, and its staying power is a testament to its skill-less play and endless fun for little ones.  Candy Land is a level playing field; there is no strategy, no thought-provoking turns, and no need to read, add or do anything else that a small child can’t yet do.  Perhaps mommy might make her way to the Candy Castle first only to be thwarted by the fate of drawing Plumpy (who now has been replaced by The Duke of Swirl or some-such character, depending on your edition), or maybe not.

It teaches them the basic dynamics of taking turns and identifying where to go next.  There is a simple objective and drawing cards and moving allows that to happen.  It gives future gamers a concept of losing turns and being set back, and gives the idea that progress isn’t always linear.  Color identification, counting and even pattern recognition are all strengthened by this simple game.

Cootie, another game cherished by my daughter, is another simple turn-based game. Roll the single die and try to build your silly bug faster than everyone else.  The catch with Cootie, as my husband is well aware, is that you can’t start to build until you’ve rolled a 1. Rounds can get extra, extra long when one person has a multicolored crazy roller-skating cowboy Cootie and the others are still striving for that elusive single pip.

This game teaches kids to recognize number groupings on a die, which lends some more concrete skill to the abstract numbers they are asked to recite when counting.  They learn the important gamer skills of rolling dice, turns that lack results and variable endings.  Cootie gives kids some time to be creative, allowing for over 4 million permutations of bizarre bugs – they can be different every time!

Each game is varied in what it teaches, but there is one thing they all have in common: they teach your kids how to win proudly and how to lose graciously.  It’s a difficult lesson to teach a competitive child, but by playing games with them you show them how not to be a sore loser and how to just pick up and try again when you fail.  If you want your kids to be the kind of gamer you’d want to play with, you have to start early and start simply.  Of course, this is just the beginning of the games kids can learn from, and ways they can be taught.  If you’re creative you can do all sorts of things – play “dress up Candy Land” and give your characters back-stories and names and purpose.  Set your Cooties on adventures when they’re complete, ask your kids what they enjoyed about the game.  There are so many places to start and so many ways they can be engaged.

Looking for more games and math? Check out more articles here!

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