Who doesn’t think of fun and games in association with summer? Some of our fondest memories involve the games we played as kids – either with other kids or with parents – and the close bonding experiences they provided.
Whether inside or outside, games offer a number of ways for young children to develop important skills without taking anything away from the pure fun of the moment.
Outdoor games, of course, tend to be more physical and thus help children develop large motor skills, balance, coordination, hand-eye coordination, and muscle development.
Because they also usually involve teams in some way, these types of games also help children develop their ability to work on a team, to rely on others, and to learn various different ways to communicate.
How many times have you been on a ball field and signaled with your eyes to a teammate or acknowledged through body language the actions of another? Understanding other people through nonverbal cues such as these are important elements of interpersonal relations both as your children start to attend school and as they become adults.
But just because the preschool or child care center offers your child a nice mix of outdoor fun and games doesn’t mean you can’t also play games with your children at home. A nice game of catch helps your child in all the same ways at the same time they build a sense of connection with you. The warm feelings of joy and acceptance your child develops during these precious hours are irreplaceable.
As your child grows older, these casual and familiar games, if they’ve been developed over the years as habits, can also offer up opportunities for heart to heart talks that might otherwise go unspoken.
When the weather is too hot or too cold for outdoor fun is a good time to break out the indoor games. Having a few age-appropriate board games around is a great way to spend an enjoyable afternoon with your child without any pressure to perform on the part of the child, or to enhance the experience on the part of the adult. While you’re having fun with your child and your child is basking in the glow of parental attention, the little one is also learning without effort.
Depending on the game being played, children can learn things such as shape recognition, numbers, letters, counting, reading, color recognition, and manual dexterity. Even silly games can teach better verbal communication, sharing, taking turns, waiting for a turn, playing fair, focus, and healthy competition. There are clear goals children are aiming for to win the game, clear rules to follow, and, typically, some form of uncertainty as to whether they will be able to succeed.
Games can teach children that playing for the pure enjoyment of the game is reward in itself. Children tend to place a high stake on winning or losing, but adults can help temper that response so that children understand there is more to the game than what’s on the final scorecard – an important lesson in itself for later life.