You may not win the game but playing it can help you win at life. Board games that is. There are a bunch of benefits to playing board games and creating them is the ultimate imagination enhancer.
In a world that seems dominated by online activities, the humble board game is making a comeback. And for good reason. From improving physical health and mental well-being to increasing focus and learning skills and being a better friend – board games offer so many gains.
THE ULTIMATE IMAGINATION ENHANCER
A funny thing happens in the Wacky Workshops studio every now and again. One of the students will decide to create something that fires up everyone else’s imagination and then suddenly all the students want to create something similar.
In the case of the board game craze, it started with a game based around Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – the school of magic from the J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series. This child was a big fan of Harry Potter and wanted to create something to celebrate that.
Her board game takes players on a magical journey through the Hogwarts landscape where they must avoid or deal with things like the Whomping Willow, crazy spells and potions, angry mandrakes, and more.
As the students leave their creations in the studio until they have finished them, other students saw her game and wanted to create their own.
So far this year, aside from the Hogwarts game, students have created a healthy food game, a mermaid game, a fairy game, a dinosaur game, and a hilarious Ronald McDonald game.
While helping them gather supplies and formulate ideas, I noticed some truly wonderful transformations happening with the students. Some, who are super shy and barely speak, suddenly could not stop talking excitedly about their game plans. Others, who often have difficulty focusing, became totally focused and alert.
All the students showed increased self-confidence and imagination and creative skills. Creating board games is like storytelling with props – the ultimate imagination enhancer.
THE EMOTIONAL BENEFITS OF PLAYING BOARD GAMES
While creating board games may be the ultimate imagination enhancer, just by playing them kids can gain so many benefits.
When playing them with family, it’s a chance to unplug and create shared experiences. It puts everyone on an equal footing, which can be empowering for children who often feel frustrated by adult rules.
This form of play often results in laughter and fun, reducing anxiety and offering a healthy escape from daily routines.
THE SOCIAL BENEFITS OF PLAYING BOARD GAMES
There has been much written lately about the impact online games are having on children’s ability to socialise properly. This of course was made worse by forced isolation during COVID lockdowns.
Basic manners are sliding, kids are losing the ability to have polite conversation and make eye contact, and some have a really hard time following the rules.
Playing board games is a fun and safe way to teach kids these skills and more. Children learn to be patient and wait their turn. They learn resilience and how to cope with change. Their communication skills are enhanced, and they learn to have consideration and respect for others. They also pick up on subtle body language clues that can tell them what other people are feeling which can lead to enhanced negotiation skills.
And then there’s the biggie – how to lose – and win – graciously.
THE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL BENEFITS OF PLAYING BOARD GAMES
Aside from the obvious learning skills gained, depending on what game is played – counting, colours, reading, and so on, there are plenty of other mental benefits.
Time away from screens must be foremost. As I mentioned in my post, How to Help Kids Find Focus Without a Screen, playing too many video games causes problems with long-term concentration and also physical issues with vision and posture.
Board games on the other hand actually help the frontal lobes of the brain develop, according to clinical psychologist and author Beatrice Tauber Prior, Psy,D.
“Those frontal lobes are responsible for executive function skills, which include planning, organising, and making good decisions,” she said.
She said board games can also be helpful to enhance focus.
“Finishing a board game without interruptions will help lengthen the declining attention span of kids in a world filled with digital distractions”.
Board games can also improve memory, planning, problem-solving, and logic.
The physical benefits are gained through fun socialisation which reduces anxiety and its physical symptoms including aches and pains, headaches, and high blood pressure.
BEST TIPS FOR HELPING KIDS CREATE THEIR OWN BOARD GAMES
- Board games are like storytelling with props. Remember, the story belongs to the child and no matter how outrageous it may get; it should be theirs. We adults are simply around to supply the materials and help make sure the game makes sense to play. 😊
- I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to steal from the Monopoly example and have spaces on the board that require players to pick up a card. The card could be good or bad (we try to have an equal amount of both).
- Other challenges can be added around the board but there should be chances to save yourself. For instance, while you risk having to go directly to jail and not pass ‘Go’ in Monopoly, you also have the chance to be safe if you are lucky enough to gain a ‘get out of jail free’ card.
The Hogwarts Game had cards such as
“This is a harp. Keep it close in case you land on Fluffy’s floor above the Chamber of Secrets.
You’ll need it to keep him asleep and if you can’t you go back 3 spaces”.
“This is Invisibility Potion. Keep it close for when you land on Mrs. Norris. Without it, you’ll have to
miss 3 turns if you land on her”.
The Ronald Keepers Game had
“Save this card to use if you land on a Hamburglar. Without this card a player who lands on Hamburglar must go back to the first Ronald McDonald on the board”.
REAL-LIFE PROBLEMS FACED
I really loved some of the other cards in this game such as
“The toilets were empty. Got forward to the nearest wheel”
“You have the playground all to yourself and the Hamburglar doesn’t know where you are. Go to the next Safe spot”.
“Your takeaway order was missing some items, so you have to go back to the nearest Hamburglar and miss a turn”.
“The drive-through is full. Go to the player behind you or, if there is no player behind you, go back 3 spaces”
Real-life problems, right? At least for those who indulge in takeaway food. Yet, as with all the board games made at Wacky Workshops, these were the ideas of the students, not me.
While they are coming up with the ideas, they are chatting excitedly, laughing a lot, and have a certain brightness to their eyes that comes with the thrill of creativity.
Some of the students opted for extras such as a spinning wheel, made from a paper plate. Sometimes it would determine who goes first or be an extra challenge should a player land on a ‘wheel’ space.
The Hogwarts Game used the wheel to determine which Hogwarts house each player was in and that determined which character they played with.
All the games included the use of homemade dice. I can’t help you create a game as it all depends on the theme, but I can offer you a free dice template which you can download here.
I hope you’re inspired to help your child create their own board game and to take time out and play it with them. You’re guaranteed to have fun.
Happy crafting and have a gleeful week, Tamuria.