The Importance of Playing Educational Games as a Family
Computer use is at an all-time high in New Zealand. Several electronic devices can be found in most households, and much of our leisure time is spent interacting with these devices.
In our three-person household, I have counted 16 such devices. And our middle-class home is no different to many other homes in New Zealand.
One of the chief problems with using electronic devices, when we are at our leisure, is that they are all-absorbing and socially-excluding.
When mobile phones became accessible for teenagers, we all laughed seeing a gaggle of girls at a bus-stop, texting the girl sitting beside her; or my cousin, who emailed the guy who sat at the desk in front of her.
But now we are all ‘joined at the hip’ with our devices, and fall into a flat spin if the device’s battery is flat, or worse, we leave our phone at home for the day. We imagine all the terrible situations in which we may find ourselves, just because we are phoneless!
A few years ago, during the Christmas break, a well-known Christchurch coffee shop introduced an initiative to get their customers conversing. They encouraged ‘boxing’ up one’s mobile phone and celebrating your coffee with a good old-fashioned chinwag.
Today, we would like to encourage families to play educational games together.
Fantastic family games can be purchased from stores like the Warehouse, Whitcoulls and Toyworld. Many of these games are simple to learn and can provide many hours of entertainment and socialisation for the entire family, which individual devices cannot supply. There are many terrific game tutorials on Youtube too.
But, some may say, our kids can play games on their phones.
Yes, some games are on phones and other devices, but fine motor, and social skills cannot be developed unless interaction with tangible pieces and people. Many children are not learning to write properly as they type instead. But there is evidence that a fluid thought process is improved through the act of writing, not typing.
The old-fashioned games, which often grow strategic and logic skills, are some of the best for cognitive and social development. They encourage healthy competition, but also help children understand that only one person can win, and if you have lost this time, maybe next time you won’t.
Some of these games are for two players, such as Mancala, Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, Nine Men’s Morris (Mill), Battle Ships, etc; but others, like Chinese Checkers, can be played with four.
Often these games are quite affordable and can be purchased in a Compendium, which gives a family a lot of game opportunities.
Then there are the more modern games, like Monopoly, Risk, Blokus, Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, Rummicub, Bananagrams, Uno, Set, Qwirkle, etc. These games are usually for at least four players, and can instill many cognitive skills in your children (including strategy, logic, visual-spatial, visual-discrimination and fine motor skills, etc). Some games even assist in improving auditory processing skills, which almost every person needs.
Puzzles are a great group activity and can improve visual figure-ground, discrimination and closure skills, and are just plain fun!
If you are cooking tea and the ten-year old needs an occupation, there are a host of solo player games too. Games such as Rush Hour, Towers of Hanoi, jigsaw puzzles, etc, will provide many hours of entertainment. Word searches and Sudoko are also excellent.
We have provided a list of websites of companies that sell educational games in New Zealand.
If these stores do not have what you are looking for, websites like Amazon, Fishpond, Mighty Ape and Ebay are useful, but shipping costs can be extremely high. The advantage these online stores have over the local stores, is that they can supply games that are not available in New Zealand.