Every once in a while, I’ll do something with my kids, or with my whole family, that reminds me of something I did with my parents when I was a kid. It might be camping, or cooking, or going apple picking, or reading a story out loud. Last night, it was playing board games.
I grew up in a household where we played games ALL THE TIME. We’d sit in front of the fireplace in the evening and play Life or Sorry or Trouble, we’d sit around the dining room table and play Uno or spoons, we’d sit inside our camper and play cribbage or backgammon by the light of the lantern. We’d even play all kinds of games in the car: finding the letters of the alphabet in order on signs, checking off license plates from all 50 states, a game called “Wordy Gurdy” where all the answers have to rhyme (What do you call counterfeit dollar bills? Funny money!), sometimes we’d bring along a Mad Libs pad. We had a stack of board games on the shelf in the closet, another stack behind the couch, a whole drawer full of decks of cards and books with rules for hundreds of card games, and a bag of travel-sized games in the coat closet.
When we were small, we played Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, checkers, Old Maid, Don’t Break the Ice, War, and Operation. When we were a bit older, we played Boggle, Clue, Monopoly, Milles Bornes, Waterworks, Probe, dominos, and Yahtzee. When we had friends over, or at birthday parties, we played Twister, Pictionary, Taboo, and Scattergories. When it was just my sister and I, we’d play 2-person games like Battleship and Chinese Checkers and Simon and double solitaire and Mastermind.
I didn’t realize at the time how many skills I was learning by playing these games. Candyland and Sorry taught me colors and how to count. Chutes and Ladders taught me not to be disappointed by a setback. Operation and Don’t Break the Ice taught me fine motor skills. Boggle and Probe taught me spelling and vocabulary. Cribbage taught me math. Checkers and Battleship and Risk taught me strategy. Clue taught me logic. Monopoly taught me patience (and, with my sister’s help, how to make change). Pictionary and Taboo taught me to think creatively.
So now, when my kids ask to play a game, I look forward to not just having fun with them, but to the opportunity to teach them new skills. I can teach them to be good sports (and most especially, good losers), I can teach them that math and spelling can be fun, I can teach them to be patient and polite, I can teach them to be fair, I can teach them to think through their decisions and their actions, I can teach them that sometimes life isn’t fair. And most importantly, I can teach them that spending time together with friends and family is a good thing. A very good thing.