Like all good parents, our biggest goal is that our children grow up and move out. In order to do that, they need life skills, education, and (probably) a kick in the pants at the appropriate moment. Ideally, we'd like them to finish college or a skilled trade program, get a good job (or create their own good jobs), get married, and provide us with adorable grandchildren. We'd like them to do the latter on their own dime.
So, to help in this process, we bought board games for this Christmas.
See, like most children, ours think the world lives and dies with the internet. There's no easier way to get their attention than to turn off the WiFi. Their biggest goal at the moment is to get the password that will allow them to circumvent the parental controls that turn the WiFi off and on. No worries, that password is more secure than Fort Knox.
Most internet surfing and video game playing is done independently. But, some of the life skills children need are to play together and to lose and to accept a string of bad luck graciously. While there's definitely skill involved in some board games, there's also a whole lot of luck. And let's be honest--while there is a lot of skill involved at business success, there's also a whole lot of luck. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Here's what we're hoping our children learn from our new family fun.
- Mental Math: We've been playing Monopoly which still has rents in weird amounts: $6, $12, or multiply the roll of the dic e by 4. If the unfortunate soul who lands on your property doesn't have exactly $36 and pays you with a $50, you'll have to figure out their change on the fly. Our children have advanced way past basic addition, but doing it in your head so the game can go on is a great skill to have.
- Reading Out Loud: We got several versions of Trivial Pursuit. Our 9 year old attends Swiss schools and is educated in German. While he reads English books to himself all the time, he never has to read them out loud or do presentations in his native tongue. So, reading Trivial Pursuit questions is good for his English skills.
- Learning Important Trivia: While the whole point of Trivial Pursuit is to answer questions that aren't important in your daily life, it turns out that there are a whole lot of important things one can learn from such a game. We can not only answer questions about Watergate or the Suez Canal crisis, we can explain what those are. Our children can become familiar with important historical events, literature, basic science, and geography, among other things. Much more fun than sitting down at dinner and saying, "Today kids, we're going to talk about the scale for measuring wind speed! It's called the Beaufort scale!"
- Graceful Losing: Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. No matter how brilliant you are at property management if you land on a Hotel bedecked Park Place, that's going to hurt your wallet. You may lose. And you need to be kind about it.
- Accepting Bad and Good Luck as Part of Life: You didn't win that Sorry game because you're the best Sorry player. It's pure luck. You didn't lose Trivial Pursuit because you're dumb as a rock, you lost because you had the misfortune to get questions you didn't know while I had the fortune to get questions I did know. Now, of course, knowing more things increases your chances of winning Trivial pursuit, but no amount of prep will help you with Sorry or Candy Land. You've got to accept that a string of bad luck isn't the end of the world and a string of good luck doesn't mean you're better than everyone else.
- Interacting with Other Humans: While you can have a lot of human interaction on the internet, it's a different type of interaction. You're not face-to-face, you can wander off without being rude, and you can carry on a chat conversation while watching Netflix and no one is the wiser. When you're playing games with other humans, you can't do that. You're learning actual social skills.
Do I think that board games will solve all our parenting problems and turn our children into brilliant, independent adults? No. But do I think it will help along the path? Yes, I do. And I get to have fun at the same time. It's a win-win situation.