Stop and watch children as they play. They move a polar bear-shaped token, and, with it, they take their first steps into the world. They roll a die and discover that some things in life depend on luck. They draw a card, encounter something new, and learn to deal with the unexpected.
It sounds like a game, but when your kids perform these actions they are literally becoming adults, by developing very important cognitive and psycho-motor skills.
For humans, play is not only a game for fun, but training for life; in effect, play is more serious that we may think!
Playing is a (neuro)science.
The importance of play is an increasingly central theme in studies and research.
Neuroscience, for example, presents evidence on the influence that play has in helping to build healthy brain connections and contributing to rich and healthy learning experiences.
In addition, it has been recognized that games (and, specifically, board games) help build tools and skills that will become very useful during adulthood (such as, for example, mathematical and memory skills, language skills, and the ability to interpret information).
The 2017 paper (Learning through play: a review of the evidence), published by The Lego Foundation, states: “Children are born to learn through play”. It is impossible to explain the concept more clearly and directly!
- When a child plays, he/she always wins. For children, playing is, in some ways, synonymous with winning… even when they lose. Playing, in fact, contributes to the development of many skills and abilities that are fundamental to the development of conscious and fulfilled individuals. That’s why play, in itself, is a victory in terms of learning and development.
- You have to learn how to lose. When you play with your kids, you should not always deliberately make mistakes to allow them to win all the time. Eventually this will lead them to respect you less. The experience of losing is also important for their development. Losing is part of the educational process and helps improve their performance and their resilience. Children will learn to deal with defeat and get back on track, failure after failure. In effect, learning to deal with failure on the board game will help them succeed in life!
- Board games encourage healthy competition, especially when you’re there to supervise and promote sportsmanship and fairness. When your kids play with friends, for example, it’s important that you congratulate the winner, recognizing the efforts and skills of other players. Also, in games like WaterGame, designed to raise awareness about the importance of water, competition is only part of the fun, because players also must cooperate to prevent too much water from being wasted (which would result in a loss for everyone).
- Some games are unforgettable. By playing games, children improve their ability to learn. They think faster, develop logic and reasoning and improve their memory. With the games from the Ecologic Memory series, children work on their ability to memorize information, but they also discover new animals, match fruits and vegetables to the seasons, and learn to recognize natural environments.
- To play well, you have to play by the rules. Whether your children are just starting school or have already moved on to secondary education, knowing how to follow instructions will come in very, very handy. Board games are very useful in this regard because they require children to listen, understand and follow instructions. They learn to deal with limits and rules, and learn how to relate to them. Think, for example, of a relatively complex game like Global Warning (designed for young adults), which requires them to discover the causes of global warming, connect them with possible solutions, and constantly relate to the choices and strategies of others. Meanwhile, the Ecologic Puzzles (designed for younger children) have a very simple basic rule: match the wrong behaviors with the right ones. The implications of this rule, however, are more complex: children learn to follow rules that exist outside the game and that can be very useful in the development of their environmental sensitivity. Some examples are about how to behave around water, where to throw garbage, how to respect the environment, and so on…
- Playing games means problem-solving. Board games encourage the development of problem-solving through the use of tactics and strategy. In situations such as those encountered while playing Recycle Rally, for example, children have to think about the best route to take with their garbage truck in order to optimize the waste collection of the city and deliver it to the correct disposal centers. A simple activity such as this one will develop mental skills that will be very useful later in life.
What does a learning game look like?
Are you wondering how you can recognize, among the market offerings, a game capable of stimulating your children to learn? Here are some tips:
First of all, we suggest that you look for the following factors in a board game (or, more generally, in a recreational activity). Once again, the source is the invaluable article published by The Lego Foundation.
- Joyful and cheerful. The best learning experience through play occurs if it is cheerful, joyful and fun. This is an aspect that can be useful in many situations: if you want your children to learn something new, involve them and entertain them! Everything will be easier.
- Significance. The game should help children understand the meaning of what they are doing and learning. Think, for example, of our Hungry Bins game, in which children learn to “feed” the trash cans the correct “food.” For the children, however, that is abstract teaching. Your job is to help them convert it into concrete, practical knowledge. How? By getting them involved in the recycling process. Touching glass and crumpling paper will convert theory into practice.
- Engaging. A game must be able to engage the children playing it, drawing their attention and requiring both physical (touching, moving, shifting) and mental (thinking, strategizing, predicting, remembering) activities.
- Iterative. An educational game requires iterative thinking, which progresses by experiment. Children make hypotheses and test them (by turning a tile, making a move, acting on the board). If they fail in one attempt to solve a problem, on the next turn they will find an alternative way.
- Interactive. Games should have a social interaction component, because the greatest wealth, for each of us, is others. By playing an interactive game, children will learn to relate (and compete), and understand how others think so they can adapt their own way of acting, and so develop mental flexibility and build relationship skills.
These characteristics, of course, do not all have to be present in every game. It is enough that some of them emerge from time to time, so that your children feel involved, encouraged, and surprised.
Playing is being together.
This consideration is not any less important than the others. In fact, we want this concept to stick with you more than any other previously mentioned concept! Playing a board game with your kids is “family time”, it’s being together, and sharing your time with your kids.
This, along with what has been said so far, makes every moment of play unique and deeply educational. Every interruption, every pause, every exchange will be time spent together. And nothing is more valuable than that.
Are we playing for real?
If you would like to learn more about Adventerra Games and our catalog of educational games on environmental themes, come visit our website.